Real Estate Photography Tips and Tricks

real estate exterior

The key aspect to successfully marketing a real estate property whether it’s a house, an apartment, a restaurant is well exposed and nice composed photos. If you are new to real estate photography, this article will provide you with few tips on how to successfully photograph a clear, bright interior and exterior of real estate property.

Real estate photography Types

Real estate photography is subdivided into 3 specific styles – Residential, Commercial, and Architectural. Each style has two different types: interior and exterior photography.

  • Residential photography:

The subjects of this style are apartments, condos, lofts, rentals, town-homes, single-family houses or expensive properties. The photographers commonly provide their clients with 5-20 edited images for interior and exterior of the property. The potential clients are realtors, real estate agents, and property owners.

Exterior of real estate

Interior of real estate property

  • Commercial real estate photography:

The subjects are any commercial properties: hotels, bars, restaurants, pubs, cafes. The required number of photos normally is a subject of an agreement between the owners and the photographers.

real estate - restorant

  • Architectural photography for real estate

The main purpose of this style is rather to sell the photos to stock sites and magazines than to realtors or real estate companies. You take pictures of the building’s composition, not a photo of the property. You may check “Architectural Photography- The full Guide” for further reading.

real estate property

Equipment needed for Real estate photography

Digital camera

You can shoot real estate photos with any sensor size, But a larger sensor size and specifically a full frame sensor is the optimum choice for several reasons. Because it allows you to take full advantage of any wide angle lens that you might be using and will allow you to get a better exposure in low light situations. For the image sharpness, you may look for a camera with Image Stabilization feature.

My recommended cameras are listed in my post “Best Camera for Real Estate Photography

Camers for real estate photography

Lenses

For most real estate photography, it seems that using a wide angle lens with a focal length between 10mm to 25mm on a full frame camera is appropriate. Using a lower focal length lens will get you into the fisheye view which is not suitable at all for real estate photography. For using focal length more than 30mm in a tight space will give you a narrow scene. The second thing you should consider is using prime or zoom lens, the decision is entirely dependent on cost. If you can afford prime lenses, they typically offer sharper and higher quality focusing photos. Another thing to consider is the lens focusing capabilities of the lens. What about fast lenses?  The overwhelming majority of real estate photos need to be in sharp focus from the front to back i.e. deep depth of field.  This means you’ll be shooting somewhere between f/7.1-11, so there isn’t an actual need for fast lenses.

My recommended lenses are listed in my post “Best Lenses for Real Estate Photography – Choose the Right one!

Lenses for real estate photography

Accessories

Essential equipment is required to help you take great real estate photos:

Tripod

While there isn’t a great need because of camera shake, using extremely wide lenses adds a need to be careful with being level. The wide angle of view exaggerates anything off level. Sure, that can easily be fixed in post, but getting it level for the original exposure is the better way. Also, you will need the tripod for the following situations:

  • To take some panorama shots, the camera and lens need to pivot on the lens nodal point, and that means having a nodal mount attached to a quality tripod.
  • To take HDR shots, HDR technique involves at least two images of different exposures. Most HDR programs do better with 3 to 5 exposures. For proper bracketing of the multiple images, a tripod is a vital tool.
  • To take twilight shots whether morning or evening twilight, exposure times are longer than in full daylight. The same setting applied for shooting interior images in natural light. Since you’re often will use smaller apertures for greater depth of focus, your exposure time will increase. All of those situations are best handled with a tripod.

The specific needs of real estate and architectural photography necessitate a distinct set of features. Your tripod should have the following features:

  • Stability: Since many of the situations unique to real estate and architectural imaging are related to keeping multiple exposures registered, having a stable platform is one of the most important features I examined.
  • Height: A natural eye-level point of view is appealing in this avenue of photography. A lens height in the range of 56 to 66 inches looks genuine and correct.
  • Precise adjustments and movements: An exceptional 3-way head makes a great difference in ease of set up. I like 3-way heads that are smoothly adjusted. Geared workings are nice, too, but can add a considerable expense. For certain uses, I think it’s worth it to spend extra if one has the need.
  • Ruggedness: A tripod will be used a lot, and it needs to be able to stand up possible rough use.

