real estate photography

Real Estate Photography: The Complete Guide

In Photography Tips, Real Estate Photography by Stefano Caioni 6 Comments

Real estate photography is one of the most popular photography genres. According to the Center for Realtor Development, homes with high-quality photography sell over 30 percent faster. For this reason, the demand for great real estate photos is high, with every real estate agent trying to outdo the competition.

It can be a great way to start earning money as a photographer and get your name out there.

The real estate industry is one of the most dynamic. It attracts individuals, governments, and corporate investors alike. Becoming a real estate photographer can give you a significant opportunity to earn money. It can help you enter the photography market and get your name known in the field. 

Many photographers end up making real estate photography their full-time career. If you’re looking for a guide on how to become a real estate photographer, this article is for you.

Chapter 1: What is Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography involves photographing the exteriors and interiors of houses. According to research from the National Association of Realtors, over 90 percent of home buyers search for a home online. Listings with professional photos spend only 89 days on the market, while it takes over 125 days for other properties.

real estate photography

As a photographer, branching into or specializing in property photography can open new doors for you. If you take the right steps, you can start earning a decent income from your photography skills. But, like any other high-paying profession, there are some challenges. 

There is a lot of competition in the real estate photography business. So it’s critical to be more efficient than most to achieve long-term success.

The work of a real estate photographer doesn’t start and end with snapping pictures of a house. It also involves house/property preparation, staging, contract negotiations, and photo editing.

Potential Clients

Besides real estate agents, other parties may seek property photography services. Other potential customers include but are not limited to:

  • Interior and landscape designers,
  • Architects,
  • Contractors,
  • Decorators
  • Magazine publishers. 
real estate photography living room

Many real estate photographers work on a freelance basis. Others earn money by selling their work on stock photo sites. Shutterstock, Stock Photos, and Getty Images, to name a few.

The rest of this guide will give you a detailed overview of what you need to know to become a real estate photographer. Begin now, and discover how to start getting paid in no time.

Chapter 2: Real Estate Photography Equipment

The good thing about real estate photography is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on gear.

I have recently posted two lists of the best cameras and lenses:

You can check them later. Right now, let me give you an overview of what gear you need to get started.

interior photo

In property photography, your subjects are static. Also, they’re under your control to varying extents. So you don’t need fancy equipment to shoot real estate photos.

A standard professional-grade camera and lens setup will do. Don’t waste your money on bells and whistles for now. You won’t need speed tracking, infrared, high frame rates, and the like.

You only need three essential tools to start as a real estate photographer; a camera, a wide-angle lens, and a stable tripod.

Real Estate Photography Cameras

Most beginner cameras have the necessary features you need. These include exposure bracketing and the ability to trigger a remote flash. Modern digital cameras in the beginner range even have enough focus points. They enable you to keep several areas in a photo sharp.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is an outstanding APS-C sensor DSLR camera that will help you get started. Without breaking the bank, among other features you get:

Sale
Canon EOS Rebel T7i 24.2 Megapixel DSLR
  • ISO range of 100 to 25600 for shooting in low light with ease
  • An outstanding 45-point AutoFocus AF
  • 18-55mm Lens
  • 24.2 Megapixel sensor
  • Optical Viewfinder
  • Vari-angle touchscreen LCD
  • Continuous shooting up to 6 fps

If you are considering a new camera and you are on a budget, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i is what you need.

Related: The best cameras for Real Estate Photography

Real Estate Photography Lenses

Wide-angle lenses can make even small rooms appear big and spacious. So these are ideal lenses for real estate photography.
A wide-angle lens allows you to fit more features into the frame. So important when taking indoor and outdoor photos. The ideal focal length is between 10 and 24mm, or 16mm to 35mm, which I use.

My advice is to start with the kit lens that comes with the T7i. Save money and get a few jobs done under your belt. I always say to new starters that quality optics will give you great results, not the camera bodies.

