Today, we’re going to discuss 25 tips for real estate photography. At the end of these real estate photography tips, you’ll be shooting your listings like a pro.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words — in this case, a picture is worth an entire real estate listing. In my own real estate business, I have had to learn how to do my own photography. And these tips for real estate photography below have helped me create amazing photos for my real estate listings.
But you don’t need to be a professional photographer to create professional-looking real estate photographs.
If you would rather watch or listen to this content, check out the video or podcast below!
Pre-Production: Before You Start Taking Photographs
Tip #1: Buy the Camera that Suits Your Work Process
Some real estate professionals swear by their smartphones. Others invest thousands in a professional-grade, modular camera system. And while you can definitely tell the difference between the photos they produce, it may not be as big of a difference as you think.
One of the best tips for real estate photography is simply purchasing a professional camera. A professional, digital SLR camera will produce better photographs, easier — that much is inarguable. But as a real estate professional, it’s more a question of your habits.
If you’re frequently running from listing to listing with nothing but a bag in hand, you probably aren’t going to have an expensive DSLR camera on you. You may need to capture listing photos on the fly.
On the other hand, if you’re covering luxury or high-value listings and spending hours shooting each one, then it makes more sense to have a complete, professional camera kit.
Tip #2: Buy a Wide Angle Lens
One inarguable point is that if you’re going to invest in a camera, you should also invest in a wide-angle lens for real estate photography.
A wide-angle lens produces large images that cover a field of view larger than the human eye can see. Wide-angle lenses are what make most interior design photographs feel so alluring and open.
That being said, you don’t need to go overboard. You can get a 24mm wide-angle lens, which will usually be a few hundred dollars, rather than an ultra-wide, which is usually over a thousand. Ultra-wide lenses are usually used for scenery and wildlife photography — not kitchens.
Tip #3: Never Use a Fisheye Lens
Many inexperienced real estate agents find themselves using a fisheye lens for their real estate photography. They worry that a property just feels too “small” (and perhaps it does without a wide-angle lens), so they try to artificially distort the image.
Sometimes they aren’t even using a regular fisheye lens; sometimes they’re using a filter.
A fisheye lens is not a wide-angle lens. It distorts an image so that it appears both larger and curved. A wide-angle lens displays more of the image without any distortion.
It’s pretty obvious when even a professional photographer is using a fisheye lens. People who recognize this type of photo editing will be put off by the listing — and people who don’t recognize it will attend the listing expecting something else entirely.
Remember: You want to be realistic. If you mislead people about your posting, you’ll just waste your own time.
Tip #4: Get Your Accessories In Order
What else goes in your camera kit? Apart from your camera and lenses, at a minimum you will also want a tripod — hopefully, one that comes with remote operation. A tripod will stabilize your images and make sure you’re taking them from the right perspective.
You can invest as much as you want in accessories, but you don’t need to get too fancy. If you’re shooting luxury homes, you might want lighting and light diffusers — but, at some point, there are diminishing returns. You don’t need to truck 300 pounds of gear into every condominium.
There are even accessories available for smartphones. If you’re using your smartphone for images, consider at least getting a handheld tripod.
Tip #5: Do a Lot of Exteriors? Consider Getting a Drone
If you want the best exterior shots, you need a drone for real estate. There are entry-level drones for a few hundred dollars today, with professional-grade drones going for a few thousand.
A drone makes it possible to take pictures from above the property. Before, these photos required a professional photographer; today, they’re actually fairly easy to learn to take on your own.
Think about your current listings. Would they benefit from aerial photography? And you can use drones for other things, too, such as creating virtual tours with fly-bys.
Tip #6: Scope Out the Property First
While it might be convenient to tackle everything at once, it’s a better idea to tour the location before you plan a shoot.
It’ll give you a better idea of when to shoot (what time of day?) and what to bring. The homeowner might have glaringly white bulbs in all their lamps. You may want to update that with more soothing lighting.
Or, the homeowner might have a tremendous amount of clutter in their living room. So maybe you’ll need to come up with a strategy to hide that.
Take some time to think about which areas of the house should be highlighted and what time of day the exterior will probably look best. You can put together an entire kit of staging accessories alongside your camera accessories.
Tip #7: Plan on Taking the Right Shots
In general, there should be at least one shot of every room. There should be multiple shots of “important” rooms — the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and master bathroom. And there should be several shots of the exterior.
It can be tempting to take shots of everything. But, at a certain point, you’re actually just increasing the chances that a buyer might see something that leaves them less than enthused. A bare yard requires only a few pictures unless you really want to hammer its bareness in.
Make a list of shots in advance and consider what you might need to bring to them. This is where your “realtor-sense” comes in. What’s trending in your area?
Production: Tips For Real Estate Photography At The Shoot
Tip #8: Shoot at the Right Time of Day
For exterior shots, the “Magic Hour” (dusk) is frequently preferred. It’s a time when the lighting hits just right to make almost everything look fantastic.
For interior shots, you usually want it to be fairly well-lit and clear outside. You should be able to open all the drapes and windows and have bright, clean light shining in.
