Photography for Real Estate

Real Estate Photography Tips and Tricks

Professionally shot panoramic photo of a home.

     When you have a home for sale, high quality photos can be a great tool for lead generation. These photos can be incorporated into your marketing campaign for insertion into your local MLS, building virtual tours, property brochures, and more. Many real estate agents are intimidated by the mere thought of doing their own photography, and it’s easy to see why: good real estate photography takes substantial know-how, the right equipment and most importantly; practice! With so many different equipment types and photography techniques out there, getting started can seem like a daunting task. These beginner photography tips will make things easier, give you a great foundation to build on, and bring you one huge step closer to creating beautiful, professional photos for your real estate listings.


Real Estate Photography Tip #1: Get a Digital Camera with a Wide-angle Lens.

Great beginner camera for Real Estate Photography It should have a wide angle lens (24mm equivalent or wider) which will help you:

– Show more of the living space within the home and give a better overall view of the exterior shots.
– Shoot smaller interior spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms without having to back up all the way into corners.
– Get good shots of the front of the home without having to stand so far back that you’re dodging traffic.

Generally if you’re unsure of which camera to get, it’s best to go with a more affordable option first, then upgrade later as your skills improve. Arguably, right now the best “bang for your buck” is the 24mm wide-angle Panasonic Lumix LX-5 (Update for 2012: see the new Panasonic LX-7). Although not exactly cheap (around $400), it’s packed with features and can be upgraded with a large variety of add-ons. The best add-on is the wide angle lens attachment that brings the LX-5’s field of view to 18mm (great for opening up tight interior shots). The LX-5 is classified as a “Prosumer” camera, because it bridges the gap between the really basic and cheap “point-and-shoot” cameras and more complex and expensive “SLR” cameras. It’s a great camera to learn on before making the big leap to the world of high-end SLR cameras and the expensive lenses that come with them.


Real Estate Photography Tip #2: Buy a Tripod!

Affordable Tripod for Real Estate Photography This is a must have for every real estate photographer! Aside from your camera, your tripod is your most important ally in the war against ugly photos. The tripod will allow you to:

– Line up your shots correctly, while keeping everything level.
– Shoot clearer pictures without lens blur from hand-held shots, by keeping your camera rock-steady as you’re shooting.
– Re-shoot pictures that did not come out right on the first shot (without having to re-align your shot).
– Produce panoramic photos and shoot twilight photography as your skills advance.

There are a ton of tripods out there, all with hugely varying prices. If you go with the Panasonic LX-5 camera you really don’t need to spend a ton on a heavy-duty tripod, because this camera is so light. To start with, try out a low-cost tripod like the Dolica AX620B100 (runs about $30). If you are looking at buying a heavier (and much more expensive!) SLR camera setup, then check out the Manfrotto 055XPROB (about $150).


Real Estate Photography Tip #3: The Most Important Shot: The Front of the Home.

Front Shot

In the vast majority of cases, the front of the home is the area where you should spend the most effort on getting the best shot. This front shot will be the one that displays predominantly on the MLS, flyers, virtual tours, and other marketing materials. Here are some secrets to getting the best frontal shot:
– Photograph the front at a time of day when the sun will be mostly behind you as you’re facing the front of the home to take your photo. This will allow you to get a more even exposure, without having your sky look blown out or making the front of the home look too dark. Best times of day vary depending on which way the home is facing, and are as follows:

East Facing Homes: Morning          West Facing Homes: Afternoon

South Facing Homes: All Day          North Facing Homes: Early Morning or Evening

– When lining up your front shot, avoid leading in with lots of the driveway or street in the shot. If possible, try to shoot from an angle that allows you to lead in with some plants, trees, or grass – not asphalt.
– Try to get an angle that shows most of the front door and entryway in the shot.
– Keep your camera level (this is where the tripod comes in). This can be especially challenging for homes on hillsides or steep grades. The more you tilt the camera upwards, the more the home will appear to be leaning back, giving it a distorted “fun-house” look. Unless your target buyers are clowns or carnival workers, this look is generally not a good idea!


Real Estate Photography Tip #4: Shoot the Room, Not the Furniture.

Example of a good interior shot.

Close-cropped shots of coffee tables, taken from a knee-high may work great for Ikea ads, but for real estate photography, the focus should be on the overall living space rather than the furniture. This means backing up and trying to show as much of the room as possible. Yes, there are times when you want to zoom in to show details, however your primary shots should be taken with the intention of displaying as much of the home’s living space as possible. Buyers want to get a sense of the overall feel and dimension of the home, not the coffee table in the living room.


Real Estate Photography Tip #5: Learn to Shoot in “Aperture Priority” Mode.

Digital Camera Aperture Priority Setting

With “Auto” settings, you can get a good shot here and there, but in order to be consistent (this is key), your best bet is to set your camera to the “A” or “Aperture Priority” mode and adjust your other settings from there. If unsure which aperture to shoot with, start at f8, then start making other exposure adjustments. This will require you to use slower shutter speeds (again, this is where the tripod comes into play).


Real Estate Photography Tip #6: Lose the Flash!

No flashIf possible, use little-to-no flash. If you feel you must use it, then do so sparingly by selecting the +/- flash setting on your camera and lowering the value to a negative number. Learning to shoot in natural lighting with your camera in “Aperture Priority” mode will allow you to:

– Avoid scenes where too much flash from the camera makes harsh, ugly shadows, which diminish the natural appearance of the scene.
– Have solid, consistent control of how your photos come out. You won’t need any more guessing games as to how much flash to use…
– Better see and understand how your camera’s white balance works, which brings us to our final tip…


Real Estate Photography Tip #7: Know your White Balance!

White balance settingsIt’s good to control your white balance manually, so you avoid photos that have off-color hues to them. Alternatively, this can be corrected later with software like Photoshop, however you’ll achieve the best results by getting it right at the time that you take the shot. Try manually setting your camera’s white balance to add more blue to the shot and balance out the lighting.
– Exterior shots: When the weather is mostly sunny, try using the white balance setting on your camera that is marked with a “sun” icon. On more cloudy days, try switching to the setting with the “cloud” icon. If in doubt, you can always use the “Auto White Balance” setting, however optimal results can be achieved setting this manually.
– Interior shots: For homes that have a good balance of sunlight and incandescent light, you can probably get away with using “Auto white balance”, however the more your home is lit with light bulbs vs. natural sunlight, the higher the chances that you’ll need to set your set your camera to the “Incandescent Light” setting. Doing so will remove the orange hue seen in a lot of photos that are lit by incandescent light (light bulbs).

Hopefully these tips have given you a good idea on how to start taking better pictures of your listings. It’s worth noting that there is not one absolute right way to shoot a home – every photographer will have their own techniques that work for them, and every home has its own unique photographic challenges. That being said, using the fundamentals mentioned here will put you miles ahead of anyone else starting out with real estate photography.

Best of luck, and happy shooting!