real estate photography
Photo by Francesca Tosolini

Photography plays an important role when it comes to real estate. if you’ve ever bought, rented, or sold property, you’re probably aware how much a good or bad photo can sway the decision making process. As you might expect, real estate photography presents a unique set of challenges for photographers.

Whether you’re a real estate professional interested in learning more about this side of the business, or an aspiring photographer interested in mastering a new style, there is plenty to learn. In this post, we’ll review some real estate photography tips and tricks for beginners. But first, let’s review a list of equipment you’ll need to get started.

Essential Real Estate Photography Equipment

Essential real estate photography gear
Photo by Robin van der Ploeg

Below is a checklist of useful gear for real estate photography. While you may not choose to get everything on the list, it’s a good idea to keep all of these products in mind should you need them. The first three—camera, lens and tripod—are essential for any professional real estate photographer.

Camera

Ideally you should use an interchangeable lens DSLR or mirrorless camera system. The camera should also have an APS-C or full-frame sensor. The larger the sensor size and resolution, the better your images will look. Of course a more sophisticated camera also means a higher price tag and steeper learning curve.

Sony, Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Leica are some of the leading camera brands currently available.

Lens

The lens you use depends heavily on your camera. If you’re shooting on a Sony mirrorless camera, you’ll need a Sony E-mount lens. If you’re shooting on a Canon mirrorless camera, you’ll need a Canon RF mount lens. In addition to the camera brands themselves, third party brands such as Sigma and Tamron also produce lenses that are compatible with major brand cameras.

Professional photographers tend to prefer prime lenses. Generally speaking, prime lenses are more compact and generate sharper, more clear visuals. However, the difference in image quality can be negligible, even unnoticeable, if you’re using a premium-grade zoom lens. For beginners, a high-performing zoom lens with a versatile focal length may be preferred to purchasing multiple prime lenses. 

Professional real estate photographers also typically use wide-angle lenses so they can capture an entire room – or as much as possible – in a single photo.

Memory Card

The type of memory card you use also depends on your camera. However, most DSLR and mirrorless cameras use SD cards. In addition to memory size, there are some other important variations between SD cards. We recommend reading our Guide to SD Card Specs before you buy.

Tripod

Tripods offer stability, control, and consistency, and are highly recommended. While some professional photographers may shoot handheld, it’s best not to risk it if you’re just starting out.

Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release allows you to take a photo without physically touching the body of your camera. Like a tripod, this helps ensure a stable, blur-free image, especially if you’re using a long shutter speed.

Lighting Gear

When shooting indoors, you have the ability to control the light; this is both a gift and a curse. While shooting outside means you tend to be at the mercy of the sun/natural light, cultivating the perfect look can be difficult when you’re working with artificial light.

Using a flash is one way to add and control the amount of light in your shot. While some cameras have a built-in flash, we recommend investing in an external flash that offers more flexibility. That way you aren’t forced to adjust your camera settings to account for a built-in flash that’s too bright (or not bright enough).

As you progress with real estate photography, you may wish to invest in more advanced lighting gear. This includes off-camera flashes and other larger lights, light modifiers, reflectors, and other accessories.

How to Photograph Real Estate

An example of interior real estate photography
Photo by Kara Eads

There are some real estate photography best practices to follow before, during, and after a shoot. Heeding these tips will ensure you economize on time and help you become a better real estate photographer.

Before You Begin

The first thing to do is to make sure you are familiar with the property. This way, you are prepared when it comes time to start photographing.

When shooting a standard house or apartment, you will want two or three photos of each bedroom, the kitchen and the living room. You generally need only one photo of bathrooms, the laundry room, garage and any additional small rooms. For the outside, you you should try to get between one and three pictures of the backyard and one or two shots of the house facade.

​Once you’ve made a list of every shot you need, you can begin to budget your time and make a plan for how long the shoot will take. If the property you’re photographing is currently being used, it’s important that you can accurately estimate how long you’ll need access to the property. If you can, give yourself some extra time to account for unexpected hurdles or delays.

You should also make sure you all your gear is in order before the shoot. Batteries charged? Check. Do the bulbs in your lights still work? check. Don’t forget, it doesn’t hurt to pack extra bulbs, batteries, and memory cards!

Shooting on Location

An example of exterior real estate photography
Photo by Todd Kent

Once you’re at the property, it’s important to double-check that all the rooms and areas to be photographed are free of clutter. Pro tip: stash any mess in a closet, since you generally don’t need shots of that anyway.

Take a walk through the home to visualize the angles you should shoot from, and determine what lighting gear you’ll need. You may need to rearrange or remove furniture to get the best possible shot.

Consider opening windows to let in natural light. The lights in the house may have different color temperatures, so it’s important to keep that in mind. It might even be best to leave some lights off, though turning them on can add warmth to your photos. If the lights available do not work, you always have your flash.

When it comes to camera work, always make sure the camera is steady and straight– use your tripod! A good rule of thumb for real estate photography is to keep the camera at a height of 5 feet. This provides the most natural field of view for most rooms.

If your camera supports it, we recommend shooting in RAW. Unlike a JPEG, a RAW image file has not been processed or compressed by your camera. As a result, the file size is much larger, but there is also more flexibility in post-production. There’s only so much you can do to improve an over or under exposed JPEG. The additional data in a RAW file may allow you to salvage a decent final image.

Photo Editing

Once you’re finished shooting, it’s time to backup your files and start editing. Most professional photographers use programs such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Capture One to edit their images. If you shot with a wide angle lens – that is, wider than 24mm – some of your images may look a little unnatural. Thankfully, most photo editing applications offer features that can help reduce distortion, such as the Lens Corrections tool in Lightroom.

Another issue that often comes up, as we touched on earlier, is color and light temperature variance. Regardless of what you did to prepare in advance, you will almost inevitably need to do some editing to balance the temperature of your photos. You don’t want different rooms to look like they’re from different houses. For this, the white balance tool in Photoshop can come in handy.

Conclusion

We hope you found these tips on real estate photography helpful. While there is plenty more to learn as you advance, we hope these preliminary tips will help you get started.

The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency. Real estate photography is about showing prospective buyers that a property is inviting and welcoming, and slight, unintended variances can send the wrong message. Attempting to maintain a consistent look while shooting will save you time and effort in post production, ultimately resulting in a successful shoot.

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