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How to Get into Real Estate Photography

Published: 17/02/2021

So long as we live in houses, the real estate market is going to thrive. That can make it an attractive but competitive field to get involved in. 

Photography can seem the easiest way to break into the market, but there’s a lot more to being a real estate photographer than getting a good camera and hoping for the best. You’ll not only need to know composition but what tools are essential.

Fortunately, we’ll walk you through all you need to know on how to get started in real estate photography successfully. Let’s dive in!

How to Get Started in Real Estate Photography

Becoming a real estate photographer is straight-forward. The photographer takes pictures of the inside and outside of the home and features around the neighborhood.

The first step to becoming a real estate photographer is opening a business, according to your state’s laws. Then, sit down and write out a brief business plan to help you manage your new career.

Next, you’ll need to have essential business tools beyond photography equipment like cameras and wide-angle lens, including image retouching software, like Gimp 2.0, and a dedicated phone line for your business. 

Pricing is Key

A new photographer may struggle to determine how to price their services. To get a ballpark figure, research how much other real estate photographers in your area typically charge.

If you’re just starting out with your real estate photography business, you may want to price your services a little below your competition. This way, you can build up your portfolio and develop relationships with real estate agents in your area.

Components of a Good Real Estate Photo

Kitchen interior with white countertops and wooden floors

Once you have a basic idea of being a real estate photographer, it’s time to learn the components of real estate photos and photography in general. 

Having a basic understanding of photography is good, but don’t be afraid to learn with plenty of practice. That doesn’t mean practicing on the job. Real estate agents will quickly see through lack of experience. Instead, practice around your own home and the homes of your loved ones.

This is also the perfect time for you to get acclimated to your photography equipment and software. To start your practice, keep the following tips in mind.

Know Your Lighting

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face with real estate photography is a lack of lighting indoors. While you can use what is called hot lights, natural sunlight is the best option.

Natural sunlight will capture color in your photography better than artificial light. Plus, a lighted space seems larger than a dark one, which will please your clients. 

To get the light in, open curtains or blinds, and consider adding mirrors or other reflective surfaces to maximize the light of a room without whiting out your photos.

Learn more in our real estate photography lighting guide.

Shoot Lower than Eye Level

It’s natural to want to take a photograph from eye level, but with real estate photography, that can make a room look smaller.

To emphasize the size of a room and get a wide angle, set your tripod at just above hip level, around four feet off the ground.

You may be surprised how this seems to transform a small living room into a palatial lounge. Of course, the lens you choose will also help amplify space, but we’ll get to that later.

Aim for Angles

If you scroll through home listings, you may notice that many of the photographs are taken from a corner of the room. This gives about a 45 degree angle, which helps to ensure that every inch of the room can be seen.

However, not all rooms are perfectly square or rectangular. For rooms that have more unusual layouts, you may need to adjust your angle or height to accommodate. 

Don’t hesitate to look through listings and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a good way to develop your eye for detail.

Use the Right Settings

If you’re an amateur photographer just starting your photography business, you may rely on automatic adjustments. However, with real estate photography, that can lead to hours of tweaking with your retouching software.

For example, if you’re taking real estate photographs on a dark day, consider raising your camera's ISO levels well above the usual 100-200 up to the thousands if necessary.

Don’t be afraid to play with your focus as well. For glamor shots, you may want to focus on a particular setting, like a vase of flowers on a table, rather than the whole room itself.

Real Estate Photography Gear

The bulk of your work in real estate photography will be handled by what you bring with you during a shoot.

When you have the tools you need, your job will be that much simpler. With the right equipment, you may even find you spend less time retouching your photos in post op.

While a large part of that will be your camera, you’ll need other equipment for success.

Cameras

Close up shot of camera lens

While the lens is the true star of the show with real estate photography, your camera will play an important role as well.

It's a good idea to look for a camera that:

  • Allows a flash to be mounted
  • Has Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) settings
  • Is capable of shooting video in at least 4K
  • Can use a wide angle lens

Let’s take a quick look at four of the best cameras for real estate photography.

Fujifilm X-T20

Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera...

This Fujifilm x-T20 is a great camera for those who are starting out with photography. It's forgiving, easy to manage, and has all the features you could need.

It offers you 4K on any video you make and has WiFi enabled. This Fujifilm gives you 24MP resolution, and it also has a relatively high ISO setting, so you can easily adjust it depending on light levels available.

Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera...
  • 24.3MP X Trans CMOS III APS C sensor with no low pass filter and X Processor Pro
  • 5.0Fps Live view shooting, start up time of 0.4sec, shutter time lag of 0.050sec And shooting...
  • 3.0 inches tilting Touchscreen panel for operation at almost any angle; Weight (approx) excluding...

Canon 5DF Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera...

This model of Canon allows for ISO levels up to 32,000 and captures Dual Pixel Raw images, which allows for easy micro-adjustments later on.

Additionally, it’s WiFi enabled and has 4K video, allowing you in-camera image grabs from your recordings, making real estate photography even simpler.

Sale
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera...
  • 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting. Aspect ratio 3:2
  • Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
  • 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage

Panasonic Lumix G9

PANASONIC LUMIX G9 Mirrorless Camera Body (USA...

The Panasonic Lumix G9 offers 20MP resolution plus 80MP high-resolution images in the camera. It’s WiFi compatible, allowing you the ability to upload your photos and videos as you take them.

