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8 Steps To Learning Real Estate Photography

Published: 25/08/2015
By: larry

8StepsPostLast week Liz in Texas said:

I am interested in taking a workshop on Real Estate Photography. I am in Texas, there are evening short workshops in Austin at Precision camera. I am more interested in totally immersing myself in learning the elements of RE Photography. FYI, I do have a degree in photography from Brooks Institute in 1981-when we shot film! So although I have quiet a bit of experience in the photo/film world-see website. I do not have the digital technique and post-production experience.

Liz's request for a workshop to learn real estate photography is not unique. Everyone thinks in terms of face-to-face classes because that's how we all grew up. But the world is changing. Streaming video, electronic media, Skype, YouTube and Google Hangouts offers ways to inexpensively provide training in subjects where it's no practical or economical to do large-scale face-to-face training. I'm not saying you shouldn't go to workshops. Spending time with an expert is still  the best approach at learning if you can get it... it just isn't always practical. So use online learning and if you can get into a workshop, for it.

In the process of explaining to Liz the real estate photography learning resources that we have available here on the PFRE blog, I realized that even though there are a bunch of links to all the resources along the top and sidebars of the blog I didn't have a concise step-by-step explanation of how the resources fit together. So I've updated what used to be called the Store page to the 8 Steps to Learning Real Estate Photography page which does a better job of explaining how all the PFRE learning resources fit together.


7 comments on “8 Steps To Learning Real Estate Photography”

  1. @Liz, Digital photography is just like film, only different. 🙂 With your degree, I'm going to bet that you have all of the knowledge, it's just a matter of learning the equivalents in the digital world with Photoshop and Lightroom. I highly recommend both as your foundation software set. You can learn the basic of both programs on YouTube. Search for Julieanne Kost, the Adobe evangelist for both PS and LR. Another really interesting video series that Larry just posted an article on is John McBay's. I've only watched the previews, but it's high on the priority list for me to purchase. For more subscription online tutorials, check out, KelbyOne, and There aren't many courses specifically on Real Estate photography, but lots of courses on PS, LR and digital photography in general.

    For the photography half of the equation, Scott Hargis' video series "Lighting Interiors" (over on the right hand side of this page right now) is considered by many as the best course on using small flashes for interior real estate photography. Scott is more of the "get it right in the camera" type of person so there isn't a bunch of extreme post processing when you bring images back to the office.

    I haven't seen any of Simon Maxwell's book "Enfuse for Real Estate Photography" that describes an "Exposure Fusion" work flow using a set of exposure bracketed images similar to HDR but avoiding the extreme processed look, but I have seen other videos that he has produced and he is an excellent teacher. There are pros and cons of using Exposure Fusion or flashes or a hybrid approach and it's good to know how to get the best results from all of them

    The rest of RE photography is just general guidelines on the aesthetics that we all disagree on mostly. Make sure that things that are vertical in real life are vertical in the image and the image is level. Good exposure. A relevant POV. A standard of ethics when it comes to editing out items. A dangling power cord or trash can left outside would be ok. Removing electrical transmissions lines/towers could be construed as false advertising.

    Hang out and ask questions on the PFRE Flickr page. Just search the discussion archives first. Almost any question that somebody new to the genre would ask has probably already been answered, debated, trolled and gone way off topic many times over.

  2. @Liz,

    I am still in the learning phase myself, and appreciate all the knowledge that can be gleaned from this site. Another source to consider, is They have an 8 hour tutorial from Mike Kelley, that you can purchase. I have found it very informative, and as it's broken in to several segments, it's easy to go back an review certain areas.

  3. @Liz, how fortunate that you already have the fundamentals of photography already down. I would agree with everything @Ken Brown says. You just need to expand your knowledge base and bring it into the digital age.

    A few years ago, I took the non-credit photography certificate program at the University of Tennessee and I was invited by one of my instructors to a shoot-out at a new home that was up for sale. I didn't take this particular class (Architectural and RE photography) but enjoyed the invitation because it gave me the experience of working under deadline pressure in a nicely staged property. I quickly saw that being in the trenches was where I would learn the most--and learn from plenty of mistakes--so I started shooting my own vacation rental homes and that's where I got my chops. After a couple of years trying to blend exposures, I recently converted to Scott Hargis' method and now work to get it right in camera with small flash and modifiers. My clients mostly own cabins and the dark nature of these rooms are a challenge to get good results with HDR. So I raised my rates $100 a shoot and now spend an extra hour on the job so I can take time to light rooms when needed. I still use ambient light as much as possible but my Yongnuo flashes are inexpensive and easy fill.

    I would emphasize learning an editing and file organizing program like Lightroom because it will be your post-shoot workhorse. I rarely need to use Photoshop. HDR maybe 1-2 images per shoot, if at all. My time on location is 2-3 hours for a typical 2-4 BR vacation home. I deliver an average of 35 images but closer to 40 if they have additional decks, great views or detail shots (cabin signs, keyless entry keypad, security system panel, etc). Editing takes an average of 2 hours. I use Dropbox to deliver UltraHD images which is now becoming the standard for AirBnB/HomeAway listing sites. If you are going to do strictly RE photography, you will want to get the MLS details for your area and what Realtors will want/need for their clients. Don't overshoot or over-deliver if you don't have to. My clients require a minimum of 24 images for their listings but the extra shots are my way of offering additional value--and justifying my rate. Many have their own web sites so the additional photos never go to waste.

    One last tip is to use a sun/moon tracking app like LightTrac. I have it on my iPad and it is very helpful to plan exterior shots. Well worth the $4.99 price.

  4. @Amy, be careful photographing anything related to security. You don't want to show a burglar what's in a house and which alarm model they are using to secure it.

    Another sun and moon tracking app is The Photographers Ephemeris. ( It's free for desktop/laptop OS's and cheap for mobile devices. It uses Google maps to display locations. Between TPE and Street View, I know what time of the day is going to be best to get a great front exterior.

  5. @Ken Brown, security system panels and keyless entry shots are requested by property owners for their internal communications with guests. These images are not used for any form of public viewing. Good point and well taken.

  6. Remember the best way to learn is trial and error, which is surely how we all started! I would find a realtor buddy and offer to do a shoot in exchange for them taking you to lunch. That way you can get a shoot under your belt and then pick their brain on the local market.

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