To begin a real estate photography business is very difficult from scratch. Some years ago, I was also a fresher in this field, and did not know what to start with. Now I would like to figure out my real estate photography tips & tricks, which could help me to save time when I was a beginner.
To begin a real estate photography business is very difficult from scratch. Some years ago, I was also a fresher in this field, and did not know how to get into real estate photography. Now I would like to figure out my real estate photography tips & tricks, which could help me to save time when I was a beginner.
Real estate photography is subdivided into 3 specific styles – Residential, Commercial, and Architectural. All photography genres bring big revenues. According to the United States Department of Labor report, real estate photography job is the most well-paid on the market.
The beginning photographers have around $40,000 per year, the top real estate specialists make between $40,000 and $93,000. If you want to receive more, you should provide educational lectures and materials like online or printed books on real estate photography.
The subjects of this style are apartments, condos, lofts, rentals, town-homes, single-family houses or expensive properties (priced above 1 million dollars). Many of US real estate photographers claim that the biggest amount of income (between 80-100%) comes through the residential style.
The prices differ from location to location, but one photo session in this style usually brings $100-400. The photographers in the USA provide their clients with 5-20 edited images, whereas in Australia, where the market is more developed, 5-10 are usually delivered.
Your potential clients are realtors. The statistics also works in our favor: there are over a million realtors in the USA, and approximately 5 million homes are sold annually. I recommend making many real estate photography business cards to find new clients.
The subjects are any commercial properties: hotels, bars, restaurants, pubs, cafes. The majority of commercial photographers earn up to $300 for a single photo on average. They often state a minimum amount of photos they can do to make sure the time spent on the location pays off.
Tip: Study to shoot a real estate video and make a 3D tour. The 3D tour service brings me about $5000 per a month.
Most photographers state that architectural photography for real estate listings brings them not more than 5% of the income. The main purpose of this style is rather to sell the photos to Shutterstock, magazines, websites, than to realtors or real estate companies. You take picture of the building’s composition, not a photo of property.
Tip: Be careful, don’t use the photograph of a private house for commercial use without the owner’s permission.
When it comes to artistic real-estate photography, you are not taking pictures for real estate agents. Basically, you take unusual photographs for your portfolio, rather than think about the commercial side of it. The name is pretty self-explanatory: the photos combine imagination, artistic vision, creative lighting, unusual angles and are full of expression.
It was always a difficult task for me to gather the real estate photography gear I need. However, these things are always in my bag.
Why all beginning photographers think that if you buy a very expensive camera body for real estate photos, you are professional. False! Good interior or exterior images do not have high demands concerning the equipment.
I have Panasonic Lumix FZ300 which was named the best camera for realtors 2015. It has 100-6400 ISO range and a 24 zoom (approximately 25-600 mm). Simple and classical camera. Check out my photo made on it below.
Buy a wide angle only. It makes small spaces look bigger, and adds the feeling of depth to final photos.
In case you have a cropped sensor camera, 10-20 or 12-24 mm will be enough, 16-35 mm will be acceptable for cameras with full frame. Below I’ve made my own list of 4 real estate photography lenses that are worth buying.
1. Sigma (10-20 mm, wide angle 4-5.6)
This is the best lens for real estate photography which stands on the top of my list. There are different versions for Sony, Canon, Samsung and other brands. Choose the one you need.
2. Canon (10-22 mm, wide angle)
This lens provides good photos, but it works only with cropped sensor.
3. Canon (10-18 mm, wide angle)
I bought this real estate photography lens in 2014, and use it even today.
4. Nikon (10-20 mm)
This lens is the last I bought. It was introduced in 2017 and is named as the most appropriate choice for Nikon users and the best camera lens for real estate photography. Recently have bought it on Amazon, and highly recommend.
I rarely use flashes. So have an off-camera device and wireless triggers.
Once, my client asked me to take a photo of his house with Christmas decorations in the evening. I tried to do it several times but all the photos were blurred. I had to ask real estate photo editing services to edit the damaged photos. So, if you do not know how to do real estate photography of a building with bad illumination at night, use a tripod. It enables to get a crisp picture in low light.
Make sure you get a filter that has the right size for your particular lens and make sure it's a circular polarizing filter. If you don’t know how to shoot real estate photography, I recommend not forget to take the filter off or the filter blocks off around 50% to 75% of your light.
