Real estate photography has become a highly sought-after genre of photography. This is with good reason, people are buying real estate more than ever, and great photos help real estate agents bring clients on location while helping potential buyers build excitement because of the beautiful professional real estate photos they saw online.
This article will cover everything you need to know about real estate photography, including what a professional photographer would shoot with as well as post-production, off-camera flash, and what photography skills you need to bring to your next real estate photo shoot.
What is Real Estate Photography?
So what exactly is real estate photography anyway? The truth is, it’s much more than just photographing houses. A real estate photographer acts as not only a cameraman but also a stylist, lighting expert, and networker. Building relationships with realtors and knowing your gear is key here. It’s not as simple as some other genres of photography.
The home and yard size play significant roles in how a real estate photographer will set up their gear. Even more, a real estate photographer must examine the lighting of each room, including those pesky basements and sometimes narrow hallways. But it doesn’t stop there. They should have multiple shots of the exteriors, including the garden and pool area, or a simple shot of the building itself from the outside.
A real estate photographer has to use many different lenses to present the home in an appealing manner without deceiving potential buyers. It can be a balancing act but not impossible!
How to Become a Real Estate Photographer?
As a starting point, it’s always a good idea to follow around another real estate photographer to learn the ins and outs. You can volunteer to shoot real estate photography for free until you feel you are creating professional photos. Check out your local property listing site and reach out to agents offering your services. At the same time, start looking at equipment and how much money and time you want to put into your real estate photography business.
How Much Money Does a Real Estate Photographer Make?
Depending on where you live, real estate photography can be very lucrative. Many real estate photographers charge upwards of $200 per the average household. Larger properties that are bigger than 4,000 square feet can cost as much as $400 and up. Real estate photography pricing really does depend on where you are located at the end of the day. Cities like New York or San Francisco can demand higher real estate photography pricing because they are in high demand. Real estate agents are willing to spend more to make more.
What Education Does a Real Estate Photographer Require?
Just like most businesses, real estate photography can be self-taught. Most places do not require any licensing to become a real estate photographer. However, you should invest in some insurance.
Many real estate agents will ask if you have this in case you get hurt, or your real estate photography equipment hurts someone else inside the home. The most important thing is you master real estate photography before you start charging more money. This way, you have a portfolio to support your high prices.
Before you set up any of your lighting equipment or camera settings, it’s important to have a plan in place before the shoot. Many real estate photographers will visit the property before the shoot to plan which lights they need to bring with them.
They will also examine natural light sources and decide if they need to bring their wide-angle lenses or other lenses. Have a look at the street view on Google Maps to get a better idea of how big the property is and how much garden or landscape is around the surrounding areas. Lastly, closely examine the listing to know the square foot size of the property before your photo session.
Remember to create a shot list, so you don’t miss a thing. You will want to list each bathroom, bedroom, living room area, and exteriors you find interesting.
I always like to prepare my real estate photography camera bag the night before. That way, I feel confident that I didn’t forget any lighting or lenses.
Once you arrive to shoot the interior, the first step should be to declutter the space. Many people don’t realize how many things they have and often have a hard time getting rid of them. That’s why it’s your job as the photographer to use your artistic eye and get rid of as much as possible. Buyers want to be able to imagine themselves in the space. If they find photos or special objects from the original family, it may feel off for them. Make sure things are as clean as possible, and fresh flowers are always a good idea.
Next, you will want to walk through the property and decide which angles will work best for your real estate photography. If the place is small, I often find myself climbing inside closets or small doorways to backup as much as possible to make space look bigger in my wide-angle lens. Look for small details.
Then you will want to decide whether to keep the lights on or off depending on how much natural light you are finding in the spaces. This is a highly debated topic by real estate shooters. Many believe that leaving the lights on creates a warmer or orange glow to the rooms, but at the same time can through off your color temperatures.
If you find the property contains a lot of natural light and large windows. Then pull back the curtains and open the windows whenever possible. Natural light is always beautiful, and potential buyers enjoy seeing the exteriors from the inside. So make sure to expose for the inside and outside whenever possible.
