Photos sell houses. With real estate photography, you need to get those magazine worthy photos.
Don’t worry. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to begin real estate photography.
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What Is Real Estate Photography?
Real estate photography includes exteriors and interiors. Its purpose is selling or renting out a property. It should show space, features, lighting, layout and follow specific rules. In other words, wide and detail shots.
Typical real estate photography clients are estate agents, designers, architects, decorators, and builders. Also those in publishing and editorial houses.
As you see, the range of application for real estate photography is high. Competition between photographers and businesses is also high.
Real Estate Photography Gear
The camera, tripod and wide-angle lens are essential equipment for real estate photography. I do not recommend going with a prime lens; it’s better to have a bit of zoom capability.
For the cropped sensor a lens with the focal range of about 10-24 mm will be perfect. Some brands will have varying focal ranges. It’s not a big deal to choose something different, like 10-22 mm or 12-24 mm.
For the full frame, a wide lens will also do the job. Something like 14-24, for instance. But I would recommend going one step further and using a lens like the 16-35. It gives more versatility and you generally don’t shoot the widest all the time.
Some photographers use extra lighting. In case you are one of them, you’ll need a bunch of external flashes.
One of the most popular brands for flashes is Godox. It offers a full range of stuff one would need for real estate photography.
I recommend their V860II model, and you need at least 2 of those.
Lighting for Real Estate Photography
Lighting is the most controversial part of real estate photography. There are two types of photographers: those who use natural light and those who use flashes.
Natural light photographers need to blend several exposures to form a final shot.
Both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. With natural light, you don’t have to carry a whole truckload of equipment. You also finish shooting much faster.
With artificial light, it’s much easier to edit window frames. It’s also easy to overdo and lose connection with reality in the final photos.
I prefer natural lighting and try to avoid anything related to the flashes. I see no need in it since I can edit and blend exposures together.
How to Take Real Estate Photography
This section is about how to shoot real estate photography. From tips to special techniques.
Camera Height Will Affect Perspective
Camera height is important as it affects perspective. In my experience, it should be lower than human height. The rule of thumb is to position the camera 20-30 centimetres above the highest surface. In this case, a table will still look like a table, not like a single plank of wood.
Some areas, like the bathroom, will benefit if the camera is a little lower than in other rooms. The surfaces are lower and everything is very close.
Another rule of thumb is to put the camera a little lower in the narrow areas.
How to Keep Vertical Lines Vertical
The essential rule for real estate photography is to keep vertical lines vertical. They shouldn’t curve, they shouldn’t bend, and they shouldn’t fall to either side. All those lines should be vertical.
Some cameras have a built-in function showing the alignment of the photo. It helps, but you still need to fine-tune the vertices in editing. It’s straightforward to do in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom. I’ll show you how in the real estate photography editing section below.
What to Do About Interior Lights
As a photographer, I don’t have a preference about having the lights on or off for the property. Most of the time, the client decides what he wants and what his property can offer.
Recently, I’ve been shooting an apartment with bare bulbs, and it was a painful experience. It didn’t look good at all, and each bulb was overexposing the area around it.
When shooting interiors, some properties have tasteful lighting that adds to the photo; some don’t. Also, some properties could have a lot of natural light as a feature and that is very helpful in interior photography. When you do photography for real estate, you need to negotiate this with the client.
One important thing here – shoot the whole property in one or united style, do not mix. The only exclusion applies to the bathroom. It could be very dark to shoot without any artificial lighting.
Blend Shots in Photoshop for Correct Exposure
Correct exposure for real estate photography is a tricky concept. I would rather call it getting a correct exposure in the final product. This is one of the best real estate photography tips you could hope for.
It’s a rare case where you can expose correctly with one shot. Sometimes you can, using a bunch of external flashes. But only if the property profile is not complicated.
More often than not, you need to create many shots during the photo shoot and blend them together in Photoshop later. There are two main techniques:
- For HDR blending, you make 3 or 5 exposures per photo and then combine them later.
- For artificial lighting, the idea is to create as many shots as you need. Move the flashes around to create proper shadows and flares and everything else you need.
The other important thing is the correct exposure of the outside view from the windows. That’s another controversial point in real estate photography!
One approach dictates to blend in a way that shows the outside properly exposed. This includes showing blue sky, houses, trees, etc.
The other method is to overexpose the windows making them white and shiny. As for me, it depends on the situation.
If the view outside adds to the value, I’ll show it. I’ll create a natural blend, so that the view will still be a bit brighter than the inside. If the outside doesn’t add any value, it’s safe to overexpose.
The critical note for using flashes. To make the window frames right, point the flash right at the windows. This way there won’t be any light bleeding over the frame edges.
It’s harder to do with the HDR technique, and that’s why it requires up to five shots per photo.
Why You Shouldn’t Use the Widest Possible Lens
How wide is wide enough? That’s a counter-intuitive question when you are starting out in real estate photography. You shouldn’t be using the widest possible lens at the widest angle for most of your shots.