A great lens is the best investment you will ever make as a photographer, and it will last you for a long time. Camera bodies get outdated, while lenses don’t.

Let’s say you buy an APS-C sensor camera to save some money. When you decide to get a new glass for your camera, you can get a lens that fits into a full-frame sensor body. With this strategy, if one day you will update your camera body and invest in a full-frame, you will be able to reuse your lenses. And save money again.

A lens I love that you can combine with the T7i above is the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens.

Related: Best Lens for Real Estate Photography

Real Esteate Photography Lighting

You can start without buying any lighting equipment. But you’ll need it with time if you want to stay competitive. When shooting dark interiors, you need to use extra lighting.

To save money, start with a simple flash. If your camera delivers good images at higher ISO, a hot shoe flash will be enough. Brands like Neewer sell great lighting on Amazon for both Nikon and Canon. As you improve your technique and get more clients, you can upgrade to a strobe light.

Something to pay attention to when buying a flash is its power. The less powerful, the higher the ISO will need to be. You will also need a lens with a faster aperture.

Tripods

On their part, tripods come in handy when shooting long exposures. The goal is to have the most stability to avoid blurred images. A sturdy tripod will help you lower your ISO and introduce less digital noise.

Moreover, by using a tripod, you’ll be able to produce images keeping the same camera placement and height.

Remember to choose a tripod that matches your height when extended. The right tripod will prevent you from bending to look into the viewfinder.

Related: Affordable Tripods

Extra Accessories

Once you get enough experience and clients, you will need to expand your equipment. It will be useful to get flash triggers, and light stands to have more flexibility when illuminating a room. For soft lighting, you can also consider light modifiers such as shooting umbrellas.

Chapter 3: How to Shoot Real Estate Photography Step-by-Step

You have all the equipment you need, and now it’s time to shoot. Let’s look at the general setup and camera settings to get started as quickly as possible. Then you’ll learn the best techniques to deliver excellent real estate photos.

Step 1: Planning

First of all, ask yourself: what are the critical images to capture? Potential buyers look at exterior photos first. So that’s where you will start. Make a list of photos you want to take. Plan to take exterior pictures from front to back. Remember to not only capture the facade but always include required features. Pools, garden furniture, patios, and so on are all essential elements you need to photograph. Make sure to get at least five images of property exteriors.

real estate photography golden hour

Moving to the interiors, capture at least two photos of each room. The client will direct you to the most photogenic rooms. If a room is particularly beautiful or spacious, go the extra mile to take more shots.

As a rule of thumb, you can ask the agent (or client) to compile a list of significant pictures with you.

Step 2: Getting Ready to Shoot

I follow the good practice of erasing my SD cards after each photoshoot. I do so after properly saving my photos into two external hard-drives. With this method, I am sure that my camera is always ready for the next job.

Real Estate Photography

I also make sure that my camera batteries are charged the day before shooting. Remember to pack extra batteries and SD cards. The last thing you want is to run out of memory or battery and not finish your work.

Prepare your bag, tripod, and lights the night before. Also, don’t forget to check the property address the day before. Use Google Maps to search the property, so you’ll also have an idea of the best angles to shoot from in the property.

On the day of your photoshoot, the only thing you need to do is put everything into your car and get to the property. Follow this strategy, and you’ll never run late.

Step 3: Real Estate Photography Composition

When it comes to composition, always keep in mind that the first impression is what matters. Exterior photos will be the first thing potential buyers will look at when searching for properties online.

Exterior Photos Composition

When composing images of homes, the secret is to find the best angles and shoot from the corners. If possible, avoid taking photos from directly in front to create depth. This way, you will also highlight external areas such as driveways, pools, or patios without taking too much of the foreground.

exterior composition with garden

Avoid including in your composition things like air conditioning units or trash cans. Remove any potential distractions. Also, cars or people should not appear in your photo. The main rule when shooting real estate exteriors is to produce images that make a great first impression.