You should avoid shooting when it’s overcast or rainy. Even inside, it can cast a strange pallor across the photo. While you can clean this up, it may still look a little “depressing” to have gray skies through the windows. (Don’t even try to replace the skies in the windows; it always looks fake.)
Tip #9: Declutter the Property
There are few things as distracting as clutter.
As you take photos, you should remove all clutter — even if you’re just shifting it around as you go.
While some homes actually do sell themselves on how “busy” they are (such as that one listing you might have that has dozens upon dozens of paintings and knick-knacks), most buyers want to see something that hasn’t been personalized.
That doesn’t mean you need to remove everything. Unless you’re going to empty the entire room, you don’t want it to look spartan. The area you want is between “a single magazine on the coffee table” and “an entire stack of magazines on the table.”
Tip #10: Rearrange the Furniture
The furniture should be positioned to be “open.” Essentially, that means it should be tilted toward you when you take the photo, almost as though your camera is a physical third party at the scene.
When you look at real estate marketing, you’ll frequently see this type of layout. In reality, it may look odd to have a table and some chairs that are pointed away from each other.
But the idea is really that you (and the viewer) have presence in the photograph. It makes the image feel welcoming, personal, and complete.
Even a little staging can really help a photographer bring the personality of a home through.
Tip #11: Let in the Light
Light changes the way everything looks. It also means that an image itself will have higher levels of contrast and brighter colors — making the photo easier to edit in the future. Of all types of lighting, natural lighting is the easiest to work with. Artificial lighting can seem uncomfortable or harsh. Low light always produces low-quality photos.
When shooting interior rooms, let in as much light as possible. If there isn’t enough light, don’t be afraid to use flash. Flash can make a dingy room look bright and inviting. It also prevents items in the foreground from looking too dark.
If, for instance, you’re shooting against windows, the current lighting might make the furniture look shadowed. Rather than changing the lighting, you can just use flash to remove the shadows from the furniture.
Tip #12: Play Around With Color
A little pop of color can really help an interior photo stand out. It can also help direct the viewer’s eye toward features that you want to call attention to.
Throw pillows are a great choice because you can bring them with you and just toss them into your interior shots.
You can also bring little items of decor with you. For a long time, the trend has been toward neutral-colored homes. Recently, a lot of homes have been going all-white. But bringing a touch of color in doesn’t just imbue the photo with personality; it stops the viewer from continuing to scroll by.
Tip #13: Turn on External Lights
When shooting the exterior of a home, consider shooting at night with all the external lights on. External lights are generally designed to light up a home in an aesthetically pleasing way. You can even use drone aerial photography or video drone footage to take a look at the property from above.
Having one picture of a listing at night and one during the day is a great idea, especially if the listing has some interesting architectural features. Homes can show more personality at different times of the day.
Tip #14: Keep the Camera Straight
When actually taking photos, do your best to keep the camera straight. Try to take photos with your tripod if you can’t otherwise stabilize them. You can fix this when editing, but it’ll be harder than just getting it right the first time.
While taking a tilted shot may feel more “dynamic,” it also gives a skewed perspective of what you’re taking a picture of. Skewed pictures are considered artistic, but they’re not necessarily an accurate representation.
Most people really just want to see exactly what the property looks like. The modifications you make are just supposed to help the property put its best foot forward — if your photographs look nothing like the property, they aren’t useful.
Tip #15: Take Most of Your Shots at Eye-Level
Imagine your eventual buyer as the person who is taking your photographs. You should take your shots at eye level so it feels natural to anyone viewing it.
Apart from dealing with issues such as white balance, this is probably one of the most important real estate photography tips to digest. A lot of people have the inclination, for whatever reason, to take photos from above.
But if you take a photo from the upper corner of a room, you’ll just skew the way that the property looks. The photo itself will also feel a little off-kilter.
It’s better to take your listing photos from your own perspective. In film, this is often called medium shots, shots that give the camera itself a presence.
Tip #16: Pay Attention to Shutter Speed
The wrong shutter speed is one of the surest ways to end up taking bad real estate photos.
If your shutter speed is too fast, image quality may go down; the camera isn’t letting in enough light. If your shutter speed is too slow, the image can become grainy or blurry.
Your camera should have specific settings for different types of pictures, such as landscapes, interiors, and portraits. But play around with the settings when taking your listing photos until you get something that feels right to you.
If you don’t know a lot about cameras (and don’t care to), you never have to use the manual mode; you can leave a digital SLR camera on fully automatic and let it take care of things like lens correction, flash, and different exposures. But learning about these settings can help you take higher quality pictures in more scenarios.
Tip #17: Be Realistic About Flaws
A lot of real estate agents intentionally leave problems out of their photos. They may take a whole virtual tour but never show the floor or never enter a certain room. They may tilt their camera away from a particularly bad DIY job.
But, again, this really just wastes your time.
Take realistic (though not excessive) pictures of things like damage, repair issues, and bad DIY jobs. This will lead a buyer to think, “Well, that’s not so bad” once they get there, rather than “I had no idea about this problem!”
