The Basic Principles of Real Estate Photography

October 31st, 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a post on the basic principles of real estate photography. I recently had a chance to rethink my original 10 essentials I’ve been using in my Photography For Real Estate eBook and the Realtors Guide to Using Photography in Real Estate Marketing for years. I’ve made a few changes. Here is my new revised list of  the basic principles of real estate photography:

  1. Doing quality interior photography nets from $900-$116,000 in net sales price for homes over $300K see WSJ article here for details.
  2. Quality interior photography means using a DSLR to accomodate:
    • A wide-angle lens (14-24mm effective focal length).
    • One or more external flash units.
  3. The primary purpose of a real estate marketing photo is to present the features of the property. Try to minimize and remove all distractions from this goal.
  4. The front shot is the most important shot because it motivates potential buyers to look at the rest of the photos/marketing. Use a twilight and/or elevated shots if at all possible.
  5. Interior shots should be light and bright. Accomplish this with either:
    • Bracketing
    • Small flashes
    • Combination of the two
  6. Verticals need to be straight (remove barrel distortion) and vertical. Typically you need to do this with post processing.
  7. Don’t let window brightness distract. Control window brightness with:
    • Small flashes, Bracketing, or
    • Window masking in Photoshop
  8. Control color casts with:
    • Camera white balance settings or
    • In post processing
  9. Present Real Estate Marketing Photos for Maximum visual impact:
    • Large (fullscreen)
    • Automatic slide shows

Number 1 and 2 are new. I’ve added these because I think these are basic principles that everyone involved in this business needs to understand. Number nine has been made more general than I’ve stated it before and number 6 I’ve combined the principle on verticals with the one on barrel distortion.

These principles are the essence of this blog and all the materials we publish here to help agents and real estate photographers. Most of what we do here at PFRE is about elaborating, expanding and explaining these principles.

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13 Responses to “The Basic Principles of Real Estate Photography”

  • I would be careful with No.1, it is the only one we do not have any control over. If you are going to approach the top agents you better make sure it is applicable in your market, otherwise you will make yourself look like you do not know what you are talking about. In my market the top 5 agents do not use “professional” quality images as described above. The number 6 agent does and her pricing and days on the market are not any better than the others. Make sure you know your market.

  • @Rohnn

    I’ve noticed too that several of the top agents in my market don’t use a professional, nor do they care. Somehow they made it to the top with poor marketing, and so there’s no way to convince them that going pro will do anything but inconvenience them. It’s perplexing how they continue getting listings!

  • I’m not seeing where #1 says that the top agents in a market will use professionals….
    In a lot of markets, the top few are the old guard, who see no reason to change their routines. Doesn’t mean their listings wouldn’t benefit from photography.

  • @Rohnn & @Jeff – Yea, there are many markets where agents don’t do this stuff. I think it goes deeper than just the agents. From what I’ve seen the home sellers are part of the problem. In markets where good marketing is used and, understood home owners won’t sign a listing agreement with an agent that doesn’t promise great marketing.

  • All good points, but like Scott mentions the old guard do fine with poor quality images, it is about relationships in that case. However it is a disservice to the end customer looking for a home to buy and could easily miss a qualified listing as it is passed over due to poor representation.


  • I just did a presentation on this topic yesterday. I started #1, and then talked about #9. I expanded #9 to discuss what happens (bad) to photos during syndication. Then I jumped to #6. My point was that once you were good enough to keep the verticals vertical you probably had mastered most of the other stuff in the process. I’d really appreciate comments as to whether you think this is a good or bad approach!

  • I was thinking about doing push and pull marketing in my area…the idea is to advertise virtual tours for agents to the public. Ask what their agent is doing for the marketing of their home other than… open house and MLS listing. Point out that 9 out of 10 buyers today search the internet and will not do the windshield time to eliminate the homes they don’t want, so good photography is essential. You get exposure to FSBO’s and sellers that want to list, they may demand one too. If the agents object, they probably won’t be one of your customers or will ever be. The tech savvy seller will want one and hopefully you get the business by default. Marketing awareness is essential for our business. The more done in an area means more request for them, a win win. You might be able to refer to an agent too! What do you think?

  • Larry – as usual you do a great job in laying out the basics for all of us and reminding us of the basics. I was wondering though if #1 was part of the basics of shooting real estate photography or if it was a marketing bit to be used when selling your real estate photography services to agents. I’m not sure I would include #1 but the rest are the best – so thank you very much. Suggestion – replace #1 with something about organizational software like lightroom to help the workflow and deliver product to agents in different formats easily.

  • @Suzanne- Your right #1 is not part of shooting… neither is #9. But #1 a fundamental fact that seems to be being overlook and many markets. I guess there could be a set of marketing principles and a set of shooting principles but I sort of like distilling it all down to one list. Actually what got me started on this was a request for a one list of principles.

  • You need a “LIKE” button on your blog Larry! Good stuff! Thanks for the time you invest in this community and industry. J

  • @Jason – Thanks for the feedback!

  • I have been shooting Virtual tours and stills full time for over seven years in one of North America’s best Realty markets. Standing out here means all of the above points plus many more whilst doing it very fast and priced in accordance to the property commission likelihood. There are so many companies/photographers that enter and exit after a year or two its scary and mostly due to lower quality and slow speed at site and production. Saw this add on craigslist today which shows how some realtors are sick and tired of seeing nice samples and getting low quality. I will not be answering that add, maybe the tone of it rubs me the wrong way, or doing a few hours work for probably someone who has no intention of paying. Part of me thinks I should as the cost to me would be less than marketing to another team.

  • […] that the Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) blog have made them part of their  recently published Basic Principles of Real Estate Photography, […]

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