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Top 53 Real Estate Photography Tips

Published: 16/02/2021

Homeowners and agents want to sell properties at their target prices fast, so they need real estate photographers who can take enticing and high-quality pictures to market listings. That’s why we're going to discuss real estate photography tips involving equipment, settings, lighting, compositions, shot list, post-processing, and work ethics.

Real Estate Photography Tips

Real estate photos need to make a solid impression right away. You can achieve this with the right equipment, the appropriate camera settings, and knowing how to find the best lighting. You must also work on composition, staging, and editing to make images look spacious yet natural.

High-quality photos can either make or break a property listing, and consequently, your credibility as a real estate photographer. With that said, it's time to learn the best real estate photography tips and practices so that you can become a successful and in-demand photographer in your area.

Invest in the Right Equipment

While your shooting skills matter the most, you can only do that if you have the proper shooting gear. When you're just getting started in real estate photography, you can use standard equipment, although it helps to upgrade to particular tools that can deliver the demands of real estate.

Top view of photography equipment

Camera 

It would be better to use a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera for real estate photography. While cropped-sensor cameras are also good, they can't get a lot of light as opposed to full-frame cameras.

In addition, make sure to pick a camera with interchangeable lenses so that you can use specialty lenses. Your choice of camera for real estate photography must also have great ISO performance for night and low-light shooting.

Wide Angle and Tilt-Shift Lenses

Being a real estate photographer means shooting around properties quickly while covering the most space you can. You need a lens with a focal length that's wide enough to capture a place entirely without causing distortions.

It's ideal to use 24mm and 16-35mm lenses, although you can also try 17mm, 10-24mm, 16-28mm, 18-35m, and 17mm-40mm.

Tripod

Sharpness, height, and straight lines are fundamental elements of real estate photography. With a tripod, you get to stabilize your camera setup even when you need to use low ISO or slow shutter speeds.

When shooting bracketed exposures for HDR, you would need a consistent angle and height so that you can easily edit the exposure in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Flash and Strobes

In general, one high quality flash is enough for small rooms, whereas you would need to add strobes for bigger spaces. While you can use natural lighting, there are spacious properties that need more light, and light from windows or doors may not be enough.

For off-camera flashes, you would also need to attach a flash trigger for your camera and flash units so that both pieces of equipment would fire off at the same time as you press the shutter.

Remote Trigger

If you're shooting at low shutter speeds or you want to avoid repositioning your tripod, you can use a remote trigger for touch-free operation.

Light Modifiers

Direct flash often creates harsh light, resulting in dark shadows. Therefore, you would need light modifiers to soften the light. When photographing interiors, diffusers like umbrellas and softboxes can spread or soften concentrated light for a more flattering effect.

Light Stands

You would also need light stands to keep your external lights stable and safe. Since you would encounter different property sizes, it's beneficial to have a light stand with rollers for portability, as well as universal heads for attaching a variety of lights and equipment.

Polarizing Filters

You don't need to have a polarizing filter right away, although bringing one helps manage reflections, suppress glare, darken skies, and enhance color saturation.

As you rotate the filter, you would see reflections in glass, water, mirrors, and non-metallic objects appear and disappear. Keep in mind that you have to use the appropriate filter size for your lens.

Man holding a camera

Set Proper Camera Settings

Your shooting gear will be useless if you can't apply the correct camera settings. Since properties have varying features and spaces, there's no one-size-fits-all approach for camera settings, especially regarding exposure. That being said, it's good to have a starting point that you can modify depending on the situation.

Keep your camera in manual shooting mode because you would need to modify these settings.

  • Aperture: Keep the range between f/2.8 to f/7.1 because the wider the opening, the more light you allow to reach the camera sensor. You can also try a shallow depth of field if you want to highlight some details, like furniture.
  • Shutter speed: This depends on the available light in an area. However, it's best to keep it between 1/60 and 1/2 of a second since you're photographing stationary objects. Remember that the longer the shutter speed, the more you risk unwanted color casts.
  • ISO: You need to balance light sensitivity and sharpness, so try to keep the range between 200 to 400. Going beyond that may cause image noise and grain.

