Real estate photography is always in demand, with houses going on and off the market daily all over the world. Every agent is battling for homebuyers’ attention with the best real estate photos.
Shooting professional photography for real estate can seem a little tricky at first. But with these simple real estate photography tips, you’ll produce beautiful, consistent property photos. These will have your local real estate industry agents calling you back in no time!
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What Is Real Estate Photography?
Hearing about professional real estate photography might be surprising for some of you. Why would people take photos of houses?
But the truth is, there’s a lot of demand for real estate photographers given the current housing market in many parts of the world. This specialized genre may seem simple, but it does require certain skills to take effective and compelling photos of homes for sale.
Is Real Estate Photography Profitable?
Since it’s a niche discipline, it’s not as popular as landscape or portrait photography. But this means you’ll have better chances of getting more clients and earning more than photographers in other niches, especially if you learn how to market your real estate photography business, too!
Also, as there are plenty of real estate agents, we know there won’t be a shortage of houses to photograph. Estate agents will sometimes keep old photos but are more likely to commission new photographs when selling a house. This is because changes may have been made to the building or garden, and they want to be as accurate as possible.
How Much Does A Real Estate Photographer Make?
In real estate photography, the location and the size of the house play a significant role in determining the price. Of course, your experience also comes into play. It makes sense to charge a bit less than more seasoned photographers if you’re still starting.
On average, a real estate photographer will charge about $200 or less for properties under 3,000 square feet. For larger houses, they could charge between $250 and $500.
If your area is a prime spot for real estate (think major cities like New York, London, Paris, et al.), this could be the perfect photography career!
What’s Necessary for Real Estate Photography?
Real estate photography doesn’t require a lot of equipment with much of it being quite standard. Let’s go through the list below to see the tools you might have and might need.
A wide-angle lens helps you capture tight spaces. The unique optics tend to make rooms look more spacious. The best options you have are the NIKKOR 16-35mm for Nikon and the EF 16-35mm f/4 for Canon. You may want to consider the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Art Lens known to be the current industry standard. Sigma produces mounts for both Nikon and Canon, so check them out before you buy!
If you have the budget, consider getting a tilt-shift lens. This option is perfect for real estate photography because it eliminates the distortion that a wide-angle lens causes. It tends to be more expensive than its regular counterparts. But you can always buy a used one.
A tripod stabilizes your camera and ensures you don’t have motion blur in your images. It also helps retain the perspective in your shots. If you set it up at five feet, all your images will be the same height.
Remember that consistency is a top priority, especially in real estate photography.
If you’re shooting with low shutter speeds, it’s best not to touch the camera. Even pressing the shutter to take a photo can introduce an unwanted camera shake. I suggest using a remote trigger for touch-free operation.
Strobes or flashes are among the most essential but often overlooked tools in real estate photography. They are invaluable, especially in poorly-lit homes.
There are two main types of flashes—monolights and flashguns. You can start with flashguns because they’re cheap. But as you photograph more spacious properties, monolights would be the best option since they have a brighter light output.
It’s worth noting that some strobes already have built-in receivers. Once you finish connecting all of them, press the shutter, and the flash will fire simultaneously.
Bare flash often creates unappealing results in real estate photography. In most cases, all you have to do is point them toward the ceiling to soften the light they produce. But what if the roof is too high or you’re not getting enough light bounce?
Then consider using light modifiers. In most cases, shooting umbrellas are enough to do the job. They’re small, lightweight, and portable. And they don’t get in the way when photographing in small spaces.
Of course, you’ll also need light stands to support your flash units. A regular light stand will often work for lightweight flash heads. But more rigid C-stands may be necessary for bigger monolights. Depending on the location, you may need one to four of these to light up an area.
All you need to start with real estate photography is a camera, lens, and tripod. All the other items mentioned will help you get better results and finish at a faster pace though. But you don’t have to acquire all these tools at once.
Before the Real Estate Shoot
1. Have a Standard Shot List for Each Property
While no two homes are identical, there are typical shots that every professional real estate photographer will take.
Knowing what to cover is an essential tip in learning how to shoot professional real estate photography.
- Two wide-angle shots of each bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room.
- One photo of the bathroom, unless it’s incredibly beautiful or spacious.
- One to three photos of the backyard, unless it has some unique features. And then one to two shots of the front of the home to show off the “curb appeal.”