Interior Photos Composition

Interior photos are a bit more challenging than exteriors.

First of all, position your camera on a tripod. Stability helps to avoid image blur, especially in low light conditions. 

Extend the tripod so that the camera is at 5.5 feet (~1.7 meters) off the ground. Your photos look more natural. If you can, you should use the same height for different shots for consistency. But rules are meant to be broken, so adjust as you need.

living room with artificial light

Let’s now talk about vertical lines. Vertical lines must be straight, or you’ll have to spend more time post-processing. Avoid that.

Use one and two-point composition. Here are a couple of examples.

At first glance, one-point perspectives might seem the easiest to master. But that is not true. This technique is useful for detail shots, but it’s very easy to get it wrong. Everything has to be level. Lines have to be parallel, items and furniture in the frame have to be perfectly lined up, or the entire shot won’t look right.

Two-point perspectives are not difficult. You shoot from a corner, and as long as your camera is level, you’ll deliver good photos. To take advantage of leading lines, use a wide lens, and include a third wall in your composition. Including a third wall helps the viewer’s eye flow through the image. For this reason, don’t forget to remove big objects in the foreground. 

Step 4: Camera Settings for Real Estate Photography

To ensure your photos are usable:

  1. Nail down the basics: exposure, sharpness, and white balance.
  2. Avoid overexposing or underexposing your images.
  3. Ensure you use a small aperture such as an f/5.6 (or higher f-number) to sharpen all the scene elements.

As a real estate photographer, you don’t need fancy effects such as a shallow depth-of-field. A bokeh effect is not what you need here. Everything in your scene should be tack sharp.

main facade

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. Higher quality lenses will not have this problem at all. But the downside is they can be expensive.

Step 5: Lighting

When it comes to delivering excellent real estate photography, lighting should be your priority. In this step, we’ll examine the best lighting techniques for exteriors and interiors.

Lighting for Exteriors

The time of the day you’re shooting will play a huge role in highlighting the best features. When shooting under harsh light, be careful about overexposing your photos. In general, early morning hours or late evening will offer you the best lighting conditions for exteriors.

Natural lighting for exterior

During this time of the day, natural light is soft and more distributed.

You’ll automatically avoid harsh light and reflections. But be careful because trees and other tall objects surrounding the property might cast unwanted shadows. If you’ve adequately planned, you should be able to avoid returning to the property many times. 

Lighting for Interiors

Interior lighting is not as straightforward as the exterior. If you shoot in the early morning or late evening, you’ll need to turn on the lights inside to achieve a good exposure. But if the light is not pleasing, you’ll need to use extra lights. 

Real Estate Photography

If you’ve invested in a flash, connect it to your camera. To achieve the best control of the flash, set it to manual. Then start at the lowest power (1/16th), and adjust as you see fit. Your goal is to fill in the shadows in the room. Point the flash upwards and direct it left or right to bounce off the ceiling and spread light in the desired direction. 

To help you direct the light in the desired area of a room, you can handhold the flash. For a more advanced light styling, you can place multiple flashlights on stands in selected corners. While this sounds fun and powerful, other light stands and strobes will cost you money. Time constraint is another limit of setting up complicated lighting. Your client doesn’t always give you enough time for your work.

That’s when the next step comes useful.

Step 6: Exposure Bracketing

Exposure bracketing is a technique that allows you to take multiple photos at different exposures and blend them in Photoshop. Various light sources (windows, internal lights, flash) will cause uneven shadows and bright areas. 

Real Estate Photography

My advice is to start with a single flash and combine it with bracketed exposure to obtain optimal results. 

Here’s a complete guide to exposure bracketing.

Chapter 4: Pro Tips for Real Estate Photography

Once you’ve learned the steps to take in real estate photography, there are specific things you need to do to produce high-quality photos. It’s not hard. Let’s see what they are:

Pro Tip #1: Highlight 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. In real estate photography, it is easy to choose a focal point for your photos.

luxury room

You can look for things like a cozy fireplace or mahogany living room, or furniture. The idea is to magnify the room’s unique feature to attract the viewer’s eye. 