Some real estate agents will ask you to. But that’s only because they like to exaggerate the area making it look bigger. In a regular scenario, you’d need to use focal ranges of 18-24mm.
Those numbers are the effective focal range; you’ll need to do some maths if your camera is cropped.
Also, you’ll need an even longer lens for the detail and atmospheric shots. I use a 50mm for both, just going closer/farther from the subject.
The atmospheric shots show a part of the property that makes a special mood or atmosphere. Detail shots show exciting features such as vases and impressive lamps.
What to Keep in Mind When Taking Exterior Shots
First of all, the photo should be clear of any cars, people, etc. Must be clear. This type of real estate photography is a great candidate for your best HDR skills if the light isn’t perfect. The sky should look blue and inviting.
That’s why you should choose the weather and the direction of light. Do some research and figure out the time of day when the light hits the front of the house and be there on time.
There is a sub-type of the exterior photo. Some clients want you to photograph the house during twilight. It’s the top service a photographer can provide. You should schedule this separately from the main shoot.
You can compare the price to the rest of the shoot too. You will need some help doing the photo.
This is the process:
- No cars or other distracting things in front of the house;
- Turn on all lights inside;
- Set up a tripod and compose a shot. Then make several shots as the ambient light dims until the artificial lights show up too strong;
- During editing, take one of the first shots as a base shot. Then put a couple of later shots on top and blend them in Lighten mode. Use Opacity to manipulate how bright the lights are.
How to Edit Real Estate Photography
Post-Processing a Single Exposure
First, let’s talk about the lucky scenario where you can get a single-exposure shot. In this case, the editing is simple:
- Correct the distortions;
- Fix the verticals;
- Turn down highlights;
- Pull up shadows;
- Get the right colour temperature;
- Fix brightness/contrast.
This is a simple procedure with the extra step of fixing verticals. I edit 99% of such photos in ACR without even loading jpegs.
Blending Multiple Flash Shots
Do the basic editing (like I said above) and apply it to all photos. Then load the images into layers in Photoshop and then (using masks) blend the images one by one. And then finish the real estate photography editing as you would for any regular shot.
Merging Into HDR
There are three modern ways to perform this action:
- Blend directly in the raw converter (ACR or Lightroom). These days Adobe does a fantastic job blending stuff together. I use this method. You need to select all the photos, right click and then choose Merge to HDR. More often than not this will even merge the windows.
- Sometimes you need to merge them by hand if the above method fails. It’s cumbersome and not modern at all. You can use manual masking or luminosity masking or a combination of those. I tend to blend as much as I can using the first method and then finish up with the manual merge if required.
- The third method is an aEnfuse plugin for Lightroom. It’s next to free (donationware), and it does a good job with blending shots together with a couple of clicks. The only downside for me is that it’s not available in ACR, only in Lightroom, which I dislike.
Starting a Real Estate Photography Business
And finally, how would you get into the real estate photography business and start? This question could be much harder than everything else covered in this article. We list a few steps below.
Get Started With a Real Estate Photography Portfolio
First of all, you need a real estate photography portfolio. This is easy to get – you need to shoot a couple of apartments or houses and then edit the photos (or outsource editing). But make sure that your photos are of professional quality.
It can be your own apartment, your friend’s house, your partner’s townhouse, etc.
You need to have your real estate photography portfolio on hand. Print a brochure, have a visiting card, so that you can show your stuff in any situation.
Create an Online Presence
Second, create some sort of online portfolio. If you own a site, that’s great. If you don’t, there are many free platforms to list the photos. But, the unique domain name looks way more professional than a free subdomain on some site.
Register with many sites, where people look for photographers. You’ll need to research your own area, but I use houzz.com, photographers.com.au, oneflare.com and a few others.
Make your real estate photography profile outstanding. Using this method, you’ll get an order now and then but nothing constant. Now, you need to decide on pricing.
How to Network for Real Estate Photography
The relationships that you build are crucial to real estate photography business. You need to get into the real estate business, and get acquainted with the agents. Try to leverage your friends and past clients and see if you can get introduced to some agents to show your work.
If you have zero ties to agents, get creative. Don’t spam! Send out personalised messages to the agents who list properties online. Something like “Hi <name>, I was browsing properties and found the listing at <address>.
I think it could benefit from some top-notch real estate photos. Here are some examples: <link>. Please let me know what you think.”
Another method is photographers bringing their booklet to the real estate offices.. They either show it in person or leave it with their mail.
All in all, you need to build relations to prosper. And at the end of the day, word of mouth is still the best method to grow your real estate photography network. For it to work, you need to deliver professional quality photos.
Real estate photography is like dressing up the house for an interview. The initial impression (along with the price tag) attracts home buyers or potential customers.
Putting in the extra effort and making those photos top class with a few simple steps is worth it.
Check out our post on choosing the best lens for real estate photography next!