- One shot of each feature includes the laundry room, garage, and pantry.
This list will help make sure you have a point of reference to hit all your must-have real estate shots.
You can also give your list to the real estate agent, so they know what to expect.
2. Prepare Your Gear the Night Before
Preparation is crucial in real estate photography. There’s nothing worse than being at a shoot and finding that you forgot something. You may be knowledgeable enough to work around it. But having a few items missing means that you need to work on your feet a little more. Here are some more preparation tips:
- Always take your charger. A dead battery is a dead shoot.
- If you have a secondary camera, take it.
- Prepping your photography gear includes charging all batteries, formatting your memory card, and packing your bag.
- Look up the address to ensure you’ve scheduled enough time for the drive.
- If you have backup gear, be sure to pack those items as well.
On the Property
Decluttering is one of the most important real estate photography tips. We get used to bits of clutter building up over time in our own homes. But all those small items that we don’t notice will stand out in a photo. Ensure that homeowners keep the surfaces as clean as possible—countertops, coffee tables, desks, etc.
When shooting interiors, don’t photograph closets unless they’re spacious or customized. Most of the time, a closet is a perfect spot to stash those small items until you’re done shooting. If you want some decorative items, leave one to three.
Sometimes you’ll arrive, and there’s still clutter that you know will not look appealing in the photos. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting hiding a few things. A professional real estate photographer will spend up to an hour constructing the scene for one perfect shot.
4. Walk Through the Home Before You Start Shooting
Each home is different. Getting a feel for space before picking up the camera will give you an idea of how to shoot it. Mentally note the best angles and what small items you may need to move. Doing so also allows you to ask the homeowner to move objects.
Remember, real estate photography is about making the building look good, not making the current interior look good!
Additionally, it lets you know which spaces are ready. And which rooms may need a few more minutes of tidying up. Knowing this will let you know in what order you’ll want to start taking real estate photos.
If you’re not good at remembering details, take notes. It makes it easier for you to organize the rooms before doing your real estate photography work.
5. Lights On or Off?
There are valid points for having the lights on or off when doing real estate photography.
Leaving the lights off gives you an even light temperature. But it also often gives off a cold feeling in real estate photos.
I take it one property at a time and decide based on what each home requires. If the property has large windows, consider opening them to let light inside. Natural light looks best in most situations.
But what if the property doesn’t have enough windows or has low lighting? Then that’s when you use the interior lights or external flash units.
If the light bulbs in the house have different color temperatures, turn them off and use flash instead. Warm incandescent and cool fluorescent lamps don’t mix well in real estate photography. Of course, you can turn on a desk lamp for effect as long as it doesn’t cast any lousy shadow.
Whatever decision you make, be consistent throughout the entire home!
During the Shoot
6. Use a Flash and Bounce to Diffuse
Agents and homeowners usually rush to put the listing online. And budgets don’t allow for many photography hours for one listing.
Using a flash unit attached to your camera is one way to keep you quickly moving from one space to another. When using a flash on your camera, bounce the light off the walls to soften it.
If we point the camera flash directly into the room, we get a dreaded bright area in the center. And then a quick drop to shadow around it. This is known as vignetting, but it’s undesirable for real estate photography.
Turn the flash so that it bounces off a wall behind you, the ceiling above, or even one of the side walls. This way, you allow that light to diffuse into the space and give a more even look. You can also try attaching light diffusers to your light source.
Of course, these positions aren’t possible with a pop-up flash on your camera. So I suggest buying a flashgun that features a multi-angle flash head.
I also recommend using your flash on manual mode. Doing so gives you complete control of its strength. I use 1/16th power as a starting point and adjust from there. You may want to go as high as full power if you’re shooting towards bright windows.
For larger spaces, install your flash units on your light stands. Position them out of the frame and angle them toward the ceiling.
Ultimately, the position of your lights depends on the size and shape of the room. You can place your strobes in the corners or even behind you in most cases. But if those areas don’t work, you may have to try other spaces until you get even illumination.
7. Shoot Straight for Less Distortion
This tip is crucial when shooting real estate photography.
When shooting different angles, be sure to keep the camera straight. Doing so helps avoid distortion that you’d later need to straighten in Lightroom or Photoshop. You should use a sturdy tripod or adjust your live view settings to display the virtual horizon (or virtual level).
You’ll notice that the vertical lines start to slant if you point the camera ever-so-slightly up or down. They’ll distort in one direction or the other.