Those videos will have up to 4K resolution, and your images will look even more clear when you put the camera into high-res mode. 

It’s mirrorless, so it comes with a lens and a digital display, rather than a window display.

PANASONIC LUMIX G9 Mirrorless Camera Body (USA...
  • Full resolution 20.3-megapixel sensor, plus 80 megapixels high-resolution JPEG /RAW in-camera image.
  • Fast 0.04 sec. (approx.) lock focus result *1 from a new LUMIX ultra high-speed AF technology. 60...
  • A versatile 25mm lens with a natural viewing angle suitable for a wide variety of occasions (35mm...

Nikon D850

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body w/...

To ensure you can get excellent real estate photography no matter light levels, the Nikon D850 is a solid camera choice. It performs well in low-light interiors, has ISO that goes down to 64, and gives you 4K Ultra HD videos.

If you don’t mind connecting to WiFi through a Bluetooth app, then it’s a solid choice for anyone getting started in real estate photography.

Sale
Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body w/...
  • 1 of Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • 1 of Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED f/1.4-16 Fixed Zoom Camera Lens, Black
  • Lens shipped separately

Lenses and Other Gear

The camera is only the first piece of equipment that you’ll need when you get started with real estate photography. 

Other gear you’ll want to invest in includes:

Skip some of the fancier gadgets like a drone camera until you need them!

Tips for Shooting Real Estate Photography

Exterior shot of suburban home

We’ve gone over some of the ways you can set your real estate photography up for success. However, let’s go over a few more tips to help you shoot the best real estate photography as possible and get your career launched.

Create a Shot List

Properties come in all shapes and sizes. There’s no singular approach to documenting their differences. That’s why it’s prudent to create a shot list detailing every amenity and area to photograph.

With this strategy, you can ensure that you don’t overlook any angle or feature that could benefit a seller’s listing.

To do so, have a walk through the home. Systematically survey its main areas, such as the living room and the kitchen, as well as any features or details that might further a property’s appeal.

Emphasize the Best Features

Many rooms have a defining feature. It might be a mirror that centers a living area or an island that conveys the size and elegance of a kitchen.

These features can aid in framing high quality shots, enhancing a room’s appeal, and drawing in the viewer’s eye. Moreover, these focal points enable you to align your shot.

Using a defining feature or two can also influence where you place your tripod or position yourself with your camera. This can guide how you shape a picture's framing and ensures that you don’t take an unflattering photograph. 

Don't Forget External Photographs

Just like a physical showing, the outside of a property can make a strong first impression. These areas, like a front yard or the house exterior itself, may already be included in your shot list. If not, consider what stands out the most.

For example, if there is a garden feature like a pond, you could incorporate that into a wider shot of the yard.

Color and lighting are especially important. These can be undermined by low-light conditions or unflattering shadows.

As a precaution, you may want to take your photographs in the morning or late in the afternoon to harness natural light without whiting out your images.

Make Pre-Shoot Preparations

Your shot list can be an opportunity to make pre-shoot preparations.

As you survey rooms, consider taking preliminary photographs. Doing so can offer a different perspective, through the lens of your camera and the eyes of a potential buyer.

Use these shots to experiment with lighting and angles, or even how a room could be staged differently. If you think an object could be better placed elsewhere, this can be the time to move them.

However, double-check with the seller before doing so as they may have hired a stager.

Take Advantage of Natural Light

Harnessing natural light is key to organizing a high quality real estate photography shoot. While artificial light has its applications, natural light can be transformative in photography.

It can make rooms appear bigger and more inviting. As well, it can eliminate darkness and shadows that might undermine your camera’s clarity.

Even opening curtains can make a big impact on a room. If there isn’t a lot of natural light, you could use mirrors to brighten up a room. Other reflective surfaces can also be used, as can a photography reflector.

Real Estate Photo Editing

Unfortunately, our photographs will frequently need tweaking after a shoot. You may have to brighten an image that’s just too dark, do some color-correcting, or crop and realign an image.

Some cameras may come with the ability to edit in the camera itself, but most rely on software. However, that doesn’t mean you have to buy an expensive suite. There are open source choices available, like Gimp.

Fortunately, much of the software is easy to use, and there are plenty of tutorials out there to show you how to get started.

Build Your Portfolio

The best way to attract clients is by having an extensive portfolio that really displays your real estate photos and photography skills. 

Of course, you can always use previous clients to flesh out your portfolio. You don’t need to wait to be paid before you begin.

Instead, as you practice photography around your own home or the homes of your loved ones, pick your favorite pieces, and use them as examples to broadcast your talent.

Expect Some Hurdles in Real Estate Photography

Homes can be notoriously difficult to capture well. The interior can often be too dark while the exterior may be drowned out by sunlight, thus losing detail in your photos at every turn.

Thankfully, you can challenge lighting issues either with the right lens, a detachable flash, or a photography reflector.

Real estate photographers can be expected to wear many hats, too. Your client may not have staged the property, and to capture it in its best light may require moving some things around to make a space look open. 

Last Thoughts

Starting out as a real estate photographer can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. 

With the right tools and more than a little practice, you can quickly become skilled. This could be the work you fall passionately in love with, one that allows you to make more than a decent living. 

After all, this industry will only continue to grow as the real estate market increases. By staying on top of your skills, you can turn what may be a hobby into your career. If you have been wondering how to get into real estate photography, these steps can be a starting point!

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