I've been using polarizing filters by Hoya and Marumi before and they're both great. Although I prefer the Hoya filters as the colors seem to be more faithful. I've heard that filters by BNH are also very good.
Notice, that the farther you place the umbrella, the less light will come through it. Remember about a bounce umbrella. It always has a lining, which can be either silver or gold. A white lining will be the best decision. By changing the position of an umbrella, you will affect the power of flash.
Be careful with your light stands any time you are photographing luxurious interiors. I have Manfrotto Air Cushioned.
Have the sand bags in your arsenal. They guarantee your light stands or umbrellas will not fall down and spoil the clients’ furniture or floor.
I had an interior photo session in Phoenix, and my battery was dead. I didn’t have spare ones, and had to go in the local shop to buy them. It took much time, and the client was dissatisfied. Always have extra batteries in your bag. Let them just be there, even if you use them only once in your life.
Be careful with your camera while using it not to fall and be broken. The FAA reports the top two uses of commercial using of drones are aerial photography (34 %) and real estate (26 %).
There are many no drone zones in the USA. Install the FAA’s safety application, which uses your GPS location to feed you real-time data about airspace restrictions and flying rules.
It should be very small and be moved with only one hand. Its normal weight is 4.2 kg. It occupies not much place. For instance, it can be placed in a small golf car. By placing elbows on a ladder, you will avoid camera shaking.
I always have two 64GB memory cards if something lags.
Ask your customer to clean the room or yard in advance. If you shoot an interior photo, then you need to carry a mini vacuum cleaner and a rag with detergent. But in order to facilitate the process of photo retouching or to create certain lighting effects, carry cleaning cloths or devices to wipe the window or remove the defects or mud from a table or furniture.
Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. There are no more variants. If you don’t want to do it by yourself, find a good outsource real estate photo editing company or a freelancer.
To avoid making the common real estate photography mistakes, I’ve gathered these basic tips for interior and exterior photoshoots.
1. Be creative and experiment to develop your real estate photography business. Do not photograph the interior from the corner. It’s a typical mistake, which all amateur real estate photographers make. I’m sure you saw this kind of photos with two walls, a table, a ceiling, a carpet, and a half of the lamp. Looks so boring. Get around and find creative angles of shooting.
2. Vertical lines (walls, shelves, curtains, etc.) must look perfectly straight.
3. Stage a bouquet of flowers and a bowl of fruit. This prop adds life and style without breaking the bank. Try just one color; all green apples or all red roses.
4. Don't neglect to photograph solid exterior photos. Find out the hours of the best light falling on the building, and take advantage of it. Keep in mind that weather should be included in photographing the exterior. Even million dollar mansion can look dull in stormy weather.
5. Always have a cleaning cloth at hand. Once, I had a photo session of the interior with very dirty inside windows. I have nothing to rinse grime away. Remove dirt and blinks – save some dollars on photo editing.
6. Get rid of clutter (stacks of paper, trash cans, spices and oils in the kitchen, and toiletries in the bathroom), and stage interiors for best results.
7. Remove all kitchen devices from counter tops. Toasters, blenders, shakers, and spices should all be placed away. Kitchens look best when they are open and clear of clutter.
8. Blinds and window shades must be able to be opened, and not broken. Check them.
9. Surf the blog at Photography For Real Estate, join their Flickr group. When I was starting out and even today I browse their posts and comments which are very useful.
10. Remove old or damaged furniture. Your client’s grandmother’s chair must be soft and cozy, but it is too big and spoils the interior composition.
This is not all. There are only basic recommendations. I wrote as many real estate photography tips for beginners as I could remember below.
Please, note “Exposure Triangle”: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. There are no perfect real estate photography camera settings, they depend on the situation, but here are some general tips of mine.
Aperture. The wider the lens is opened – the more light enters the camera and vice versa. Set your aperture between F/8 and F/11.
Shutter speed. A normal shutter speed between 1/60 and ½ a second.
ISO. Do not do higher than 400.
Choose the right time for your photoshoot. Sunny weather is always more beneficial for taking real estate photos. A cloudy or a rainy day can ruin the entire photo session with its dull colors and lack of natural light.
