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So You Want To Be A Real Estate Photographer

Published: 26/09/2012

Steve Paxton over at asked me to write a post for beginners thinking about getting into real estate photography. So since there are many beginners in the PFRE audience I decided to do a post here that he can use on

What is real estate photography? A large part of selling a property these days is about making it look good on the real estate sites. A property that looks good on the potential home buyers will attract home buyers to come look at it in person. Nowadays all real estate transactions start online.

What are the keys to creating your own real estate photography business? Here is my distilled summary with references to more details in previous PFRE blog posts:

  1. Essential Gear
    • Wide-angle glass: This is the most is the most important piece of gear you need. You need a wide angle lens that has an effective focal length between 14 and 24mm. See the PFRE lenses page for all the options. The lens I recommend to most people is the Sigma 10-20mm. It has good quality for a very reasonable price and it’s available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Samsung and Sony.
    • DSLR: Any low-end DSLR is adequate. Don’t bother with point-and-shoot cameras, they don’t have good quality wide-angle lenses. If you are serious about this business you need a DSLR.
    • Tripod: A Manfrotto  or any sturdy tripod is adequate.
    • Small flashes: Even if you are going to shot HDR/Exposure Fusion, I think you need at least one flash. A great way to go is a used SB-80Dx. Trigger one with Cactus wireless triggers and use optical triggering for more than the first one.
  2. Lighting Decisions: Lighting interiors with small flashes is the best approach but there is a learning curve with this technique. I recommend starting out with one flash and using Exposure Fusion. Then expand to multiple flashes as you learn how to use them. In the mean time Exposure Fusion covers up many flash learning problems.
    • Small Flashes: This is the technique that about half of professional real estate photographers use.
    • HDR: HDR is hard to control. It use to be more popular in real estate than it is now.
    • Hybrid of EF and small flash: This is what about half of professional real estate photographers use
  3. Post Processing Software: You can get by with just Lightroom but to do top quality work you need Photoshop or Photoshop Elements too.
  4. Learning The Craft: Start out by learning still photography. All agents need stills. Then pay attention to what is popular in your market and expand into areas that there is a demand for in your area. Video is becoming more popular and with the right DSLR and some extra gear you can supply both stills and video.
  5. Building Your Business: Here are the key parts to building your real estate photography business with links to more details:
    • What should you charge?
    • Is there a strong market in your area for real estate photography?
    • What's the best way to market yourself?
      • Find the top 1-5% of agents in your local market
      • Market to those top agents face-to-face - educate them on how great photography sells property
      • Raise the marketing awareness of home sellers in your area
    • Here is the key message that sells real estate photography.
If you are interested in more depth on any of these areas our PFRE eBooks and video series that present these subjects in a more organized and more detailed form. They are:
  1. Photography For Real Estate - An in depth look at real estate photography and what you need to get started.
  2. The Business of Real Estate Photography - How to build your real estate photography business.
  3. Lighting Interiors - How to use multiple small flashes to light interiors.
  4. Lighting for Real Estate video series - Scott's video series on how to use multiple small flashes.
  5. Image Editing For Real Estate Photography - Everything you need to know about image editing for real estate photography.
Larry Lohrman

13 comments on “So You Want To Be A Real Estate Photographer”

  1. It seems the pros use a full frame DSLR. What would be the downside to using a top end mirror-less and saving a few grand?

  2. @Mitch- A mirror-less body would be fine as long as:
    1- You could get good wide-angle glass for it
    2- You could trigger flashes with it
    3- And/or it has the ability to shoot brackets if you are going to do that.

    A minor downside to a small mirror-less is that it doesn't LOOK as professional as a big DSLR. I can recall Joe McNally talking about the fact that that he likes to use studio lighting when he's on a shoot (even though he could do it with small flash) because it just looks more professional to the client.

  3. I think it's dangerous to say that "Any low-end DSLR is adequate". What if a novice takes that advice and quits their day job to become a full-time "pro" real estate photographer with the Canon 300D or Nikon D70 they bought 8 years ago? Technically, everyone who owns a camera (even a camera phone) is a photographer and to compete with established professional real estate photographers out there, I'd be suggesting that they should consider looking at mid- to high-end equipment, and that would mean full-frame bodies and good quality glass, amongst other things.

  4. I do not agree with Dave Williamson. A DSLR is very important, but I have seen work on other forums from photographers with a Canon 30D and 40D crop. If you want to give value to the camera you work with, you also should consider the value of the person behind the lens.
    And also not to forget the editing software.
    A novice quiting his job to become a full-time pro is stupid and that this will happened is very rare.

  5. Next time someone asks me about becoming a real estate photog I'm going to link them straight to this post. Awesome summary Larry and great references. I agree with the essential gear list although the tripod seems a little pricey, I think you could do just as well for under $100 (here's an all aluminum Ravelli with pistol grip, level and and priced down from $399 to $93:

  6. Thanks, Larry and others. I would say a mirror less system like the Olympus OM-D has the wide glass and bracket ability to function. I have been unable to confirm that the flash system could work via radio trigger. It does work with remote triggers but walls and other impediments could prove problematic. Think I will weigh this out before jumping in.

  7. Ture @Malia, it's not light but it's not like you're going hiking with it! Just saying for a lot less money it's a solid (albeit heavier) option.

  8. @David W. - I agree with Dave. The camera choice is very important. First and foremost it determines the lenses that will be required (APS sensor vs full frame). Also, the quality of the output has improved over the years and not just pixel image, but the ability to shoot at high iso's etc.

    No one should quit a job to become a photographer full time. Whether you are doing real estate, weddings, sports, commercial etc. you need training of one type or another. There is a lot of local expertise, a lot of web expertise and a lot of great classes like Scott Hargis gives that can help develop skills.

    No one should just become a real estate photographer, they should determine that the business plan works for them and they have the skills to carry it out.

    I also believe in mentoriing and apprenticing before you actually go out on your own.

  9. I´m agree with Dave in the way that it´s different to be a Real Estate Photographer than be a Professional REP. Even some of the professional photographer that occasionally shot RE have a lack of skill and expertise than a Full-time well-prepared PREP. It´s needed a high level skill on main points like how-to-shot, what-to-shot, money-shots, proper editing and equipment.
    You can do great photos with an old Canon 300D, but, seriously, it´s like if you now buy an airplane ticket and the you find that you´re gonna travel on an old plane from the 60´s. You can travel with it, but as a costumer it´s not what you´re expecting and definitely not the today´s standarts of quality and reliability that you must give as a professional.

  10. Another great post, summarizing dozens of others on this site already. Larry, this site is a goldmine of information, and each of us that visits and contributes comes away with more knowledge each time. Thanks to you and the rest of the community here for all you have done.

    I'm very close to launching my own RE Photography business, and this site is my top resource if I have any questions.

  11. How about less emphasis on equipment, and more on practice! as someone once said, you need to take 10000 pictures and throw them away before you start taking good ones! You can take great pics with a plastic camera... get out there and take pics instead of worrying about what camera you have... and frankly, if you 'quit your day job' on the advice of a web site you deserve to fail...

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