Real estate photography is one of the most popular types of photography. If you’re looking for a guide on how to become a real estate photographer, this article if for you.
The real estate industry is one of the most lucrative in the world, attracting individuals, governments, and corporate investors alike. Becoming a real estate photographer can give you a big opportunity to earn money. It can help you enter the photography market, and get your name out there. Many photographers end up making the decision of making real estate photography their full-time career.
With every realtor trying to outdo the competition and sell the most houses, the demand for high-quality photos to showcase, and market the properties on sale is at an all-time high.
As a photographer, branching into, or specializing in property photography can open new doors for you, and probably earn a decent income from your photography skills. Nonetheless, like any other high-paying profession, there is a lot of competition in the real estate photography business, and you need to be better than most to achieve long-term success.
This complete guide will give you an overview of what you need to know and learn. Start now and discover how to become a real estate photographer and start getting paid.
So What is Real Estate Photography?
Real estate photography involves photographing the exteriors and interiors of houses, or wide-angled views of lands for the purpose of showcasing the given property to potential buyers or renters.
Wide and detailed shots are the most common techniques used in this type of photography, as they give very clear views of the features, lighting, and space layout of the given properties.
The work of a realty photographer doesn’t start and end with snapping pictures. It also involves varying levels of house/property preparation, contract negotiations, and photo editing.
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Some real estate photographers work on a freelance basis – by selling their work on stock photo sites like Shutterstock or posting on their blogs. Apart from real estate agents, other parties that may seek property photography services include interior and landscape designers, architects, contractors, decorators and property-themed media shows and magazine publishers.
How to Become a Real Estate Photographer
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The concept of property photography is identical to those of other types of photography. Therefore, in order to venture into this genre, you need to have basic photographic equipment: good cameras, lighting equipment, a creative mind, and top-notch editing software.
To become a good real estate photographer, you need to obviously have basic photography skills. You may want to first lookup sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube where established photographers post their work. There, you will note the common camera positions, general trends and techniques, and the different ways to shoot different types of properties.
Thereafter, try to recreate some of the best shots using your camera. Compare them with the original work, and see if you are able to match the angles, lighting and overall end product. Therein, you will realize your shortcomings and identify the skills that you lack – this will give you an idea of where to start your learning process.
With time and enough practice – and of course, following the tips discussed below, you will notice huge progress in your work.
How to Price Your Real Estate Photography
If you have a decent portfolio, and are adequately visible in photography communities, getting your first client won’t be hard. I’ll talk about how to build a portfolio down below.
However, knowing the right price to quote without under/overselling can be difficult, especially for beginners. Pricing involves multiple factors, from the time it takes you to take the photos up to delivery. Other aspects are the size of the home, whether you are working with a local real estate agent, or a big real estate company.
So, here are some quick real estate photography pricing tips that are worth noting:
- If you are unsure about your skills and need some on-the-job practice, consider doing one or two projects for free to get the hang of it. Just make sure not to put yourself in a position to get exploited by dishonest clients.
- If you’re sure of your professional skills, only accept a reasonable payment and not ‘exposure’ or future business opportunities. If someone proposes the latter, reject their proposal in a polite, but firm manner. The reason for this is, once you start accepting less than you deserve, it will be extremely difficult to ask for any decent payments in the future.
- To determine the price to quote for a particular project, add up the time and costs of purchasing/hiring necessary gear and equipment, and the time it will take to prepare the scenes, shoot and edit the required photos. Once you quantify the project timelines in terms of man-hours and factor in equipment costs, you will be in a position to determine what to ask for. Related: How to price your photography.
- Always insist on signing a binding contract with every client you work with before starting a job, just in case you find yourself in ‘muddy waters.’ The contract should cover everything, from the duties required of you, to the client’s responsibilities, and the legal options in case of a breach.
General Guidelines For a Good Real Estate Photo
Before getting into the specifics, here are a couple of general real estate photography tips you should keep in mind when going on an assignment.
- Always carry a tripod, even when you think you don’t need it. They especially come in handy when shooting in low-light environments or when shooting scenes in HDR mode.
- The best time to shoot exteriors is during the golden hour, at sunset or sunrise when the sunlight is not bright enough to interfere with your camera settings.
- In most cases, one flash will be enough for indoor shoots.
- Always ensure that your photos only focus on the specified property. Avoid including people, cars or animals, unless requested by your client.
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Best Gear and Camera Settings
The good thing about real estate photography is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on gear.
In property photography, the main subjects are static and under the photographer’s control to varying extents. This means that unlike in motion picture photography, you don’t need fancy equipment to shoot real estate photos.
A basic professional-grade camera and lens set-up will do, without the need for bells and whistles like speed tracking, infrared, high frame rates, and the like.
You only need three tools; a camera, a wide-angle lens, and a solid tripod.
Real Estate Photography Cameras
Most beginner cameras have the basic features that you need including exposure bracketing and remote flash. Newer digital cameras in the beginner range even have multiple focus points allowing you to keep several areas in a photo sharp. Real estate photography also requires a basic wide or ultrawide angle lens.
Real Estate Photography Lenses
A wide-angle lens can make even small rooms appear big and spacious, making it the ideal lens for real estate photography.