Lastly, if the property is mostly too dimly lit, you will want to set up your external flash units to fill the rooms with light and bring out the details. Of course, you will want to shoot the whole room as well, but don’t forget to shoot close-up shots of nice appliances and styled details.
Here are the essentials for staging every room in a home.
- Move furniture around if it makes the room or the furniture look better.
- Generally, you will want to turn the lights on and open the curtains.
- Make sure doors are open to the next room to create an inviting look.
- Watch out for mirrors so you don’t photograph yourself or have your flash bouncing off of one.
- Be consistent with your angles and lighting.
- For toilets, place the toilet seat down.
- For carpets, make sure they are laying completely flat.
- Check around the sink are for nasty sponges or soap laying around.
- Hideaway cleaning materials and shampoo in the bathroom.
- Make sure beds are made and neatly set up with cushions.
- Hideaway pet and children’s toys and accessories.
- Hide wiring that may be showing from computer or phone setups.
Exterior photos are usually easier to photograph than interiors. This is because the outdoors is usually bursting with natural light. You can use a tripod or handheld when shooting exteriors because you won’t need to use slow shutter speeds. Also, consider hiring a drone to capture different angles of the exterior. This is especially great if the property sits along a waterway.
Equipment does not define your skillset, but coming with the proper equipment definitely does make your job easier. This is especially important when working in real estate photography because making a space look appealing requires the right lenses and lighting. Let’s have a look at some of the most important materials.
Full frame cameras work best in the real estate industry. This is because you don’t have a crop factor that might make spaces look smaller. You will definitely want a camera that you can shoot manually with as well because you will need to constantly adjust your settings based on the lighting situation in each room of the property.
If possible, bring an array of wide focal length lenses. A wide-angle lens will make any room look more spacious. Most photographers working in the real estate photography business prefer the 16-35mm or the 17-40mm lens. If you are working on a budget, consider a tilt-shift lens that eliminates distortion and makes spaces look nice. Any of these lenses can be bought, used, or rented as well.
When shooting at slow shutter speeds, a tripod will be essential. Also, for real estate photos, you want your horizon line to be straight. Any amount of tilt will make you look unprofessional. Using a tripod, you can avoid blurry photos while creating the best light for any situation. Lastly, they provide consistency in the look and height of your images.
Another essential piece of gear for property photography would be light stands. These tripod-like stands are perfect for setting-up your Speedlights in different corners of the room to illuminate the space.
Double-check that you are buying the right sized filter for your lens and that it’s circular and has the name polarizing on it. When shooting outside, these come in handy because they help block light. This way, you are less likely to lose the sky and sun color elements in your outdoor shots.
You will most likely need to use flash while shooting real estate photography. If you don’t feel comfortable or know which flash units to buy, look at our article on the most popular camera flashes for more information. Let’s explore some of the light sources and flash equipment you may want to invest in.
Multiple Light Sources
With real estate photography, multiple light sources are always a good idea. You can have one Speedlight mounted to your camera while having a softbox or another Speedlight mounted to a light stand in another corner. Also, be sure to bounce your flash off the wall behind you or the ceiling above you. Play around with different bounce locations until you get the light you desire.
If the interiors are full of low light, consider turning on the interior lights or lamps in each room. Using a slow shutter speed and the interior lighting, take a few shots. If you feel the lights are making the room too orange, try again by turning the lights off and opening the window curtains while still using your flash units.
As mentioned above, most buyers will want to see the views from outside while sitting inside. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to open curtains and windows whenever possible. Try to expose the outside of the window and then pump up your flash to fill the room with light. Using photo editing can help with this as well. You can bring up the highlights and exposure in post-processing if the outside looks overexposed.
There are a few key settings for shooting real estate photography. Remember to always set your camera to RAW as a starting point. Generally, you will need to up your aperture setting to keep interiors sharp. Shooting at an aperture such as f/2.8 will give you more light and only keep part of your space in focus. It’s best to set your aperture to 5.6 or above for sharper full room photos.
Because you will lose so much light at these high apertures, your shutter will need to drop down low. You must avoid blurry images at low shutter speed rates by using a tripod. Lastly, try to keep your ISO low not to add any grain to your photos. If you can keep it around 400-600 or lower, that is ideal for real estate photos.