The ideal height for real estate photography is about 5 feet. Each home is different. But this is the height that looks most natural and feels most balanced.
If you go too high, you start to see too much ceiling and not enough liveable area. If you go too low, you begin to see too much furniture and not enough of the actual room.
8. Use a Drone for a Bird’s Eye Perspective
Modern real estate photography has reached new heights, quite literally, using drones. Drones can reach a unique perspective that would have been impossible or amazingly expensive only a few years ago. The height will be able to give a view of the whole property and its borders.
Drone real estate photography is often used when a unique selling point of the house is the location and surroundings. These real estate photos allow you to show off the amazing views while having the property in the shot.
You will increasingly see that real estate agents now use video as well as real estate photos to advertise their properties. Adding a drone option to your bag of tricks is a great way to make your real estate photography business stand out. And it can help increase your real estate photography pricing!
Editing Real Estate Photos in Lightroom
9. Correct Distortion Using Lens Correction and Transform
One of the downsides of using wide-angle lenses in real estate photography is the presence of distortion. This type of optics tends to make everything look warped.
Make sure to apply a lens correction and correct your verticals first. These two settings will make the photo look more polished.
You can find the Lens Correction module within the Detail module. Check the box that says “enable profile corrections.” Ensure that the lens you used appears in the drop-down menu under Lens Profile.
Next, jump down to the Transform module. Check the box that says “constrain crop.” Then click on Auto. After clicking Auto, you’ll see that box darken, meaning it’s applied.
Double-check that it corrected all of the lines. If not, you can manually use the sliders in that module to make adjustments.
10. Making the Basic Adjustments
The main adjustments I make are lowering highlights, brightening shadows, deepening blacks, and increasing clarity.
11. Make the Light Temperatures Consistent
When it comes to real estate photography, getting accurate colors is essential. If you leave lights on inside the rooms, you’ll have some yellow tones. These will look quite different from the bluer sunlight. It’s best to balance these light temperatures in Lightroom or Photoshop. That way, the photo has a more polished and professional look.
The Adjustment Brush is ideal for this scenario! Select a brush and adjust the light temperature towards blue for warmer light. Do this until it looks neutral and blends with the surrounding area.
If you use the Adjustment Brush, increase the brush size, feathering, and brush strength. This method allows for even softer blending.
You can also balance the light temperatures in-camera using a color checker or a grey card. All you have to do is take a photo of the card in front of the scene you’re about to shoot. Once you load your real estate images to Photoshop, open White Balance, click the grey on the card with the Eyedropper tool, and Photoshop will automatically adjust the colors.
Remember to do white balance and color correction for every shoot. Doing so conveys to your clients that your photography is consistent and professional.
12. Make it Composite
The number one piece of advice I can give you when working in real estate photography is to make Photoshop composites out of your images.
As a real estate photographer, you will spend most of your time preparing the shot with the camera on the tripod. This means you will be able to seamlessly stitch together different sections of your composition as long as you don’t move the camera.
This is particularly useful if you don’t have a range of different flashguns for different areas of the photograph. You can walk around the frame with a flashgun in one hand and a remote trigger in the other, taking a selection of images. Remember, it won’t matter if you’re in the photograph or not. You can edit yourself out!
I would suggest that you start with a base image of your composition. Then fill in each section of the room with a flash—the doorways, the walls, the dark shadows created by furniture, and any other points of interest.
You can correctly expose the indoor light in tricky situations by making a composite. This method is like creating your custom HDR image, but you provide the added light yourself!
You can also use this method for an exterior photo. Use the flash to illuminate different sections of the house at different times. This completely dispels the myth that you need multiple flashes. The truth is, it can all be done with one.
The key to this method is blending the images to look like one image. Great real estate photographers will have you believing their pictures are from a single exposure.
This method does rely heavily on your Photoshop abilities. Get familiar with Photoshop composites before using this method in your real estate photography jobs.
To make real estate photography a reliable income stream, or if you want to be a professional photographer in this field, maintain consistency in your process and practice!
Don’t obsess over photography equipment when starting. You don’t need a lot to achieve beautiful real estate pictures. Top-level real estate photographers can do a whole job independently without any assistants.
With all the tips discussed above, you’ll be on your way to creating a full portfolio!
Check out our Effortless Editing with Lightroom to master all of our techniques!