Lighting equipment 

Lighting is probably the biggest challenge for those starting out in real estate photography. There isn’t anyone right way to light interiors. While using the available natural and artificial lights is the simple option, there are many situations when you need to add additional lights to the scene. You may consider the following options:

Light meter

A light meter is a piece of equipment that determines the right amount of exposure for a photo. It allows the photographer to determine and choose the right aperture and shutter speed for optimum exposure, given an area’s lighting situation. Most cameras come with a built-in light meter that is suitable in most cases. However, the built-in meter measures the light striking the camera, not the light striking the scene, which is not always an effective way to expose an image. Having an external light meter can help you expose your shots better in all situations. If you want more information concerning light meter, you may check my post “Photography Light Meter – Camera metering Vs Handheld Metering

Polarizing filter

It removes glare from reflective surfaces such as water, glass, and canvas in interior shots, and it gives an important improvement to colors and sky in exterior shots. It worth mentioning that a glare in the image would be very difficult/impossible to address in post-processing. For more reading about the polarizing filter, you may check my post “What Is Polarizing Filter? – Everything You Need To Know”. The below photo shows that using a polarizing filter removes glare on the car windows.

effect of polarizing filter

Gray card

When you have a variety of different light sources, each with a different color temperature, like the case when shooting interior real estate (natural, artificial, flashlights), there would be a need to correctly adjust the white balance of the whole scene. The gray card will help you to do a custom white balance.

Spare Batteries, extra memory card

Always have extra batteries and extra memory card in your bag. Let them just be there, even if you use them only once in your life.

The recommended accessories are listed in my post Be Prepared to Take Great Real Estate Photos – Essential Equipment

Real estate equpment

Tips for taking best real estate photos

Get the property ready for shooting

Make sure that there isn’t any dust on visible surfaces such as ceiling fans, light bulbs, and fixtures, mirrors and windows, etc.

Make sure that every light (spots, chandeliers, and lamps) is working, burned out bulbs should be replaced. Turn on every single light on the inside and outside of the home.

Make sure that family photos and other personal items have been removed.

An overly crowded room does not allow viewers to properly visualize the space. Make sure that any unnecessary items and furniture are removed from the scene to create a much more open feeling.

Choose the best shooting time

Most real estate photographers prefer to take shots at late morning and early afternoon when the sun is generally shining brightest. This natural lighting provides best opportunities to capture every corner of a home’s exterior. Also it a good idea to take advantage of the natural light when shooting real estate interiors, it can be done easily if there are enough windows in the property. Just slide curtains aside, roll up shades, or remove both entirely so the possible sunlight enters the home.

Sometimes, if the property has plenty of artificial lighting, it may be a good idea to try some night shots. The landscape around the property and your lighting options will help you take the proper decision. Also, you may consider shooting exteriors at dusk; it can yield dramatic and lovely results.

real estat photos

Use landscape orientation

Shoot your photographs in the horizontal or landscape orientation whenever possible. The human eye sees the world in a roughly a 4:3 aspect ratio, though the standard ratio is moving to 16:9. So our brain finds the horizontal/landscape view more pleasing.

Level your camera

There are lots of vertical lines in real estate scenes, they are parts of structures such as doors, walls and window frames are almost always perfectly vertical. If the photos you took of a property seem to be tilting to the left or right, we need to work on to avoid this “verticals” issue. You need to be sure that the camera is 100% level. A good tripod will have a bubble level you can reference to be sure the shot is level. Shooting with a level camera will straighten the vertical lines in the frame and make the resulting photo more pleasing to look at.

real estate interiors

Composition tips

  • Camera height

In rooms where there aren’t large surfaces you generally keep the camera height between 36″ and 48″ off the floor. Composition considerations will determine the exact height.

In kitchens or bathrooms, you have the camera height 15″ to 20″ above the counter (the primary surface) height and you keep the camera height high enough so you can’t see the surface on the bottom of the cabinets. Frequently there are lights and other stuff under there you don’t want to show.

In bedrooms, where the primary surface in the photograph is the bed you have the camera height 15″ to 20″ above the height of the bed. The lower the bed the lower the camera goes.

  • The good shooting angle

The objective of a property photograph is to show off the space available in any given room. Positioning yourself in the corner of a room and shooting across at an approx. 45-degree angle will allow you to capture as much of the room as possible. If you’re new to taking real estate photos, the best way to learn what angles will showcase your listings best is by practicing and making sure also that you take lots of photos.  You can always delete bad photos but you cannot select a photo if you haven’t taken it.  I suggest taking photos of each room from almost every angle that is possible.

