The 10 Essentials Of Real Estate Photography

February 10th, 2013

Moses with the New Tablets of the CovenantI’ve been using what I’ve called the 10 essentials of real estate photography for a long time in my Photography For Real Estate eBook and the Realtors Guide to Using Photography in Real Estate Marketing. This is my attempt to boil down principles into a concise statement. Last October I did some tinkering with the 10 essentials and got a lot of good reader feedback. I’ve incorporated that feedback and refined the words a little to come up with a statement that I’m happier with than the October 2012 version:

  1. Understand the purpose of each photo.
  2. The primary purpose of a real estate marketing photo is to present the features of the property. Try to minimize and remove all distractions.
  3. Use a DSLR to accomodate:
    • A wide-angle lens (14-24mm effective focal length).
    • One or more external flash units.
  4. The front shot is the most important shot because it can motivates potential buyers to look at the rest of the photos/marketing. Use a twilight and/or elevated shots when possible.
  5. Render interiors light and bright. Accomplish this with either:
    • Bracketing
    • Small flashes
    • Combination of the two
  6. Straight Lines must appear straight.
  7. Verticals need to be vertical.
  8. Don’t let window brightness distract. Control window brightness with:
    • Small flashes, Bracketing, or
    • Window masking in Photoshop
  9. Control color casts with:
    • Camera white balance settings or
    • In post processing
  10. Present Real Estate Marketing Photos for Maximum visual impact:
    • Large or fullscreen
    • Automatic slide shows

These principles are the underlying essence of this blog and all the materials I publish here to help agents and real estate photographers.  For more details with examples the left side-bar has a free download link to a creative commons (use it how ever you like) 10 page PDF on this subject. Today (Monday 2/11) I have the opportunity to talk about this list with the agents in Tom Tezak’s office in Wailea here on Maui. I think all agents need to understand these principles even if they are having a professional shoot their listings. Of course most, but not all, professional real estate shooters understand these principles.

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11 Responses to “The 10 Essentials Of Real Estate Photography”

  • Larry: time to upgrade my photo presentations. I know you’ve recommended a couple of slide show setups recently. What’s the current winner in features? Also, is there a recommended web development template that would allow me to upload/modify my site myself without an attendent geek?
    John Nilsson

  • Larry: In your Jan. 13 post you quoted a study that indicated a good interior shot increased the sales price by 3.9% vs. an exterior shot at 1.9%

    If we can believe the study (and there was some discussion on this) then shouldn’t the lead shot be a “killer” interior rather than an exterior?


  • Michael, you ask: “shouldn’t the lead shot be a “killer” interior rather than an exterior?” More to the point… the question should be “which is more likely to increase sales, the interior of the house or the exterior” and go from there. Thanks for the insight to your “Essentials” article.

  • The reason for the Killer exterior shot is that most RMLS’s will require that the first picture be an exterior photo.

  • Mark: my MLS and the Metrolist in Denver don’t require that the first photo be of the exterior. You can use any photo you want.

    John: Good point. If we believe the study in the Jan. 13 post it might lead to the conclusion that the first shot should be an interior one. However, it only referred to an increase in sales price, not an increase or quicker sale.


  • Snake oil I tell ya. No need for quality photos for your RE listings. (read sarcasm).

    What’s funny is the same people that disagree with the “…good photography increases home prices…” article will AGREE with this post. It’s important that we’re not just taking good pictures for good pictures sake. There’s a real reason for what we do, and it’s called quality marketing.

  • I disagree on the comment about the front shot. Sometimes the front is not very interesting. Sometimes the rear exterior is better, and sometimes the living room is the best, especially if it has a great view.

    Also, I disgagree that twilight and elevated shots are necessarily preferable. I think it depends upon the property, its orientation, the time of year, the weather, etc.. Sometimes a great daytime shot, with a nice sunny day and the light coming from the right direction to flatter the property, is most effective. I think that very often a normal ground level, or slightly elevated, view is most effective; but, again, it really depends upon the house and its surroundings.

  • Elevated shots can be quite effective if used with good judgment. But, for the small photo company (Like me and one assistant) how is elevation achieved? I see bucket trucks and other sorts of cherry pickers as an answer but considering rental fees for the equipment, should the elevated shot come as a hefty premium option? The highest I can get from flat ground is a 10ft. step ladder and height from a jib would not seem worth the difference.

  • @Tom- An elevation of even 10′ to 20′ makes a huge difference! Try it you’ll see the difference. Take a look at some of the examples under the PAP category of the blog: Use a small, light weight camera on a painters pole or stand on a vehicle or use a ladder. You don’t have to spend much money for special gear to get great elevated shots… this is my point in this post.

  • I think with the current technological status it’s already very worth to mention mirrorless cameras with crop size sensors. Some of which have better imagine quality then some dslr. For example the sony nex-6.
    imo there are only 2 systems capable of delivering a similar performance then common brand dslr, samsung nx and sony nex systems.
    we all known the importance of wide angle lens. Samsung has a Samsung NX 12-24mm F4-5.6 that seams mainstream but Sony has a superb sel-1018 10-18mm f/4 OSS.

  • Aloha Larry,

    Great tips, particularly in highlighting the importance of the ‘front photo’, as it absolutely serves as a filter for prospective buyers as to whether to see the rest of the photos or not.

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