Have a Walkthrough Session

About 83% of buyers find professional photos useful for decision-making. Your job is to provide a digital or virtual tour for them. With a walkthrough session, you can see how you should market a property and get an idea of photographing a home. 

In this way, you can find the best light and angles. Consequently, you can determine whether you need to remove or add objects to correct imperfections.

Make sure to ask the realtor or owners about the important features they want to highlight. Likewise, learn about the nuances you must avoid.

Illuminate Spaces 

Professionally-photographed homes sell 32% faster, spending an average of 89 days on the market, compared to 123 days of other properties.

Lighting plays a key role in capturing beautiful real estate photos that can sell this fast, as it can impact the brightness, contrast, mood, and atmosphere. Thus, it's crucial that you can control lighting to create vibrant colors and pleasing textures.

Choose the Right Time

Selecting the right time to photograph influences lighting, especially if you need to shoot exteriors. If possible, schedule the shoot during the daytime so that you can get lots of natural, bright light.

White skies work best for interior shots, so make sure to check the weather to plan your time and have a backup schedule.

Some clients request shooting at dusk because it can create dramatic colors and mood. While you can also consider shooting during the sunset, it would be better if the sun comes from behind you and the camera. If you use backlighting, you would wash out colors and lose a lot of details.

Combine Natural and Artificial Lighting 

While it's best to make use of natural light, you can incorporate external lighting to improve the brightness and contrast of your pictures.

  • Window and interior lights serve as constant light sources.
  • Focus on the subject and adjust the light to it.
  • While you can adjust curtains to correct contrast, don't shoot straight into bright windows.
  • Position an additional strobe if you want to bring out details of cabinets against a dark wall.
  • Remember that flash isn't a constant light, so you must change the shutter speed to darken window light exposure.
  • If you want to mix the color of lights, use daylight-colored window light, then add some tungsten-colored interior lights.
  • Walls closest to a lamp would produce amber colors, while walls closest to windows would have blue hues.
  • Overhead bulbs and lamps radiate warm light that can clash with the cool, natural light entering through the windows.
  • Use LED panels and reflectors to enhance the effect of natural light, letting you highlight details such as wooden, textile, or metal elements.

Learn How to Bounce Flash

Attaching a flash unit to your camera is among the best ways to move from one space to another faster. However, you must bounce the light to soften it.

If you point the flash directly into a spot, you would see a focused, harsh light only in that area. This typically happens when you only have a pop-up flash. Consider these pointers when bouncing light.

  • You can generally position strobes on the corners or behind you. Try other places until you achieve even lighting.
  • After putting a diffuser, angle the flash in a way that it bounces off the ceiling, a wall behind you, or sidewalls.
  • Use 1/16th power as a starting point, then go higher depending on the necessary brightness.
  • For larger spaces, put your flash units on light stands, then angle them toward the ceiling.
Camera attached to GorillaPod

Work on Your Angles and Composition

A poorly shot image can grab a buyer's attention for only 2 seconds, whereas an excellent real estate photo retains attention for 20 seconds. Composition in real estate isn't all about pointing and shooting, you would need to position yourself strategically and your camera to make spaces appealing.

Knowing how to compose and angle your shots is one of the best real estate photography tips that can set you apart from other photographers. Hence, your angles and compositions should make viewers feel like they're stepping into their dream homes.

  • Shoot a room from a doorway to show the maximum amount of space.
  • Follow the two-wall rule to avoid making rooms look like corridors. Rooms tend to appear narrower or longer when you shoot down the length of the space compared to showing 3 converging walls.
  • Depth can draw a viewer's attention by having at least 3 distinct layers. For instance, show plants in the foreground, couch in the midground, and window in the background.
  • Take pictures from an eye-level to display a virtual horizon.
  • Avoid putting too much ceiling or too much floor in a picture because you might cut the liveable area. In effect, it would be hard for viewers to grasp a good sense of the space.
  • The ideal height for shooting real estate photos is about 5 feet. When shooting in rooms with worktops, set the height of your tripod at around 5.5 feet. 
  • Mind your vertical lines, especially on edges and corners from windows, door frames, and walls. You can usually ensure this using a tilt-shift lens.
  • Use the surroundings to emphasize a feature, like a beautiful garden leading to a garden shed.

