Real Estate PhotographyTips & Tricks
real estate photography
real estate photography
What will this guide to real estate photography cover?
- When is real estate photography needed?
- What equipment will I need?
- Making a shot list
- How to set up a room
- How to light rooms
- Exterior property lighting tips
When is Real Estate Photography needed?
There are a few different reasons a photographer may find themselves behind the camera capturing multiple room scenes on private real estate.
Maybe you’re selling up, entering a competition or just trying to document a recent renovation.
Either way, we’ll lay out some tips, tricks, approaches and best practices to make sure you get the best out of your camera.
What Equipment Will I Need?
For real estate photography, you’ll need to have a camera that can shoot in manual mode. It doesn’t particularly matter if you’re shooting on a camera with APS-C or Full-Frame sensor. Real estate photos rarely get printed to billboard sizes. They are primarily used online so you can get away with a smaller sensor.
To make the most of the small rooms you may find yourself in, a wide-angle lens will be helpful. Somewhere between 20-35mm (once adjusted for crop factor).
Some pro real estate photographers use a tilt-shift lens as they stop the distortion that a wide-angle lens causes. Though they do tend to be more expensive, if you have a big job coming up it could be worth renting one instead.
Tripods are really helpful to improve your workflow. You may be jumping forwards and backwards between moving furniture and checking the composition. Therefore, it’s ideal to have the camera in a fixed spot to keep things consistent.
While you may not need this, if you find you’re shooting late in the day and the light is rubbish then a remote trigger will help you out.
With a remote trigger, you can slow down the shutter speed for a long exposure shot and not have to touch the camera when taking the picture. Even pressing the shutter button on the camera at the start of a long exposure causes micro-vibrations, so a remote way of triggering the shot is ideal.
An off-camera flash is a little bonus tool to have in your kit bag for real estate photography. They can really help you out if you’re shooting at dusk or night.
You can use stand-alone flash heads, known as monoblocks, which are larger and more often seen in photography studios. Alternatively invest in a traditional speed light that you can pop on your camera’s hotshot or mount on a stand. Both give you flexibility in movement and power is adjustable.
It’s advisable to soften strobe lights using a modifier. You can pick up scrims, reflective umbrellas or shoot through umbrellas pretty cheaply and all will do a good job in dispersing the light from a flash.
Make a Shot List
Before you start taking your real estate photos you need to know the layout. If possible visit the property beforehand and make a short list of the rooms you want/need to capture. Walk around the room to see where the best angles are.
Having a list, and sticking to it, will help you keep on task. Plus, you can confirm you’ve covered everything your client has asked for. If you’ve been hired to take some real estate shots, then commonly you’ll need to capture the following:
- 1 x photo of the bathroom.
- 2 x photos of the garden, looking out from the house and back towards.
- 1 x feature shot of the front of the property.
- 2 x shots of each bedroom, kitchen, dining, and living space.
- Don’t forget about garages, basements, en-suites, and conservatories
How to Set up a Room
Depending on the resident, you may need to do a bit of spring cleaning before you start your real estate shots.
Run around the house (not literally) with a cloth to remove any surface dust off tables, counters, ledges and rails. If you want these surfaces to have feature objects on them, pick out 3 items that match and complement the colours of the room.
Make sure all the cushions are aligned neatly, beds are made, curtains are open and windows are clean to look through. If possible, and check with the homeowner beforehand, try to remove personal items and toys.
The aim is to create an image where potential buyers could see themselves living. It’s hard to imagine that seeing an already personalised room. With that said, you don’t want it to look like a plain white box, a little personality is warming – getting the balance is the trick.
Shoot Straight for Minimal Distortion
Even if you’ve set it up in a corner of the room, make sure to keep the camera straight.
Doing so helps avoid distortion and make sure your horizon is straight – you can check this sometimes on your live view screen.
You’ll notice that if you tilt the camera up or down, the vertical lines start to slant – this is the distortion you want to avoid.
To help with this we’d recommend keeping your tripod height around 4-5 feet.
How to Light a Room
One of the bigger discussions amongst pro real estate photographers is whether to leave the house lights on or off!
Leaving the lights on can make a room look warmer and more welcoming. But with incandescent light bulbs, you can be left with a warm-orange glow that may compromise other colours in your room. You’ll have to adjust the white balance when post-processing if you leave the lights on.
On the flip side, if you aren’t bringing your own strobe lights to the shoot, turning the lights off can make the room look a little cold. You want the room to look warm and inviting but with a natural balance to the overall colours. It’s a hard one to judge and each property will be different.
We’d recommend only turning the house lights on if you need to illuminate areas you can’t with your own lighting kit – but don’t make it look odd. If you are skilled with Photoshop then you could make it look like all the lights were on when they weren’t!
But overall, natural light often looks best in most situations. Keep the idea of bright and airy in your head and you won’t go far wrong. Whatever decision you make, be consistent throughout the entire home!
Where to Place Your Strobes
When it comes to positioning your strobe lights, look to bounce them off a wall behind your position and up to the ceiling, so the light spreads wide without being obvious where the source is.
For larger spaces, install your flash units on your light stands. Position them out of the frame and angle them upwards toward the ceiling.
Having a light modifier over your flash will help out dispersing the light but watch out for any potential shadows it may leave if you don’t bounce the light off a wall or ceiling first.
The most dynamic time for exterior real estate lighting is early morning or just before dusk – the golden hour as photographers call it.
Find out if the property you’re shooting is North, East, West or South facing. Knowing this will help you understanding from which direction the sun will be when you’re there. Ideally, you want the sun hitting the front of the property for maximum illumination, so plan your time around that.
It’s important to consider how the sky looks behind your property too. No one going to be lulled by a wonderful house with a dull and flat sky behind it.
The beauty of photo editing now means that you can do a sky replacement in software such as Photoshop and Luminar 4. It’s a common trick used by many real estate photographers to make the property look more appealing.
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