The Essential Guide for Real Estate Photography: Expert Tips for Beginners

Are you interested in real estate photography, and do you have a talent for capturing stunning images? If so, there's a world of opportunity waiting for you. Whether you're an experienced photographer looking to expand...

Are you interested in real estate photography, and do you have a talent for capturing stunning images? If so, there's a world of opportunity waiting for you. Whether you're an experienced photographer looking to expand your portfolio or you're new to the field of photography altogether, this guide is perfect for you. From helpful tips and techniques to editing suggestions, this guide will help you make a strong impression and establish yourself in the realm of real estate photography.

How to Get Started in Real Estate Photography?

The first step to breaking into the real estate photography market is to establish connections with local real estate agents. Reach out to them and offer your services. Make sure you have business cards and a portfolio of your work to showcase your skills. Starting out may require using your own home or capturing images of friends and family's properties to build your portfolio. It may seem counterintuitive, but these images can be invaluable assets in getting your foot in the door.

Real Estate Photography Capturing captivating real estate images can open up new opportunities

Real estate photography is not just about taking photos; it also involves dressing up the properties, marketing your work, completing administrative tasks, and, of course, editing the photos. Clients expect a quick turn-around time for real estate images, typically within 24 to 48 hours. So it's crucial to factor in the time required for these additional tasks when quoting your fees.

Speaking of fees, you should expect to charge up to $200 for properties under 3,000 square feet. For larger properties, you can charge up to $500, depending on their size. Even as a beginner, it's essential to charge for your services. Working for free can damage your reputation and devalue the profession. Remember, your time and expertise are valuable!

To boost your income, consider exploring real estate stock photography. Ensure you have all the necessary permissions and relevant insurance coverage to protect yourself and your clients.

Part 1: Mastering Real Estate Photography Settings

When photographing real estate, you'll need to adjust your camera settings based on the property's exterior and interior. Here are some starting points, but feel free to adapt them to suit the conditions you encounter.

Interior Settings:

  • ISO: Keep the ISO as low as possible, ideally between 100 and 400. If using a flash, aim for around ISO 320.
  • Aperture: Avoid shooting with a large aperture that blurs the background. A starting point of ƒ/8 will provide a deep depth of field. Increase to ƒ/16 if needed.
  • Shutter Speed: Since everything is usually stationary in real estate photography, you can use a slow shutter speed without worrying about motion blur.
  • White Balance: Set the white balance to match your flash's temperature if using one. Otherwise, stick to auto white balance.
  • Raw or JPEG: Shooting in RAW format gives you more control over the final image. With JPEG, your camera makes significant decisions for you. Opt for RAW to produce the best possible result.

Interior Real Estate Photography Capture the interior of properties with the appropriate camera settings

Exterior Settings:

  • ISO: Use the base ISO setting, typically ISO 100.
  • Aperture: Like interior shots, maintain a deep depth of field with an aperture between ƒ/8 and ƒ/11.
  • Shutter Speed: With the use of a tripod, you can set a slower shutter speed to ensure proper exposure without worrying about blur.
  • Focal Length: Opt for a wide-angle lens for both interior and exterior shots. Focal lengths between 10-24mm work best. Keep in mind that if you are using a camera with a crop sensor, it will affect your focal length, making it closer to the equivalent of 35mm.

Part 2: Top 12 Tips for Shooting Real Estate Photography

Now that you are equipped with the proper camera settings, let's delve into some tips to help you capture stunning real estate photos:

1. Prep Your Gear

Ensure that your photography gear is ready the night before the shoot. You'll need wide-angle lenses, ideally 10-22mm, and it's a good idea to have backups. Don't forget a tripod, remote release, off-camera flashes, lighting stands, and umbrellas for diffusion. Using sandbags to stabilize the stands will prevent accidents that could damage your client's property.

Prep Your Gear Prepare your gear ahead of time for a smooth photoshoot

2. Walkthrough & Declutter

Before you start taking photos, take a walkthrough of the property. This exercise allows you to identify any items that need relocating or rearranging, curtains that should be drawn, and angles that will or won't work. Don't be afraid to suggest temporary storage options or offer suggestions on how to enhance the space.