  • Avoid including near furniture in the frame

The perspective distortion associated with wide angle lens is the direct result of camera placement in relation to your subject. Perspective works the same for the human eye as it does with your camera.  Objects closer to you always appear larger than those further away. So it is very important to compose your photo in such way to avoid shooting close (near) furniture because the distortion will be very apparent. You may have to rearrange the positions of the furniture or change your shooting angle.

real estate photo

Consider applying advanced techniques

There are some advanced photography techniques; they are very helpful in presenting astonishing photos.

Panorama

This technique allows us to use specialized equipment and software, to capture images with horizontally elongated fields of view (160 to 180 degree). It is sometimes known as wide format photography. It is very useful in showing the exterior of a real estate property. You may check my post “The Panorama Photography Tutorials” to know more about this technique.

HDR

If you take three photos of the same subject, one at normal exposure, the second at darker exposure (underexposed) and the third at brighter exposure (overexposed), and process these three images in a special software, you will finally get an amazing HDR photo. I recommend reading the following posts, if you are interested in shooting HDR photos:

real estate exterior

real estate exterior

Pay attention to Lens and perspective distortion

Lens distortion is a product of an actual optical aberration (or imperfection) within the elements of a lens. The result is that straight lines, in reality, will in one way or another appear curved or deformed in the resulting photograph distorted vertical and horizontal lines in your images when you use a wide-angle lens. You will typically see more lens distortion in wider lenses than you would in medium or telephoto options. There are three main types of lens distortion: Barrel, pincushion and perspective distortion. The lens distortions can be fixed by DxO Photolap, Lightroom CC, Photoshop CC software. You may check my postHow To Correct Lens Distortion – DxO Optics Pro 11 Is The Answerfor more detailed information.

prespective distortion

Edit Your Photos

I recommend using Adobe Lightroom CC as editing software, here is a simple editing workflow:

  1. Straighten out the lines. (lens distortion section)
  2. Correct any lens vignetting (the corners of the image are a bit darker) that may have happened.( Lens Correction, Manual, then Vignetting).
  3. Use the Adjustment Brush to correct the exposure in bright or dark areas. (Basic panel) section
  4. Make color corrections: Adjust the overall temperature as needed. You’re aiming for warmth, not yellow. Also, bump up the Vibrance a bit instead of messing with the saturation.
  5. Adjust the clarity and sharpness: Clarity is a great way to polish up a photo without going overboard on contrast; plus, it gives the photo an overall crisp look

Using real estate presets is another option to make your editing workflow much faster and easier. You may check my post about “Best Lightroom Presets For Photographers” to select your own preset.

Explore and study great real estate photos

One of the best ways to learn how to master real estate photography is to analyze great pictures to see why they work. If you are interested in learning more about real estate photography the Placester’s Real Estate Academy is a great site. They have an excellent write up on what to look for when assessing great real estate photos. They walk you through dozens of examples and explain why they work, and strategies to get similar results in your own photos.

real estate interior

The End Product

Once you have completed the assignment you will need to deliver the image files. Clients may have different preferences, but mine usually request low resolution for the web and high resolution for print publication.

Be sure to save your files in the proper file format and size for the intended use. Most Multiple Listing Service’s specify what is accepted format and acceptable sizes. You can use Photoshop to save photos for Web option (small file size) and TIFF format for high resolution (for printing).  Then final delivery of the files is made by online service such as Dropbox.

There are more advanced end product forms that are recently demanded by customers:

Real Estate Virtual Tours

Before now, it was important to have professional quality photos of your listings. Now, as technology continues to advance, your clients are going to demand a virtual tour of their property. The following link shows you an interactive example of a 360 virtual tour by vpix360.com. Also, you may check my post “How to make a virtual tour of real estate

Real Estate Video

Shooting a video for real estate is a powerful tool in presenting both the interior and exterior of a property. You can use most of your equipment that is used in photography in making videos. You can check my post “How to Shoot Video with DSLR Camera

Aerial Photography and Video for Real Estate (drones)  

The real estate photography is a perfect candidate for the benefits of new Aerial Vehicles (drones). To capture photos or videos of a property from high above is an advantage that will add an unmatched perspective when marketing a property for sale.

Despite the lake of Real estate photography tips relating to the use of drones because it is a new technology, and the legal issues regarding the commercial use of drones it seems that using drones is going to be the future of shooting exterior of expensive real estate properties.

Related posts

Best Camera for Real Estate Photography

Best Lenses for Real Estate Photography – Choose the Right one!

Be Prepared to Take Great Real Estate Photos – Essential Equipment

How to make a virtual tour of real estate

 

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article if you have any questions just post below & I will be happy to answer you.

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