Real Estate Photography – A Guide & Tips For Beginners

Real estate photography involves taking pictures of homes and properties. Whether you would like to become a professional real estate photographer or an amateur looking to take pictures of a home that you want to sell, you need to know the specific techniques that result in better property pictures. 

This form of photography can be intimidating. There is a lot at stake because poor quality pictures could ruin the chances of selling a property, while excellent images could bring a higher sales price.  

Here are tips that can help you become a top-tier real estate photographer whether you want to work as a pro for hire or take pictures of a personal home or building so that it has the best chance of selling.

Real Estate Photography Tips

Here are some tips that can take your real estate photography to the next level.

#1. Use Wide Angle Lenses Strategically

Wide-angle lenses are not the best option for some photography styles, but they can be invaluable for real estate pictures. These lenses, which typically get sold as 16-5mm or 17-40mm, can add the perception of space to a room. 

Along with standard factory lenses of a DSLR or mirrorless camera, one wide-angle can be sufficient for real estate photography. 

Often, real estate photography requires you to take pictures in relatively tight spaces. You cannot move back far enough to get a whole room. Even if you can, the room may look smaller than it is because of the picture’s angle.  

You can sometimes use superzoom cameras with one lens that can zoom out completely to provide a wide-angle perspective. These cameras are user-friendly, but they may not offer all the controls and settings that you require to make excellent real estate photographs. 

One thing to be aware of is that a wide-angle lens can make a picture look distorted. You can look for this distortion around the edges of each image after you take it. 

#2. Choose the Correct Time

Photographers often refer to the Magic Hour or the Golden Hour. These terms can be useful to understand when it comes to outdoor real estate photography. The Magic Hour is the time after dawn or before dusk when the light is even and doesn't produce harsh shadows

You can take eye-pleasing pictures only using natural light during these times. You can operate at the standard shutter speed and aperture settings. With these settings, you can take photos without a tripod, flash, or additional equipment. As long as you can keep the shutter speed above 1/60 of a second, you won't need to use a tripod. 

Though it is undoubtedly possible to take real estate images at other times, the Golden Hours right after dawn and right before dusk can make the process much easier

The Golden Hour does not influence indoor photography, but you can use curtains to diffuse the light coming through a window to get the same lighting inside as you would during these times of day in an outdoor setting

#3. Use Reflectors

Using natural light indoors can produce the best real estate photography images. The issue is that most rooms in any given home will have one or two windows. Even if these windows are large, the light coming through them will produce shadows. 

Shadows will produce unattractive dark areas in the photo and may make the light seem harsher than it is. 

You can use reflectors to bounce the light from the window into the shadowy areas, brightening them.  

You can purchase purpose-made reflectors from photography suppliers, or, in a pinch, you can create your using foil or another reflective material. 

The key is to make sure that the reflector throws even light on the shadowy areas. You do not want a material that will project strangle light patterns. 

If you take pictures alone, you may need a stand or clips to place the reflector at the correct angle to bounce the light in the right area. 

#4. Diffuse or Bounce Your Flash

Though you can use natural light in some instances, you will eventually have to rely on artificial light in real estate photography. One of the cheapest and most flexible lighting options is a flash.  

A direct flash can produce unattractive pictures with ugly shadows. However, if you can avoid using a straight-ahead light, you can quickly and efficiently get perfect lighting. 

If you want to invest, you can purchase two or more remote flashes and stands. You can set up a studio-like light setup with a flash to fill-in shadows and one to brighten the background. 

You can also use a diffuser, which fits on the end of the flash, to soften the light or bounce it upward instead of throwing it directly at the subject.

Bouncing light off a ceiling or wall can be an effective way to diffuse and create attractive, even lighting throughout a room.

#5. Use Low ISO Settings

ISO settings refer to the amount of light that gets into the camera sensor. The less light, the higher the ISO number has to be to shoot using regular shutter speeds. 

ISO starts at 100 and doubles with each subsequent level. High ISO numbers of 800 or more might seem attractive because you can take pictures in low-light conditions without needing a tripod. 

However, higher ISO numbers also mean lower quality images. Photos may appear blurry or pixelated. 

Typically, image quality is not much of an issue at ISO 100, 200, or 400. You can see pixelation and digital “noise” at ISO 800 or above, depending on the quality of the camera and sensor. Some cameras can operate well at these higher levels. 

Since you don’t want grainy pictures in real estate photography, it is best to stick with ISO 400 or lower. In some instances, you may need to shoot indoors during the daytime or bring in additional lighting or flashes.