3. Have a Notebook & Pencil Handy

Keep a notebook and pencil with you during the shoot. Besides noting items that need to be moved or replaced, you can jot down specific angles, settings, or any other details that you find useful for future reference.

Walkthrough & Declutter Take a close look at the property before starting your photoshoot

4. Lights On or Off?

Deciding whether to use the house lights or not is subjective. Some photographers prefer it one way, while others have opposing views. Whichever method you choose, ensure that the different light temperatures across the scene can be properly white balanced or corrected during post-processing. For exterior shots around sunset, turning on all the lights can create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

5. Use Flash

Utilize flash to lift shadows and enhance your images. Avoid relying solely on the camera's built-in flash and invest in umbrellas and light stands for diffused lighting throughout the room. Angling the lights towards the ceiling prevents undesirable issues like vignetting.

Use Flash Using flash can dramatically improve the quality of your real estate photos

6. Have a Shot List

Create a shot list to ensure you capture all the essential shots. It's better to take more photos than fewer. Be sure to highlight special features and points of interest specific to each property. As a starting point, consider including these shots:

  • Living room: At least two shots
  • Kitchen: At least two shots
  • Dining room: At least two shots
  • Bedrooms: At least two shots per room
  • Bathrooms: At least one shot per bathroom
  • Outdoor space: Two or three shots from the back and at least two shots from the front of the house
  • Other features: One shot each of the basement, laundry room, tiled hallway, etc.

7. Shoot at Eye Level

Capture rooms from an eye-level perspective to replicate how buyers would see them. Avoid tilting the camera up or down, as it helps potential buyers visualize the space accurately. Remember, finding the right angles and perspective may take time as each home is unique.

Capture at Eye Level Shoot rooms from an eye-level perspective for an accurate representation

8. Avoid Distortion

To prevent distortion and slanted verticals, ensure that your camera remains level and not tilted up or down. Pay attention to the lines in your composition, keeping them straight and avoiding bending. If you find converging walls or misaligned lines, you can correct them during post-processing using tools like Photoshop or Lightroom.

9. Outdoor Lighting

If possible, capture exterior shots of houses during the "golden hour" around sunset, with all the lights on. This creates a visually appealing atmosphere. If that's not feasible, aim to photograph the house with the sun shining over your shoulder. Remember, the exterior shot is the first impression for potential buyers, so make it eye-catching.

Outdoor Lighting Take advantage of outdoor lighting to capture stunning exterior shots

10. Composition

Guide the viewer's eye through each room by allowing a natural flow and providing a sense of space. Avoid obstructing the initial view and experiment with different angles to showcase the room's best features. Consider capturing shots from various positions to cater to different buyers' preferences. Keep vertical lines straight, and if a floor is more captivating than the ceiling, focus on including more of it in the frame. As a general guide, adjust your camera height to:

  • Kitchen: 15-20 inches higher than the countertops
  • Bedrooms: 15-20 inches higher than the beds
  • Living spaces: Between 36 and 48 inches high

11. Don't Forget Editing!

Editing is an essential part of the real estate photography process. It allows you to enhance your images and achieve a professional-looking result. Adjust colors and contrast, fine-tune white balance, and ensure verticals are upright. If you shot without a tripod or tried out new compositions, cropping may be necessary. Consider adjusting saturation and hue settings for a more natural outcome.

Don't Forget Editing Editing your photos is essential to optimize their visual appeal

12. Maintain a Portfolio

A well-curated portfolio is your greatest asset, showcasing your skills and attracting potential clients. Continuously update it with your best and most recent work. Select your two or three best shots to highlight your portfolio's strengths. As you maintain and refresh your portfolio, demonstrate your growth as a real estate photographer and show clients that you're ready to take on new challenges.

Remember, real estate photography is all about selling a property. Your goal is to highlight a home's best features. There's no one-size-fits-all approach since every property and client is unique. With a solid foundation of techniques and a willingness to adapt, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful real estate photographer.

Real Estate Portfolio Maintain a portfolio showcasing your best real estate photographs