Post-Production: After Shooting
Tip #18: Straighten and Crop Your Photos
The first thing you should do with your photo is crop it down to the relevant image and then tilt it so that all straight lines go up and down (otherwise, they will be distracting).
Most cameras actually have the ability to perform basic image editing functions inside of the camera itself. For other updates, though, you might want to use Adobe Lightroom. Adobe Lightroom is Adobe’s software suite for photo editing, whereas Adobe Photoshop is a more in-depth photo modification platform.
Make sure your images still have the right size and resolution after you’ve cropped them; you don’t want to crop them down so small that they’ll have barely any detail.
Tip #19. Correct the Color, Contrast, and Saturation
Correcting the color, contrast, and saturation (a process that’s often automated with systems such as Adobe Lightroom or digital cameras) will make a photo look more vibrant, realistic, and detailed.
There’s a lot that can be corrected with editing software. If your entire image has a dull gray cast, for instance, correcting the contrast and saturation should fix it. If your image is very dark, you can improve the contrast; if your image is too bright (HDR photography), you can reduce the saturation.
Play around with the lighting settings and white balance to find the “sweet spot” that makes the image look as close to reality as it can. Pay particular attention to the colors. Do the colors look right? Do they look natural?
Tip #20: Hire a Professional for Modifications
If you don’t want to learn about Lightroom presets or how to edit a shot on your own, you can always hire a professional.
Services like Fiverr, Freelancer, and People Per Hour make it possible to hire affordable artists and photographers to modify your image.
Even if your camera settings were incorrect or you experienced some lens distortion, you might be able to get your photographs corrected. And it’s often a lot more affordable than you might think.
Tip #21. Use Digital Staging Apps or Services
If you didn’t want to (or couldn’t) do your staging and lighting in real life, you can also consider using digital staging apps or virtual staging services.
A digital staging service can take your existing photo and dramatically change it. It can change lighting, empty rooms, and stage rooms with digital furnishings. This is usually done by professionals, but there are also applications that let you do it yourself.
It’s sometimes worth it to “clear the clutter” in a room digitally, or even to do home renovations and home modifications in an app. This will show a buyer what a property will truly look like once changes have been made.
Tip #22: Upload High-Resolution Images
Once you’re in the home stretch, you also need to make sure you upload the right images.
Your shots should be high resolution; they should be able to be pulled up on a large screen with you still seeing the details.
If they aren’t high resolution, people will strain to actually see what the property looks like.
Today, most images should be at least 1440 pixels on the smallest side.
Tip #23: Avoid Editing Too Much
When it comes to best tips for real estate photography, a little editing goes a long way.
Too much editing makes things look fake. And it may make someone wonder exactly what you’re hiding.
A great example of this is HDR. A little HDR makes a listing really “pop” in a way that it might very well pop in real life but may not depict on a screen. A lot of HDR makes an image look unusual and garish.
Likewise, a fisheye lens just makes people think that the room must be unusually small. You wouldn’t bother using a fisheye lens if you weren’t trying to hide the size.
Do edit your images. But edit them toward looking like reality, rather than moving them away from reality.
Tip #24: Don’t Use Filters
Instagram will encourage you to filter your images as you post them. Even your smartphone might repeatedly prompt you to filter an image. But a filter is always going to look unrealistic, even if it looks “better.”
It’s easy to start using filters so frequently that things stop looking right without them. But people who aren’t used to that filter will see an image that is blown out, too highly saturated, or just too colorful.
Tip #25: Don’t Forget to Post on Social Media
Once you have your real estate photography properly shot and edited, it’s time to post your photography online.
You can post your photo on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your personal site, and more. Your real estate photography is essentially part of your portfolio. It shows sellers what you can do for others — which also outlines what you can do for them.
You might not want to become a full-time real estate photographer. But these real estate photography tips should, at minimum, make you more effective at developing your real estate listings.
There’s a lot to being a real estate photographer that takes time. And there’s always room for growth. You can choose to shoot on a smartphone, or you can choose to invest in drone photography. You can personally edit each shot, or you can hire a professional.
Either way, you should soon see how an effective shot can dramatically increase the popularity and effectiveness of a real estate listing.
FAQs On Tips For Real Estate Photography
How can I improve my real estate photography?
Getting a better camera, learning how to frame shots, and learning basic image editing techniques are the best ways to improve real estate photography. When taking a shot, think about things like lighting, clutter, and where you’re standing to take the photo.
How should I edit my real estate photographs?
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are two popular suites for editing and improving real estate photography. But there are also real estate professionals who simply edit their real estate photographs on their phones.
How much should I edit my real estate photographs?
In general, you should update your photographs for framing (cropping and tilting), brighten the colors, and improve saturation and contrast. Beyond that, you shouldn’t extensively edit real estate photographs unless you have a very good reason (such as removing clutter).
What makes real estate photos look so good?
There are a lot of things professional photographers do to improve a shoot. But one of the best tips for real estate photography is a wide-angle lens improves the shot. A wide-angle lens is how you get photographs that “feel” large and welcoming.
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