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Top 53 Real Estate Photography Tips

Published: 26/07/2021

Homeowners and agents want to sell properties at their target prices, so they hire a professional real estate photographer 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, exposure, compositions, shot list, editing, and work ethics.

Real Estate Photography Tips

Real estate photos need to make a solid impression on potential buyers right away. You can achieve this with the right equipment, the appropriate camera settings, and the best exposure. You must also work on composition, staging, and editing to make photos look spacious yet realistic.

The way you take photos can either make or break a property listing, and consequently, your credibility as a professional photographer. With that said, it's time to learn some tips and practices so that you can become a successful and in-demand photographer in your area.

Invest in the Right Equipment

While your real estate photography skills matter the most, you can only do that if you have the proper gear. 

You can use standard equipment when you're just getting started in real estate photography. However, it helps to upgrade to particular tools that can deliver the demands of the real estate industry.

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 tend to limit the field of view 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 excellent ISO performance for low-light or twilight shooting.

Wide Angle and Tilt-Shift Lenses

Being a great 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 in photos.

There are various lenses, yet it's better to use tilt-shift and wide-angle lenses for real estate photography. These lenses have a broad field of view, letting you capture exterior and interior pictures in a single frame.

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

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.

One of the best tips to remember in real estate photography is that you can always take HDR pictures when dealing with different exposures.

You need a consistent angle and height when shooting bracketed photos for HDR. In this way, you can stitch them into an evenly exposed photo in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Flash and Strobes

In general, one high-quality flash is enough for a small room, whereas you would need to add strobes for bigger spaces. While you can use natural light for real estate photography, there are spacious properties that need more lighting.

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 taking photos at slow 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 in photos. Therefore, you would need modifiers to soften the exposure.

Particularly for interior photography, diffusers like umbrellas and softboxes can spread or soften concentrated lights for a more flattering effect.

Stands

Like in other kinds of photography, you need stands to keep your external lights stable and safe. 

Since you would encounter different property sizes, it's beneficial to use a stand with rollers for portability. You also need universal heads for attaching a variety of lights and equipment.

Drone

There are situations where a drone works better to emphasize the vastness of a property or neighborhood. However, you should be a professional or licensed drone pilot to use a drone to offer aerial photography services legally. 

Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters come in handy for real estate photography, especially when you're working in a property filled with reflective surfaces. 

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

As you rotate the filter, you 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

The use of camera settings shows the difference between a professional photographer and a beginner. 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. 

With that 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 change 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

Compared to photographing moving subjects, you can keep the shutter speed between 1/60 and 1/2 of a second since you're dealing with motionless objects. Remember that the longer the shutter speed, the more you risk unwanted color casts.

ISO

You need to balance sensitivity and sharpness in photos, 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. Real estate photographers must 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 exposure and angles to impress buyers and agents. Consequently, you can determine whether you need to remove or add objects to correct imperfections.

Make sure to ask the realtor or owners about particular 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.

Illumination plays a key role in capturing beautiful real estate photos that can sell this fast. Keep in mind that it can impact the brightness, contrast, mood, and atmosphere. 

Thus, you can only produce professional-looking pictures if you know how to control lights to create vibrant colors and pleasing textures.

Choose the Right Time

The best real estate photographers know that selecting the right time to photograph influences exposure, especially for exterior photos. If possible, schedule the shoot during the daytime so that you can get lots of 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.

Real estate agents request shooting at dusk because it can create dramatic color and mood in photos. While you can also consider shooting during the sunset, it would be better if the sun comes from behind you and the camera.

Combine Natural and Artificial Lighting 

While it's best to use natural light, you can incorporate external light to improve the brightness and contrast of your pictures. Window and interior lights serve as constant sources, whereas flash isn't a constant light. Thus, you must change the shutter speed to darken the exposure. 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. If you want to mix the color of lights, it's better to use daylight-colored window light. Then, add some tungsten-colored interior lights. Walls closest to a lamp would produce amber colors, whereas walls closest to windows would have blue hues.

Overhead bulbs and lamps radiate warm hues that can clash with cool tones entering through the windows. In comparison, LED panels and reflectors can 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 property to another faster. However, you must bounce the flash output to soften it.

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

Compared to portrait photography, you can generally position strobes on the corners or behind you. Try other places until you achieve different exposures. 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, it would be better to put flash units on stands, then angle them toward the ceiling.

Camera attached to GorillaPod

Work on Your Angles and Composition

A poorly shot photo can grab a buyer's attention for only 2 seconds, whereas an excellent real estate photo retains attention for 20 seconds. This is why people hire a professional photographer because they need expertise in real estate photography techniques. 

