Real estate photography is always in demand. Houses go on and off the market daily, and every agent is battling for the homebuyers’ attention with photos. Doing photography for real estate can seem tricky, but with a few simple real estate photography tips and lots of practice, you can produce good-looking, consistent photos that will have your local agents calling you back!
Here, we’ll take a look at some essential tips for every step of the process.
This photo takes advantage of natural light and uses no flash. Lines were straightened and distortion was corrected in Lightroom, as well as basic adjustments.
Before the Shoot
1. Have a standard checklist for each property.
While no two homes are identical, there are typical shots that you’ll always want. For example:
- You’ll most likely want at least 2 wide shots of each bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room.
- Bathrooms usually only need one photo unless it’s particularly beautiful or spacious.
- The backyard typically will get 1-3 photos unless it has some unique features, and then 1-2 shots of the front of the home to show off the ‘curb appeal’.
- Add in 1 shot each of features such as laundry room, garage, and pantry, and you’ve created a checklist for yourself!
This will help make sure that even if there are distractions, you have a point of reference to make sure that you hit all your must-haves.
This is also information that you can pass along to the agent you’re working with so that they know what they can expect from your photoshoot.
2. Prepare your gear the night before.
There’s nothing worse than being at a shoot and finding that something isn’t working or some battery has died.
While you may be knowledgeable enough to keep going forward with your real estate shoot, you may suddenly be working without a flash or certain camera functions for the remainder of your shoot.
Prepping the night before ensures that you’ll be all set to deliver exactly what you set out to deliver—no surprises.
Prepping your gear will include things like charging all batteries, formatting your memory card, packing up your bag to make sure it’s all there, and looking up the address to make sure you’ve scheduled enough time for the drive.
If you have back-up gear that you’re able to take with you, be sure to charge the batteries and pack those items as well.
Bathrooms typically need just one photo for a property listing unless there are unique features or it’s unusually spacious.
At the Property
This is a really important point to hit with the real estate agent that is in touch with the homeowners.
In our own homes, we get used to bits of clutter building up over time, but all those small items that we barely notice will stand out in a photo.
Make sure that homeowners clear off flat surfaces as much as possible—countertops, coffee tables, desks, etc.—leaving only 1-3 decorative items.
If things like mail or papers must be kept out, suggest that they be stacked into a neat pile and pushed towards one corner so as to leave as much open flat surface as possible.
Typically, closets aren’t photographed unless they’re especially spacious or customised, so oftentimes a closet is the perfect spot to stash those small items until the photoshoot ends.
If you arrive at the home and there’s still clutter that you know will not look appealing in the photos, there’s nothing wrong with suggesting that a few extra things be hidden.
Often, a simple friendly request is all that’s needed to get the homeowner clearing off more space for you.
4. Walk through the home before you start shooting.
Each home is different, and getting a feel for the space before picking up the camera will give you an idea of how you want to shoot it.
You’ll start to mentally note what angles work best and what small items may need to be moved (this also gives you the opportunity to ask the homeowner to move items).
Additionally, it lets you know which spaces are ready for you, and which spaces may need a few more minutes of tidying up.
Knowing this will let you know in what order you’ll want to photograph the home.
5. Decide: lights on or off?
There are valid points for having the lights on and for having the lights off.
Turning lights on tends to make the space feel warmer and more welcoming instantly, but it introduces varying light temperatures that will need to be balanced when editing.
Leaving lights off gives you even light temperature, but often gives off a cold feeling in interior photos.
I personally take it one property at a time and decide based on what I feel that home would look best with. Whatever decision you make, be consistent throughout the entire home!
This photo was taken with one flash on the camera, turned to bounce light off of the wall behind me.
6. Use flash and bounce to diffuse.
For real estate photos, I recommend keeping things simple and quick. Agents and homeowners are usually in a rush to put the listing online, and budgets don’t typically allow for many hours to be dedicated to one listing.
Using a flash unit attached to your camera is one way to help keep you moving quickly from space to space.
When using a flash on your camera, though, be sure to bounce the light off walls so that it’s softened. If we point the flash directly into a space, we get that dreaded bright area in the centre and then a quick drop to shadow around it.
By turning the flash so that it bounces off a wall behind you, the ceiling right above you, or even one of the side walls, you’re allowing that light to diffuse into the space and give a more even look.
I also highly recommend using your flash on manual mode so that you have full control of its strength. I typically use 1/16th power as a starting point and adjust from there. If you’re shooting towards a window with bright light, you may want to go as high as full power.
With no editing at all on either photo, you can see the difference when flash is introduced. Here, the flash was aimed to the ceiling to allow for some diffusion of the light.
7. Shoot straight for less distortion.
When shooting, be sure to keep the camera straight so as to avoid distortion that will later need to be straightened in Lightroom.
You’ll notice that if you point the camera ever-so-slightly up or down, the vertical lines start to slant in one direction or the other.
Keeping your camera straight will avoid this and save you time in your editing! Also, the ideal height for the camera will be at about 5 feet (152.5 cm).
While each home is a bit different, this is the general height that typically will look the most natural and feel balanced.
If you go too high up, you start to see too much ceiling and not enough of the liveable area. If you go too low, you start to see too much of the furniture and not enough of the actual room.
Editing in Lightroom
8. Correct Distortion using Lens Correction and Transform.
Before diving into basic adjustments in Lightroom, make sure to apply a lens correction and correct your verticals. These two settings will instantly 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’ and make sure that the lens you used is the one that appears in the pull-down menu under Lens Profile.
Next, jump down to the Transform Module. Check the box that says ‘Constrain Crop’ and then click on the word ‘Auto’. When you click Auto, you’ll see that box darken, meaning that it’s applied.
Be sure to double-check that it corrected all the lines that needed to be corrected, and if not, you can use the sliders in that module to make adjustments manually.
Even when subtle, straightening the verticals and compensating for lens distortion is vital. Here, a before and after with step-by-step indications on how to correct.
Here’s the final photo from the before/after above!
9. After correcting distortion, move up to the basic adjustments!
Typically, the main adjustments I make are lowering highlights, brightening up shadows, deepening blacks, and raising the clarity. It will take a bit of time to develop your own style and workflow, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
10. Correct varying light temperatures.
If you left lights on inside the rooms, you’ll most likely have some yellow tones that look quite different from the bluer sunlight.
It’s always best to balance out these light temperatures as much as possible so that the photo has a more polished and professional look.
The Adjustment Brush is ideal for this scenario! For the warmer light, simply select a brush and adjust the light temperature towards blue until it looks neutral and blends to the surrounding area.
If using the Adjustment Brush, be sure to increase the brush size, feathering, and brush strength to allow for even softer blending.
Becoming a real estate photographer can be an excellent option if you enjoy photographing interiors, and there’s always a need for shooting houses for sale in any part of the world.
One key to making real estate photography a reliable income stream is to maintain consistency in your process and look. With the real estate photography tips discussed above, you’ll be on your way to creating a full, consistent portfolio!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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