If you are looking to break into the photography industry and make some money from your camera real estate photography could be the perfect place to start.
In this real estate photography tutorial we’ll look at some fantastic tips and tricks to get you thinking as well as advise you on where you could start looking for work.
Let’s start off our tutorial by looking at some real estate photography tips to give you an understanding of what kit you’ll need in your bag and what you could add in the future if you want to be more advanced.
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.
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.
To make the most of the small rooms you may find yourself in, a wide angled 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.
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.
Before you start taking your real estate photos you need to know the layout. If possible visit the property beforehand and make a shot list of the rooms you want/need to capture. Also walk around the room to see where the best angles are.
If you’ve been hired to take some real estate shots then commonly you’ll need to capture the following;
● 1 photo of the bathroom.
● 2 photos of the garden, looking out from the house and back towards.
● 1 feature shot of the front of the property.
● 2 shots of each bedroom, kitchen, dining, and living space.
● Don’t forget about garages, basements, en-suites, and conservatories.
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.
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, then pick out 3 items that match and complement the colours of the room.
Read more about photographing interior room scenes here.
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 a potential buyer could see themselves living. It’s hard to imagine 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.
Have a look at some examples online to get an idea of what works.
Even if you’ve set 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.
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 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!
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 understand 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 too behind your property. No one’s going to be lulled by a wonderful house but 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.
It’s a common trick used by many real estate photographers to make the property look more appealing.
When it comes to looking for work real estate photography jobs are increasing in demand as more and more homes come on the market for sale.
Most professional real estate photographers will be working on a freelance basis with an estate agency (or sometimes a couple of agents). It’s very hard to get exclusive work with just one agency all the time so cast your net wide and approach a few agents.
It’s best to already have a portfolio of images to take to the agencies to show them the quality of your work. To build up this portfolio then take photos around your own home using the tips we outlined earlier. Approach friends and family to take shots of their home too – who wouldn’t want a lovely shot of their house?!
Put together around 10-20 top quality shots digitally and in print so you can approach agencies directly in their branches as well as online. Real estate photographer jobs change with the market – the busier it is the more work that’ll be available. If you see a lot of houses of sale in a particular area then approach estate agents in that location for work.
It’s best to start with a little bit of research on your local area as you can charge more if you’re shooting real estate in the city than you could if you lived in a smaller town or village.
Approaches of selling real estate can differ state to state as well as country to country. For example, in the UK you may only deal with estate agents who are selling the property. Whereas in the USA you may deal with the selling agent and the homeowner who could hire you to photograph the property.
We’ve seen real estate photographers charge anywhere between £75 right through to £540 for their services. Real estate photography services would typically include a set number of high resolution images and the rights for the agency to use them online and in print for life.
You can increase these charges if you want to work unsociable hours (i.e shooting at dusk) as well as offering a video tour of the estate. The more optional extras you can add the more appealing you can look at an agency. It’s easier to hire one person to do everything well, rather than 2-3.
Whether you want to charge a basic hourly fee for your real estate photography or per image that’s up to you. Real estate photography pricing is a personal preference, and you need to consider what will give you work.
It’s not a race to the bottom though, making yourself cheap doesn’t mean you’re more appealing – it’s all about the quality of your work that clients will buy into. Don’t be afraid to be more premium if your portfolio backs that up.
What does a real estate photographer make? This again depends on the amount of work you can generate and how good you are. But to give you an idea of what is achievable here is some more information about real estate photographer salary.
For example, in the UK the average real estate photographer earns around £18,821 – this is quite a way below the average national salary for £30,000. But as we said there are ways of supplementing this income by offering further services (such as video etc) to your real estate photography.
While in the USA the average salary is more like $42,000 – $62,000. In the USA factors such as professional certification as a photographer can really help you boost your salary expectations too.
It’s worth looking for an online digital photography school near you or teaming up with a professional real estate photographer to see if you can shadow them, just like when breaking into wedding photography.
Real estate photography courses may seem few and far between but looking for architecture photography courses will give you similar insights and skill sets.
Start off photographing your own home, speak to neighbours or family who may be selling their home and ask if you can practise on their property. It takes time and effort to build up a good portfolio of exterior shots and beautiful interior room scenes.
Because the housing market always seems to be on the up you can find this area of the industry competitive so making sure your photography is consistently strong is really important before you think of going professional.