So You Want To Be A Real Estate Photographer – Updated

July 14th, 2013

What is real estate photography? A large part of selling a property these days is about making it look good online. A property that looks good online will attract more potential home buyers to come look at it in person. Nowadays all real estate transactions start online. Real estate photography is photography that gets potential home buyers to come look at properties that are for sale.

What are the keys to creating your own real estate photography business? Here is my summary with references to more details in previous PFRE blog posts:

  1. Essential Gear
    • Wide-angle glass: This is the most important piece of gear you need. You need a wide angle lens that has an effective focal length between 14 and 24mm. See the PFRE lenses page for all the options. The lens I recommend to most people is the Sigma 10-20mm. It has good quality for a very reasonable price, and it’s available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Samsung and Sony.
    • DSLR: Any low-end DSLR is adequate. Don’t bother with point-and-shoot cameras, they don’t have good quality wide-angle lenses. If you are serious about this business you need a DSLR. What I mean by “Any low-end DSLR is adequate” is that in the overall scheme of things your wide angle lens is more important than what DSLR so spend your money on glass.
    • Tripod: A Manfrotto  or any sturdy tripod is adequate.
    • Small flashes: Even if you are going to shot HDR/Exposure Fusion, you need at least one flash. A great way to go is a used SB-80-Dx or YN560-II or YN560-III. Trigger one with Cactus wireless triggers or RF602/603 Triggers if you using a Canon or Nikon body and use optical triggering for more than the first flash. For all the options on triggers see the Survey of Wireless Triggers page.
    • Light stand: You want to get your single flash off your camera. The best way to do that is an inexpensive tripod or light stand like the Sunpak 620-020.
  2. Lighting Decisions: Lighting interiors with small flashes is the best approach, but there is a learning curve with this technique. I recommend starting out with one flash and using Exposure Fusion. Then expand to multiple flashes as you learn how to use them. In the mean time Exposure Fusion covers up many flash learning problems.
  3. Post Processing Software:
    • You can get by starting out with just Lightroom,
    • To replace skies, manually blend multiple images or to remove large objects from photos you need Photoshop or Photoshop Elements too. Start out with just Lightroom and see if you need Photoshop.
  4. Learning The Craft:
    • Participating in the PFRE flickr forum is a great way to see what others are doing and get feedback from some of the best in the business.
    • Participating in the PFRE Video For Real Estate forum is  a way to get feedback on your real estate video and see what others are doing in this area.
    • In my weekly This Week In Real Estate Video series of posts I feature my favorite property videos.
  5. Building Your Business:
If you are interested in more depth on any of these areas our PFRE eBooks and video series that present these subjects in a more organized and more detailed form. They are:
  1. Photography For Real Estate – By Larry Lohrman – An in depth look at real estate photography and what you need to get started.
  2. The Business of Real Estate Photography By Larry Lohrman – How to build your real estate photography business.
  3. Lighting Interiors: Techniques For Lighting With Small Flash – by Scott Hargis – How to use multiple small flashes to light interiors.
  4. Lighting for Real Estate video series – by Scott Hargis -Scott’s video series on how to use multiple small flashes.
  5. Image Editing For Real Estate Photography by John McBay – Everything you need to know about image editing for real estate photography.
  6. Lightroom Tutorials by Simon Maxwell – Video Tutorials on using Lightroom for real estate post processing.


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5 Responses to “So You Want To Be A Real Estate Photographer – Updated”

  • Thank you Larry for the update. I am now on the 5th RE shooting session and I have used both automatic with on camera flash and manual on camera flash. It also happens that I shoot mostly in the afternoon when the windows are all blown out (lucky me) because of the availability of the agent. That being said, I’m not too successful with my SB80DX flash when I shoot most of the room in automatic mode. I’m more successful without the flash. I have since bought a light stand with a cactus wireless trigger that I haven’t tried out for RE yet but perhaps I will and the results hopefully can be better. It does makes a lot of attire to bring in (camera, tripod and lightstand, etc.). but if it’s worth it I will certainly give it a try. Where do I install that light stand in the rooms? My great difficulty lies in blown out windows and room being too dark or plainly white!! That’s where I mostly try out manual mode with different settings with flash or without flash (on camera that is). I retouch every images… well almost all.. Is that normal? I would be more inclined to use an on camera flash or off camera flash if this will make my job prettier and nicer shoot, closer to reality. I have been using presets but I realized that it doesn’t work for every photo, I’m looking for light consistency or close to anyway. I’m getting better at the verticals and horizontals but the lighting is quite tricky as we all know. I’m really trying to do it one way… One way or the other it seems that there’s a lot of processing to do either in lightroom, photoshop or DXO or else. I haven’t tried out exposure fusion yet! Lots of program to download!!

    Any general or specific comments would be appreciated.. I am stil learning and wanting to perfect my photography skills. My objective is to create an image that reflects sincerely the interior with correct lighting without blown out window (Gee I really dispise blow out window.. however.. I read from a RE photographer on YouTube that I should not worry about blown out window when your shoot of the interior is great one. Not sure about that statement although when I shoot in the afternoon, when sunny, the sun that comes into the windows are blinding. What is would actually be acceptable settings when very sunny in the afternoon? ISO smaller or closer the lighting inside? F stop smaller and A 1/60 – 1/80?? If so, is having an on camera flash moot when it’s way to sunny (perhaps the settings on my flash are not ok?
    Sorry for the lenghly comments and thanking those experienced and wonderful professional photographer that have recently advised me and waiting for others to reply.:) Sometimes it seems that I have it right and sometimes not. Work in progress …

  • For the blown out windows, clarification on the above statement is as follows “Not to worry about the blown out windows when your shoots are great!” Sorry about the confusion. I will gladly provide any clarification.. English is my second language. Bonne journée.


  • @joanne, Search on this site for “Scott Hargis”. He submitted a post on using small flashes a number of years ago that is still relevant. Scott also has a video series for sale and a book that are both very well thought of and considered to be the best instructions for using small flashes for interior photography. There are also many resources on regarding the use of small flashes.

    I continue to find older posts that are very useful. Look under the headings found on the right hand side of the web site way down at the bottom. I didn’t find those for a long time and I’m sorry that I didn’t.


  • Joanne, check out the pfrestore link above and have a look at Scott’s pdf book on lighting interiors….it’s worth the money.

  • @Ken and Tim:
    Ok, I will take a look at Scott Hargis in further details, I know he’s quite reknowned for addressing lighting using flashes. Again thanks for your feedback.

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