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Resources for Learning Real Estate Photography

April 3rd, 2018

In the past week, there have been three almost identical questions like the following from Nancy:

Can you recommend any courses one can take to learn beginning real estate digital photography? Are there colleges that offer such courses? If so, would you recommend going that route?

In general, I don’t recommend learning real estate photography at traditional type schools because usually, these classes aren’t being taught by practicing real estate photographers. That’s because practicing real estate photographers don’t like to create more competition for themselves in their local area. I think you are better off taking a workshop from one of the top real estate photographers that we have listed here on the blog.

Here are the resources I recommend for learning real estate photography:

  1. Ultimately the best sources of real estate photography training are the workshops you see advertised and discussed here on the PFRE blog. These workshops are taught by some of the best real estate photographers in the industry. But you have to go to where they are being given. They are not coming to your hometown! That is expensive so to get the most benefits do some of the following first:
  2. Start with the e-books we sell here on the PFRE blog. This is an inexpensive way to get started with the basic knowledge you need.
  3. Make use of the free YouTube video tutorials that we frequently post here. There is a lot of good basic information in the YouTube videos.
  4. The next level up is the video series dedicated to real estate photography. In particular, Scott Hargis’s video series and Simon Maxwell’s video series.
  5. Another great learning resource is to get one-on-one coaching from the PFRE Coaching Group. Contact them directly to discuss their specialties and how much they charge.
  6. Participating in the PFRE Flickr group by posting your photos and getting feedback from others is a great learning resource.
  7. Another similar learning resource is to follow and/or enter the PFRE Photo Contest.

This combination of resources has everything you will need to get started on building a successful real estate photography business. Many of the successful businesses we talk about in our series of posts on real estate photography success stories used these resources to build their businesses.

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5 Responses to “Resources for Learning Real Estate Photography”

  • I can only speak from my own experience. First it must be said that RE photography is a specialty branch of photography just as studio product, advertising, photojournalism, underwater etc are other specialty fields. What they all have in common is the training necessary to know how to use your equipment technically, understand lighting and light, the ability to frame a shot visually and then, today, how to process the images using software.

    Once those skills are learned, then you impose the specific application of the skills to any particular specialty such as Real Estate photography. I have been working in commercial, advertising and photojournalistic photography since 1965 and yet when I started doing RE photography in 2012, I had a lot to learn not about photography but the market of real estate and how to use my skills to match my work with the market.

    So I would definitely say that before trying to shoot real estate, the photographer should have mastered and demonstrated competency in the basic skill set of photography. I don’t think you have to do to an university or art school, although I did, to learn these skills. I think a local community college, for example, can teach these skills. Since this field is poorly paid, investing a lot of money into high end education will not show a return on investment.

    I say this not just as an experienced photographer but as someone who has taught at a couple top art/photograph schools (Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara). Digital camera’s are far less demanding than film was but light is light (photo) and design (graphics) is still design regardless of the equipment used. In order to know how to capture and communicate is a vital part of photography no matter what the specialty field.

    So then once these skills are learned, all the suggestions Larry made are important to the fledgling photographer. If you want to learn how to use small flashes for RE, then of course Scott’s online tutorials are excellent. Processing software tutorials are excellent on Lynda.com where you can also find some of Scott’s tutorials. Personally, I learned about this specialty field from this blog and Larry’s posts and all the comments from RE photographers with more experience in this field than I had despite shooting interiors and buildings for many years in shooting annual reports. RE is specialized and previous experience needs to be adjusted for it. Hope that helps.

  • I believe that you can’t be a great real estate photographer unless you totally understand the principles of photography, so I recommend this in the following order:
    1. Take a good course on photography from a reputable photography school or private teacher in person – In person beats out online every time. A strong basis in photography fundamentals outshine anything else – because with practice you will be able to use any camera and any lighting.
    2. Take a good course on image processing using both lightroom and photoshop – my recommendation is in person as well (We love Seth Resnick in Florida for Lightroom). Although you should get everything as right as possible in camera – Lightroom teaches the discipline of workflow and Photoshop allows creativity.
    3. Take a good workshop on real estate photography – in person. (I’m partial to my own workshops and Marc Weisberg’s, but Tony Roslund as well as Brandon Cooper both give incredible workshops) . In person workshops not only help you to improve your trade, but also helps you to set up a professional network of people you will come to know and love.
    4. Read good books from this website as well as watch videos – Larry Lohrman and Scott Hargis are leaders in the industry. They were the first, and they offer quite a large range of industry advice and lessons.
    If I forgot to mention anyone else, it wasn’t intential, this is just my opinion the post.

  • In addition to what Suzanne said, I would suggest studying lots of high quality images of architectural subject matter, not just photos, but paintings and drawings as well. Architectural renderings can help you understand how the designers see their own buildings. Would also read some art history or maybe even take some art history courses that might cover some images with architectural subject matter. 18th and 19th Century French and/or Italian painting should cover some of that sort of thing.

  • Lynda.com has a great series by Ben Long entitled “Foundations of Photography” and includes a range of different basic photography topics. Since most RE photos are made with the camera in manual mode, the photographer needs a good grasp of how to manipulate Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get a proper exposure or build a series of exposures that are useful to blend together in Photoshop. Tony touches on a great point of there being a specific ascetic when it comes to real estate and architectural photography. The ‘look’ goes way back before photography to painted images. Knowing what works for the vast majority of interior images is important. I can’t stretch myself into saying that the compositions are formulaic, but to a certain extent they are. Being “artistic” with drastic points of view or tilted fames just doesn’t work very often.

    There are some good videos on YouTube but there are also some absolutely horrible ones too. Both Lynda and Kelbyone have some dedicated real estate photography videos that are well worth the subscription price. For the more advanced, there are some videos on fStoppers by Mike Kelley, but I’d not recommend those to anybody just beginning. It’s helpful to have a selection of high end home magazines on hand when cruising videos on YouTube and if the presenter’s images aren’t as polished, they may not be teaching you good habits. Another indicator are videos that stress getting in and out in 10 minutes using a cell phone or any video that uses a cell phone to capture the images. Some phones can do a pretty good job on exterior images, they don’t have the controls and interfaces to handle the difficulties of making good interior images. It’s also not going to look good to your customers. If you show up with an iPhone to make the images, chances are that many customers are just going to get an iPhone too and go back to taking snapshots on their own again. There is a little “dog and pony” show going on, but nary a week goes by when I don’t get comments from homeowners about all of the really nice professional gear I bring to the job. The truth is that my Canon 50D is long in the tooth and my Yongnuo flashes are some of the cheapest on the market, but I do have nice glass, not that they’d know the difference. I have all of my kit in nice organized cases and I keep it looking nice. Looks do count.

    Finally, before spending too much time with services other than photography, make sure you have nailed making the stills. I don’t currently offer drone photos, but those in the area that do (unlicensed) can’t make an interior photo worth printing on toilet paper. My clients are happy to forego a high angle image of the roof in exchange for great photos of the inside of the home. Once more agents in my area are willing to pay for aerial images, I’ll add that to my offerings. Until that time, I’ll buy more lenses and upgrade camera bodies.

  • Interested in a good program to do 2D video presentations mixed w video.
    ALso wondering about 360 cameras etc

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