The 10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography

December 10th, 2006

Over the last two years writing this blog I’ve come to believe there are some basic aesthetic guidelines that makes real estate photography effective. I see so many Realtors and even practicing real estate photographers oblivious to these fundamentals that I feel compelled to write them down. Here they are. I’ve also added an ad type link on the right side-bar to the PDF.

I’m not sure these ten are all there are and some of these ten are more important than others but I like the number 10. God gave Moses 10 commandments, I have 10 fingers, 10 toes and our number system is base 10. 10 is a satisfying number that I can keep track of so I’ve decided to have 10 commandments too.

The one that is violated the most by Realtors and real estate photographers is #6. I don’t know why this one bothers me the most but it does. Realtors that are beginning photographers at least have an excuse but if you are charging Realtors money to take their photos you should know better. I’ve had practicing real estate photographers argue with me about this one. They claim it’s not important or looks arty. My argument is: “…look at Architectural Digest”. The photographers who get big bucks to shoot the the photos you see in AD are the best on the planet! They take days to shoot a home, hours to setup a single shot. They consider every detail. There are never any walls in AD that aren’t perfectly parallel with the edges of the photo. Why do you think this is?

What is more, you don’t have to have a level on you camera or an expensive tilt-shift lens to get the walls straight; you can do it all in a jiffy in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

So I command Realtors to not put up with walls that are not perfectly vertical. And I command RE photographers to earn you fee and take the time to get the walls straight!

Seriously, I believe that if you follow these 10 essential guidelines your photos will be much more effective.

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3 Responses to “The 10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography”

  • I think your commandment #6 brings up an interesting issue for real estate photographers. Vertical walls are a hallmark of great architectural photography and I personally spend a lot of time trying to get this right. I really bugs me when I see photos with converging verticals, especially when you can tell that the photographer wasn’t paying attention. However, real estate photography rests on the boundary between architectural photography and a more “documentation” approach to photography (See commandment #1: “know your purpose”).

    Sometimes I wonder if I religiously follow Commandment #6 to my own detriment. On a recent shoot, an agent said to me “Make sure you get a shot [of the living room] from the top of the stairs.” I tried and tried but there way NO way to get this shot without blatantly angling the camera downwards where no amount of photoshop correction was going to help. Do I not take the shot?

    Tiny bathrooms or cramped kitchens in downtown condos also come to mind. Do I keep the walls vertical and get maybe a corner of the stove and a vase of flowers in the shot, or do I put the camera high and look down so that the viewer can get a sense of the entire layout?

    Part of the solution is to educate real estate professionals about what makes a good photo. Just like art, people tend to know a good photo when they see one, they just don’t tend to know WHY it’s a good photo. Armed with their newfound knowledge, your client can then decide (becuase you took shots from both angles) what he/she wants.

  • Well put! Yes, those shots from the balcny overlooking other rooms are always impossible. I propose that we allow absolution for sins committed when doing balcony shots. I almost always take one of those overlook shots in homes that have one but frequently end up not using it because other shots are more important.

  • YES!!! #6 is my pet peeve also..and I agree about aerial shots.

    One thing that will help your walls stay vertical without those telltale “horizonal zigzag marks” is to begin with a horizontal “high plane” (usually the ceiling).

    Dawn Shaffer,

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