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Real Estate Photography vs Interior Photography

Published: 19/09/2012
By: larry

Shane Law of Sydney sent me a link to a post he did recently on the difference between real estate photography and Interior Photography. Shane shoots both real estate photography and interior photography so he probably thinks about this more than most of us.

This distinction between real estate photography and interior photography may seem obvious to more experienced shooters but to for beginners it's important to think about what the purpose of each photo. That is, what are you trying to communicate and illustrate with each shot? The two different goals are:

  • Real estate photography: Communicate and illustrate spaces, relationships between spaces and a feeling for the property as a whole.
  • Interior photography: Communicate and illustrate interior design  and design objects like furniture and decorator items.

Shane gives several good examples of photos of the same room that illustrate these difference in photographic goals.

The thing I always point out to people that's different between real estate photography and Interior/Architectural photography is the training of the client you are working for. Interior designers and architects have extensive training in the visual arts so they will have much higher expectations than real estate agents who typically don't have any training in the visual arts.

7 comments on “Real Estate Photography vs Interior Photography”

  1. I think this is a great post--as is Shane Law's original post. I am a real estate agent who takes my own pictures. I have a staging team that includes a professional interior designer--who helps me for free in a quid-pro-quo arrangement. What I do for her is take pictures for her web site. She had previously tried two pro real estate photographers, but was unhappy with the results. She tried me because she figured she could whip me into shape to get the pictures she wants. It took a while for this to happen--a lot of whipping.

    As Shane Law said, the designer doesn't care about the house--or even the rooms. Her focus was on individual design element: drapes, wall colors, furniture, paintings, etc. Also some of the rule of good real estate pictures that Larry has drummed into me did not apply. When taking pictures of a listing I make sure that all the verticals are straight. But when taking pictures of a grouping of furniture sometimes the best angle is from above--and the walls then are slanted. Since fixing this can distort the furniture, she did NOT want them fixed. She wanted the slanted walls. Another big difference is showing what is outside from the inside. When taking pictures of rooms with a view I always take great pains to meld exposures that show the room correctly--but also show through the windows as if there were not glass. Sometimes she did want this, but other times not. She did not want the outside view to take attention away from the furniture. We only take pictures on sunny days, but often close the curtains or drapes to block the view outside. As Shane Law showed, designers sometimes do not want a sharply focused background. For my designer I sometimes take pictures with a telephoto lens and focus only on the near objects.

    I did take my designer a good bit of nagging to get me to change my ideas of what a good picture is for her. It helped me to go through several high-end interior design magazines and look at the pictures. In a very unscientific survey I found that about 1/3 of the pictures in these magazines had slanted walls, about 1/4 did not clearly show the outside through a window, and about 1/10 had fuzzy backgrounds.

    One thing I took away from this (other than having a good designer to help with staging) was that sometimes I want vignette pictures of specific features or furnishings in a house. I now know that some of these pictures are better taken with her rules than ours.

  2. "Interior designers and architects have extensive training in the visual arts so they will have much higher expectations than real estate agents."
    Larry, that is probably the definitive statement between the two approaches to interior photography.
    My experience with interior designers is that some want room shots while others require detailed vignettes. What ever makes the client happy is the approach I take.
    Best Regards, Ron

  3. Just this morning I was shooting, shall we say with my "real estate" lens. But then I took out my TS-E 24 and boy was it fun. I still tried to capture enough so that it still showed the room, but I can say I was melding the two concepts from this blog and I'm looking forward to posting them in my MLS. Remember, buying real estate is emotional. So if one shot does it for a buyer then that's all it takes.

  4. Just like portraits can be formal, informal, studio setting, environmental, single person, multiple person and requires a specific but shared skills - architectural photography can be broken down into many genres each of which requires its own skill and shared skills - interior, exterior, detail, staging, real estate, etc. Mix and match makes for the best presentation overall, but for specific presentation types - stick with specific types of shots!

  5. Don't discount the use of mixing types. I like to use a bit of both styles when I shoot for agents. I think adding interior (design) shots tends to break up a home as the potential buyer goes through the photos. Interior-specific shots also act as focal points so the memory of a particular space may be intensified for the buyer. I’ve had good results so far.

  6. There are also architectural interiors, where one might sometimes use wide views to show the spaces, as well as the design of the structure; but, again, the expectations of image quality and skillful composition will tend to be much higher than with real estate clients. As with interior designers, architects are generally not going to overlook the kinds of distortions of shape and scale that many real estate clients tend to overlook when seeking to show a lot of space in one shot. Therefore, it is important to study many high quality photographs shot specifically for interior designers and architects, to understand the stylistic and quality requirements and see how different photographers deal with the challenges involved.

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