Declutter and Stage Props

While some objects can make properties rather homey in time, having too many doesn't work well with real estate photos as you must keep surfaces neat.

Keep desks, coffee tables, and countertops free of clutter. Remove trash cans, toiletries, stacks of paper, and small pieces of appliances. Additionally, clean debris, dirt, and visible markings.

While you can leave 1 to 3 decorative items, such as a bowl of fruit or bouquet of flowers, try using a single color like all white roses or red apples.

Create a Standard Shot List

If you're struggling with composition, preparing a shot list can keep you in check and guarantee you don't miss anything. While no two properties are similar, there are usual shots you can take to improve your efficiency as a real estate photographer.

  • At least 2 photos from the main door to the living room. Make the living room homelike and relaxing while still making it look spacious and applicable to different lifestyles.
  • At least 2 wide-angle pictures of bedrooms that make them look inviting and cozy. Plus points if you can show a stunning view from the window. You don't need to include closets unless they have special or customization features.
  • At least 2 wide-angle shots of the kitchen and dining area, showing functionality and tidiness.
  • At least 2 photographs of spotless and well-lit bathrooms. Hide yourself and your camera away from mirrors and other reflective items like faucets.
  • At least 3 images of the backyard unless it has some unique features.
  • At least 2 shots each for the pantry, laundry room, and garage.
  • 1 to 2 pictures of the facade.

Make sure to coordinate the list with your client so that you can adjust it according to their needs and requests.

Follow a Post-Processing Workflow

Property listings with quality photos get a 47% higher asking price per square foot, which means you must ensure that you edit images to improve the final output.

Unless your client requires you to remove or add objects, real estate photography doesn't need extensive editing. Remember to shoot in RAW so that you can retain all image data and do these post-processing techniques swiftly.

  • Presets: Using presets leads to more consistent edits because you can quickly apply filters with one click.
  • Cropping: Remove irrelevant details or unwanted sections to improve composition.
  • Brightness and Contrast Correction: Adjusting the brightness and contrast enables you to achieve the perfect tonal values, image highlights, and shadows.
  • Vertical Correction: This is one of the most essential things in real estate photography, as you need to ensure that all lines are perpendicular. Otherwise, columns would look unstable, or walls won't appear proportional.
  • White Balance: It's also vital to capture accurate colors and not make a space look too cool or too warm.
  • HDR Adjustment: If some of your shots have dark corners or bright windows, HDR adjustment enables you to merge a number of images and form a single, evenly-exposed photo.
Person typing on a MacBook

Have Professional Work Ethics

Real estate photography is among the most well-paid industries on the American market, with photographers having an average annual pay of $60,000. Aside from skills and equipment, your attitude and work ethics can affect your career growth.

  • Present a contract: In an industry where a picture is worth a thousand words and possibly thousands of dollars, it's crucial that you legally protect both yourself and your clients. Make sure that you get fairly compensated for your work and that clients receive the products and services they availed.
  • Pack your things properly: You may need to bring around lots of equipment, so it would be better to organize your gear by section, type, and importance. Bring extra batteries, chargers, memory cards, or an extra camera.
  • Follow the specifications: While you have a style, you also need to be flexible since some clients might have other preferences. Ask if they have certain resolutions for print, MLS sizes, required file format, or preferred delivery method.
  • Meet deadlines: Be sure to set a realistic timeline that would benefit both parties. This is also why it's important to have efficient shoot and post-processing workflows so that you can turn over photos on time or even earlier.
  • Don't come to the shoot unprepared: Finally, make sure to research and plan all the things you need to do before, during, and after the shoot.

Conclusion

Real estate photography is a challenging yet rewarding niche. With these real estate photography tips, you can take professional images to build your portfolio and grow your career. Once you get a steady stream of clients, you can make this job a reliable source of income.

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