Tip: Always make your choice in favor of sunny or partially sunny days – the pictures will look warmer and more energetic.
Tip 1: Instead of taking pictures of multiple sides of the building, choose the most flattering part. Arrange 2 photo sessions, if needed: one in the morning and another one in the evening.
Tip 2: If you are faced with the choice between day-time and dawn – I highly recommend to choose day-time. Pictures taken in daylight are filled with color and are more preferred by the clients.
Tip 3: If you want to take a photo after sunset – the sun should set behind the house.
Tip 4: If the house is facing west, a good time to take pictures is between midday and late evening, when the sun is especially warm.
Tip 5: Use free Lightroom presets to save time on photo editing. If needed, you can add additional changes by yourself.
Tip 1: Choose a sunny day over cloudy ones to avoid flat colors.
Tip 2: If you need to show off the view – go for it but don’t forget that you need to showcase the property in normal daylight conditions.
Tip 3: If the windows are west facing, the best time to take pictures is in the early morning or at/after sundown.
Tip 4: When taking pictures in a sun-filled room, keep an eye on the stains on the windows, remove them. I recommend using the polarizer.
1. Experiment with different lighting for real estate photography on location and take pictures with mixed lighting.
2. Make sure your exterior photos are filled with sunlight.
3. Do not remove all shadows while editing.
4. Feel free to adjust curtains to correct the contrast in photos.
5. Knowing the address of the property, it’s easy to find its location on Google Maps, and see which direction the house faces. It will give you a general idea of when it’s better to do a photo session.
6. Don’t photograph straight into bright windows – it makes the camera cut on the exposure.
1. Take photos only from a standing position using a tripod to get rid of blurred images.
2. Focus on the subject (animal, flowers, bookshelf, table, etc.) and adjust the light to it. Move the things in the room to compose the real estate photo well.
3. Take two lenses – a wide-angle one (24mm) is for all photos, a normal one (50mm) is for particular decorations/details in the room.
4. Natural light with LED panels and several reflectors create magic.
5. Turn of the exterior lights.
6. Don’t be afraid of using HDR effect, additional lights, a flash or a strobe.
7. Give preference to natural light.
8. A small (f/5.6-f/11) aperture is highly recommended if you want to receive a bokehlicious look.
Officially, you don’t need any degrees or certificates, and in theory you could teach yourself what you need. I didn’t attend real estate photography classes, I’ve just started my photography practice. There are many fake websites that guarantee you to receive a credential like a Zillow Certified Photographer. I tried to finish their courses. They asked me to register and load cell phone video walkthroughs to their site. Once these guys approves the quality of my video I was named “certified”. They also offer to send me a free stabilizer, a badge for my website and a free T-shirt.
Tip: Get a credential having passed The Certified Professional Photographer program’s exam. When it comes to Architectural photography, judges look for clean, simple shots with good lighting and exposure, vibrant colors, and appropriate contrast.
Be very careful while building your real estate photography website or portfolio. Receive the buildings owners’ permission to publish their houses and interiors’ photographs.
Take better control of your schedule. Accept the cancellation without penalty for more than 2 working days before scheduled shoot, than state a fee with a rescheduled shoot. Ask a 7 days payment. If your client fails to do it in time, require a 50% advance deposit for the next photo session.
I always rely on photo editing. This step guarantees professional real estate photos. You can make it by yourself, online, ask freelance editors, use real estate photo editing services or leave photos untouched.
Shoot in RAW. This file format is for a deep and professional editing. 90% of the real estate photographers take JPEG photos and are satisfy with the quality they have. If you want to know everything about the differences between these two photography formats, I recommend reading the article Difference between JPEG and PNG vs TIFF – All photography file formats.
Vertical correction. Make your images stable-looking with the vertical correction. Curvy vertical lines make buildings look totally unrealistic. Fix the angle if it is not good enough.
Adjust in HDR. Use free HDR Lightroom presets if you can’t do it in PS.
Cropping. Crop the picture to make the composition look wholesome, and get rid of the unnecessary elements.
Don’t judge me for my real estate photography tips. This is not a full list of everything a beginning photographer should note, but I told you all tricks, which could help me in starting my real estate photography career and increasing my real estate photography salary.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.