Editing Real Estate Photos
Post-processing and advanced editing will help your photos become tack sharp. No matter how great you think your in-camera shots are, it’s important your take some time to post-process your images to have high-quality photos. Here are some key adjustments for Lightroom and Photoshop. Some things to start with include reducing digital noise, light temperature adjustments, using color correction. You may also want to use saturated shadows. Here are some other photo editing ideas.
Real estate photography often looks nice in cool tones. So when adjusting your white balance, keep this in mind. Because you have shot in RAW, adjusting all of your settings will be easy, including coloring. Using Lightroom or Photoshop, toggle your white balance to the blue section to cool down your image color.
Highights and Exposure
Whenever I am editing real estate photography, I like to start with the highlights. I bring them up to add more details to the room and provide more clarity to my photos. You can also bring the shadows and blacks down to avoid losing details while upping the highlights.
Using the adjustments brush, you can up the clarity, exposure, and highlights on certain parts of your photo. Often, I use the adjustment brush for the exposure of the outside window. I simply paint over the outside window and bring the exposure back down so you can actually see what’s happening outside the window.
While using wide-angle lenses, you may find that some of your images become distorted. This is due to the wide-angle effect of your lens, but it can be corrected in post-processing. You will see a separate panel in Lightroom for lens corrections. Toggle this panel up and down to see the difference it makes.
Using Lightroom Presets
With a simple click of a button, these real estate lightroom presets can add clarity, color, and other beautiful effects to your photographs. Many real estate photography experts want to be out shooting, not sitting behind a computer editing for hours on end. Using presets is the best way to edit your photos quickly.
Real Estate Photography Tips
If you want to become one of the top real estate photography shooters on the market, there are a few essential tips we recommend you follow. These real estate photography tips will help you get more business faster.
1. Drone Photography
Invest in a drone to provide your clients with aerial photography. Clients have come to expect multiple angles and views of properties. Using a drone will give them a birds-eye view of the property and help them to get excited about visiting the property. Drone photography is the next hot step in real estate photography.
2. Offer Virtual Tour Videos
I am often asked if I provide virtual video tours of properties as well. You should definitely start learning how to create a real estate photography package that includes virtual online tours. Many companies are providing hosting services for virtual layouts. You can try any of these:
3. Avoid Including too much Ceiling
When it comes to shooting real estate photography, try not to include too much ceiling in your photos. Instead, focus on showing a small portion of the ceiling and more of the room itself. Remember, you are only working with so much focal length no matter what. That’s why it’s important to focus more on the room itself than wasting valuable space on a white ceiling.
4. Detail Shots
Real estate photographers often become so focused on shooting entire rooms that they forget the importance of taking photos of details. Using a wide lens or prime lens, take a few photos of gorgeous details such as wood flooring, ceiling fans, flower gardens, or nice furniture.
5. Blurred Images
When it comes to real estate photography tips, avoiding blurry images should be at the top of your list. Nothing is more unprofessional than a blurry photo of a property. As mentioned above, the best way to avoid this is by using a tripod. If you want to take it a step further, you can also invest in a remote trigger.
6. Avoid a Shallow Depth of Field
When shooting real estate, you want everything in the image to be crystal clear. So try to set your aperture to f/5.6 or above. Otherwise, maybe only the couch or whatever nearest will be in focus, and the rest set in beautiful bokeh but not ideal for showing the property as a whole.
7. Use Different Angles
Remember to follow the vertical lines of a room and to move around to every corner of every room. You will want to set the camera tripod to about your waist and then shoot as close to every corner as you can to make the room look bigger and wider. If there are closets, you can even try backing into them to add even more space to your lens views. Different angles will give buyers more ideas about what space looks like.
How to Learn Real Estate Photography?
We have put together another article for your convenience exploringa variety of online classes for real estate photography, ranging from beginners to advanced-level courses.
We hope you enjoyed this complete guide full of real estate photography tips. Real estate photography can be a lucrative and rewarding career. It’s also fun to see so many different properties daily and get creative with styling them. With this guide, you should be off to a great start. If we missed something, or you have something to share with us, make sure to drop us a comment below.