#6. Use a Tripod

For some people, such as travel or nature photographers, a tripod can be cumbersome. Real estate photographers are inside of a confined property, so they will not have to lug a heavy camera stand for miles and miles.

Why use a tripod? It can hold a camera steady for long periods. Typically, images with shutter speeds below 1/60 or 1/30 of a second will appear slightly blurred because it is impossible to hold the camera still while the shutter is open. 

With a tripod, you can shoot with less light and use higher aperture settings to capture all the details in a space with clarity. 

When you shoot real estate, you are not taking pictures of moving objects. Therefore, it does not matter how long the shutter is open. As long as the camera is still, the image will not be blurry. 

The only disadvantage of a tripod is that it is an extra piece of equipment you need to set up. However, the advantages far outweigh this one drawback.

#7. Declutter the Room Before Shooting

Even lighting, the correct lens, and the right setting can make a room look big and attractive. However, if it is cluttered, messy, or dirty, it will not look sales-worthy

Furthermore, the more items in a room, the more difficult it is to use flashes, reflectors, or natural light to fill all the unsightly shadows. Therefore, you may need to spend time decluttering before you start making images. 

If you take pictures of your own home, you can sweep through the entire house looking for ways to declutter before your photoshoot.  

Generally, you want to get as much of the room as possible in a picture. However, you could choose to leave out an untidy area or push unnecessary furniture or items into a corner outside the image frame.

#8. Balance Inside and Outside Light

Real estate photography includes windows. You can use these features to your advantage. First of all, you may want to show the view outside of the window. If it is darker or lighter outside, you will not be able to see that view clearly. 

You can take a light measurement outside and then use natural lighting, a flash, or other light sources to create the same light readings inside. You also need to be sure to use a higher aperture setting so that the exterior scenes are sharp and in focus in the picture. 

If this is impossible, you can close the blinds or curtains. This step will diffuse the sunlight and keep it from appearing too brightly in the picture. 

#9. Decide Whether the House Lights Are On or Off

Natural light or flashes can improve real estate photography. However, you may also need to take existing house lights into account.

The first step is to decide whether you want to turn these lights on or leave them off. They can make the scene brighter, as long as you find a way to fill any shadows that they create. 

One thing to consider is the white balance of your camera. Some lights look bluish or yellowish on camera. The color depends on their color temperature. Luckily, you can adjust the camera’s white balance so that these colors look more natural. 

When you do this, you also need to use fill-lights with a similar color temperature; otherwise, these lights will emit an unnatural color.

#10. Shoot Straight Ahead

You want to shoot at a straight-ahead level of about five feet or so in real estate photography. 

Why make sure you are consistent in the height of your shooting? For one thing, this height is the level at which the average person will see the home, so it provides a natural look. 

Second, this level takes care of distortion. A higher viewpoint will make items, such as furniture, appear unnaturally large on top. Furthermore, the room itself may appear to slope abnormally. 

Shoot from too low, and the walls and ceiling may appear uneven and distorted

If you aren't sure if you are at the right level, look for symmetry in the picture. Make sure the vertical lines match and don't slope upward or downward too much. If you get it wrong, you can still correct distortion in Photoshop. 

This software has a tool called Lens Correction, which allows you to adjust the angle of the viewpoint. With this tool, you can fix any distorted walls or furniture after the fact instead of having to reshoot the entire room or house.

#11. Consider the Position of the Sun

The Golden Hour, when natural light is even, is an excellent time to shoot. However, this is not always possible, and this time of day may not be the best in certain situations, such as when you want the background to stand out in exterior shots. 

The general rule of natural light photography is to place yourself between the sun and the subject. Therefore, if you are shooting to the east, you will want to take your pictures in the morning. If your shots are west-facing, then you are better off scheduling your photoshoot for the afternoon.

If you need to look to the north, the best time is over the noon hour, while south-facing pictures will look best if you take them at the Golden Hour before dusk or after dawn. 

Another thing to consider is when the sun will shine into specific windows. Direct sunlight can wash out the window and make the entire area around the glass appear way too bright. 

Time of day can matter in these situations, but you have to evaluate on a case-by-case basis since the amount of shade, and other factors can make a difference.

Conclusion

Eye-catching real estate photos can help a property sell faster and for a better price. Since there is a lot at stake, this photo niche can be intimidating for both amateurs and pros. 

However, you can use these tips to perfect your real estate photography efforts and have confidence that your pictures will show the property in the best possible light.

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