It allows you to fit more features into the frame, which is particularly important when doing outdoor shots. The ideal focal length is between 10 and 24mm.
On their part, tripods come in handy when making slow-speed exposures, or when using telephoto lenses, where maximum stability is needed.
When it comes to camera settings, lighting should be your first priority. For a start, invest in a flash that connects to your camera, as it allows you to assume different spots and angles without hassle. To achieve maximum control of the flash, set it to manual, and start at the lowest power (1/16th), then adjust as you see fit.
When shooting, you need to keep the camera straight and still (this is where a tripod comes in handy), and at an approximate height of 5 feet (1.5 meters) off the ground. The former helps avoid image blur especially in low light conditions and the latter ensures that your photos look more natural and balanced. Other useful settings you may need to make are: increasing image clarity, reducing highlights and brightening up shadows.
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How to Shoot Real Estate Photography
To ensure that the photos you take are usable, start by nailing down the basics: exposure, sharpness, contrast, and framing. Avoid to overexpose or underexpose your images. Make sure that you use a small aperture such as an f/5.6 (or higher f-number) to get all elements in the scene sharp.
As a real estate photographer, you don’t need fancy effects such as a shallow depth-of-field or a bokeh background. Everything in your scene should be tack sharp.
Avoid vignetting, the infamous dark corners in a photograph. To do so try to change the aperture of your lens and find its sweet spot to avoid this artifact. Obviously more expensive lenses will not have this problem at all.
Best Tips for Real Estate Photography
When taking pictures of real estate property, there are certain things you need to do in order to produce great photos. These include:
1. Emphasize on The Best Features – When shooting a room or house, determine its key feature (it could be a window or wall painting, etc.) then center your photo around it. The idea is to magnify the room’s special feature with the aim of attracting the viewer.
Avoid irregular or awkward framing such walls shot unevenly, doors cut off mid-frame, and the lack of a focal point. In real estate photography, it is easy to choose a focal point for your photos, like a cozy fireplace or mahogany living room or the furniture.
2. External Beauty – With any property, the first thing potential buyers see when shopping is the exteriors. As such, you should go to great lengths to get a pleasant shot. As a rule, emphasize every feature of a building you want to showcase by showing a bit of the surroundings. For instance, a garden shed will look much cooler when shown alongside a well-manicured garden leading to it.
When shooting under harsh light, be careful about overexposing your photos. To avoid overexposures you may want to shoot real estate exteriors in the early morning or late afternoon when natural light is most evenly distributed.
3. Pre-Shoot – Before starting your shoot, walk around the property examining all the nooks and crannies and also take a few shots of every room or garden. Then, take some time to examine these pictures carefully, and try to identify the standout features and potentially great camera angles for taking your photos.
The trick is to look at a space, find out what makes it special and use that as the focal point for your photo. It is also important to know how to deal with natural light when taking photos of the property from the outside.
4. Make Use of Natural Light – While artificial light is easier to control, natural light remains the best at producing saturates shadows and a natural look. So, when shooting, make sure you open all the windows and doors to maximize the amount of sunlight that comes in. You can also use reflectors and LED panels to magnify the natural light, which is necessary if you want to highlight smaller details such as metal or wooden elements on floors or furniture.
Learn How to Edit Your Real Estate Photos
The most important feature you need to have in a photo editor is the ability to edit RAW files.
You don’t need anything fancy for real estate photography. Mainly you want your photos to be the most accurate representation of space in its best light. A basic photo editing suite that can adjust exposure, sharpness, contrast, and cropping can do the job well.
Also, look for multiple image processing or batch editing features so you can cut editing time in half. Real estate photography clients often require a shorter turnaround time compared to conventional photography clients.
You may be required to produce photos after 24 or 48 hours. It is important to use a batch-editor so you don’t have to edit each photo one by one especially if lighting, tone, and contrast in all your photos is the same.
Adobe Lightroom will probably be enough. Editing in Lightroom will give you the ability to work on the RAW files in a non-destructive way. What that means is that Lightroom allows you to revert your changes back to the original photo. Even after closing the application.
If you find Lightroom being too slow when browsing your real estate photos, take a look at Photo Mechanic. With this culling software, you’ll be able to go through hundreds of files and choose the right ones in no time.
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How to Become a Real Estate Photographer: Build a Portfolio
If you are new to this type of photography and you’re serious about starting a career as a real estate photographer, the best thing to do is to build a portfolio. This is the way you can get more clients.
Start by practice shots of your own space or shooting your friends’ homes for free. This way you can have more freedom to style the spaces to make them look more photogenic. You can also collaborate with real estate agents who may be open to having you shoot for them for a discounted price.
Another way would be to work as a photographer’s assistant where you can learn the basics of how to become a real estate photographer from someone who has had years of experience in the industry. Apprenticeship is also a surefire way to rub elbows with more real estate agents and property owners who might turn into future clients.
Real estate photography can be a lucrative venture for people with a passion for taking landscapes and home interior photographs. The good thing is, with the number of construction projects constantly increasing to meet the high demand for housing, the demand for real estate photography services is only set to rise. To capitalize on this, you need to constantly aspire to learn new things, practice as much as you can, and be consistent in your approach to the job.
By now you should have an overview of what is needed to become a real estate photographer.
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