Composition in real estate photography isn't all about pointing and shooting. You also need to position yourself strategically and your camera to make spaces appealing. Professional real estate photographers must know how to compose and angle shots. Hence, your angles and compositions should make buyers feel like they're stepping into their dream homes.

Shoot pictures of a room from a doorway to show the maximum amount of space. Avoid putting too much ceiling or too much room floor in a photo because you might cut the liveable area. Otherwise, it would be hard for buyers to grasp a good sense of the property.

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.

Find the Best Shooting Position

Follow the two-wall rule to avoid making rooms look like corridors. A room tends to appear narrower or longer when you shoot down the length of the space compared to showing 3 converging walls.

The ideal height for taking real estate photos is about 5 feet. For rooms with worktops, set the height of your tripod at around 5.5 feet. 

Take photos from eye level to display a virtual horizon. In contrast, 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.

Declutter and Stage Props

Unlike lifestyle shoots that require several props, real estate photography keeps the scene as neat as possible. While some objects can make properties rather homey in time, having too many doesn't work well with real estate images 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.

You can leave 1 to 3 decorative items, such as a bowl of fruit or bouquet. However, it would be better to use a single color like all white roses or red apples. If possible, work with a professional stager. 

Create a Standard Shot List

Real estate photographers must know what subjects to capture, including highlighting a property listing's features, amenities, and dimensions.

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.

  • Living room: Snap 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.
  • Bedroom: Use a wide-angle lens to make bedrooms look inviting and cozy in photos. 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.
  • Kitchen and dining room: Get at least 2 wide-angle shots of the kitchen and dining area, showing functionality and tidiness.
  • Bathroom: Bathrooms are typically the smallest rooms in a property. Thus, try to position yourself in the right corner. Take at least 2 photographs of spotless and well-lit bathrooms. Hide yourself and your camera away from mirrors and other reflective items like faucets.
  • Exterior: Compared to interiors, you only need to take about 1 to 2 photos of the facade. Sunlight and sunset are the best for shooting exteriors.
  • Backyard and outdoor features: Make sure to get about 3 high quality photos of the backyard unless it has some unique features. Additionally, take at least 2 photos each for the pantry, laundry room, and garage.

Make sure to coordinate the list with the real estate agent 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. Hence, make sure to edit your photos to improve the final output. 

Take advantage of free editing software trials. Lightroom is ideal for quick retouches, whereas Photoshop and Photomatix work best for heavy editing.

Unless your client requires you to remove or add objects, real estate photography usually only needs a fair bit of editing. Feel free to set your camera format to RAW so that you can retain all image data and do these editing techniques swiftly.

Presets: Using Lightroom presets enables you to have more consistent edits. It lets you quickly apply filters to many photos 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 among the 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, with the right white balance.

HDR Adjustment: Some of your photos may have dark corners or bright windows. You can use the best HDR software to merge a number of images with different exposures to 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: A picture is worth a thousand words and possibly thousands of dollars in the real estate industry. Thus, it's crucial that you legally protect both yourself and your clients. Make sure to 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 in a sturdy bag. Bring extra batteries, chargers, memory cards, or an extra camera.

Follow the specifications: While you can be free to apply your real estate photography style, you also need to be flexible since some clients might have other preferences. Ask if they have specific resolutions for print photos, 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 crucial 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.

Prepare a Real Estate Photography Checklist

When it comes to real estate photography, you may not have a second chance to reshoot the property. However, with many informative tips for real estate photography, it would help to create a checklist and even bring a printed copy of it. 

  • Bring the right equipment: Camera body, wide-angle lenses, tilt-shift lenses, tripod, filters, external flash.
  • Play with camera settings: While this should depend on the maximum aperture of your lens, try to keep the f-stop around f/2.8 to f/7.1. Set the shutter speed from 1/60 to 1/2 of a second. ISO should be under 400.
  • Capture the important property areas: Take as many photos as you can of the living area, bedrooms, kitchen and dining rooms, bathroom, and exterior.
  • Feel free to retouch photos: crop, correct lines, edit HDR photos, change colors, and modify white balance. 
  • Communicate: Talk with the agent properly when scheduling the shoot time and creating the shot list.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Quality Photos Matter in Real Estate?

Quality photos help agents market their listings on websites to attract potential buyers to viewing and buying a property. Some buyers don't have free time to consider a property right away, so they need online visuals. Accurate depictions of properties set memorable impressions for photography clients to make faster buying decisions.

What Are the Things I Should Avoid in Real Estate Photography?

Avoid scheduling a photo shoot in bad weather, editing photos heavily, and taking photos from a single angle. Doing so can prevent you from delivering quality photos.

Conclusion

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

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