Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Jose Barrios

In most situations, it is customary for the real estate agent to pay for the photographer. This is considered part of their marketing effort and comes out of the commission they are charging the seller to sell their home.

This is not a rule set in stone and can vary depending on the arrangement that was made between the real estate agent and the homeowner.

If the property is a “For Sale by Owner” type listing, then the seller (homeowner) pays for the photos since there is no agent involved.

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Who picks the photographer?

Almost always it will be the real estate agent that is listing the property, never the home seller.

In my experience as a real estate photographer, I have had only a single homeowner request my services directly to the real estate agent, and that was because he was a friend of mine. And even in this situation, the real estate agent was the one who ended up paying for the photos.

Can the real estate agent take the photos themselves?

They sure can if they are good enough. I have come across some real estate agents that are good at photography and like to take their own photos. There is no rule that says they can’t.

I have also seen lots of horrible photos of homes. The photos were underexposed, overexposed, crooked, or with bad color balance.

Just because they spent $1,000 on a Costco kit camera, it does not mean they bought the correct equipment (you can read more about what equipment to buy for real estate photography in my two guides: for Nikon users, for Canon users), or that they know how to use it (read more about real estate camera settings here).

Taking the photo of the property is only half the battle. Real estate photos are all retouched with software like Lightroom and Photoshop to get them to look just right.

Post-processing allows the photographer to add blue skies and create virtual twilight images by transforming day into night.

What if the home seller does not like the photos?

If the homeowner does not like the photographs that were taken of their property, they should bring it up with their real estate agent. In my years as a real estate photographer, I have had to reshoot many homes to correct someone else’s bad photos.

It is the responsibility of the agent to see how they can remedy the situation for their client, that is why the home seller hired them. Failure to do so could risk them losing their listing to another agent that is willing to hire a good photographer.

Who owns the photos?

Unless otherwise stated in writing, the photos belong to the photographer and can only be used for the purpose of marketing the property. The photos cannot be re-used by a different agent to market the same property. Any other use of the images will most likely have an additional charge.

You are not really buying the photos; you are just licensing them for a single-use. You can read more about who owns your real estate photos here.


As a listing agent or a seller, you should always ask or state who pays for the photographs. It is also a good practice to be aware of the quality of the photos you are paying for.

As a seller, you should not be afraid to express your discontent with photos of your home, after all, you are paying for them, even if the payment is made by the real estate agent upfront.

If you are an agent, good photographs will cost you more, but they are a good marketing tool and will help you sell faster and for more. Good photographs will also keep your customers happy.

Jose Barrios

Jose Barrios


“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”

Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great. You can visit his site at

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