Pro Tip #2: How to Make Empty Rooms Look Attractive

You’ll work with different types of properties, from ugly to beautiful. Some of the rooms will often be empty. A growing trend in the real estate photography industry is to offer virtual staging services. With a computer-assisted design process, you can bring life to photos with relative ease.

empty room

Adding virtual furniture to an empty room will make pictures of vacant listing more attractive. You can easily find online someone that offers virtual staging services. Make a deal and add it as an extra to your real estate photography package. That’s how you beat the competition.

Pro Tip #3: Pre-Shoot

Before start your photoshoot:

  1. Walk around the property, inspecting for holes and crannies.
  2. Take a few test photos of every room or outdoor space.
  3. Take some time to examine these pictures.
Property with lake view

You have to identify standout features and great camera angles for taking your photos. 

The secret is to look at a space, find out what makes it unique, and use that as the focal point for your photo. 

Pro Tip #4: Emphasize External Beauty

As you know, the first thing buyers see when looking to buy a property is the exteriors. As such, you should go to great lengths to get a nice shot. As a rule, emphasize every building feature you want to showcase by showing a bit of the surrounding. For instance, a garden shed will be more appealing if shown alongside a beautiful garden. Look for lines leading to it.

Real Estate Photography

A trick is to use a longer focal length and capture a few photos of interesting architectural details. In particular when you shoot high-value properties. Go after building materials, pools, patios, and so on. Make sure you use your images to tell a story about the property. Capturing the viewer’s attention is vital.

Pro Tip #5: Ask Your Client to Clean the Property

Make it clear with the agent that your work also depends on their collaboration. You are not a cleaning company. You are a real estate photographer. You could give them your advice on how to prepare the property for the day of the shooting.

clean interior

If an agent is spending money to hire a professional photographer, it means they know the value of a good photo. Let them know that a clean and tidy property will allow you to deliver stunning images.

Pro Tip #6: Always Take Photos From Different Angles

Taking photos of the same room or a facade from different point-of-views will give you more choice. While consistency is critical, it is also essential that you offer some variety to your clients.

Real Estate Photography
Real Estate Photography

You can switch the lens from time to time instead of relying only on wide-angle lenses. Use a longer focal length to compress perspectives and capture close-ups of some interesting details.

Pro Tip #7: Make Use of Natural Light

Artificial light is easier to control. But natural light remains the best at producing saturated shadows and a natural look. So, when shooting indoors, make sure you open all the windows and doors to maximize the amount of sunlight that comes in.

bright living room

You can also use reflectors and LED panels to magnify the natural light. This might be necessary if you want to highlight smaller details. Remember that bracketing is an excellent technique to use to get the best overall exposure.

Chapter 5: Post-Processing for Real Estate Photography

The secret of post-processing is, first of all, to get your pictures right in-camera. I know it sounds banal, but it’s the truth. The more time you spend editing your photos, the less time you’ll spend taking pictures and finding new clients. 

The good news is you don’t need creative editing for real estate photography

Houses

You want your photos to be the most accurate representation of a home in its best light. A software that can adjust exposure, sharpness, contrast, and cropping can do the job well. A crucial feature you need to have in a photo editor is RAW file editing and batch editing. The ability to batch edit your photos will help you cut editing time in half.

Note: Real estate photography clients often need a short turnaround time.

They may ask you to deliver your work in 24 or 48 hours. It is good practice 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 are consistent.

Let’s talk about Adobe Lightroom as an example. Editing in Lightroom allows you to work on RAW files in a non-destructive way. What that means is that with Lightroom, you can revert your changes to the original photo. Even after closing the application.

Note: If you find Lightroom being too slow when browsing your real estate photos, look at Photo Mechanic. With this culling software, you can go through hundreds of files and choose the right ones in no time.

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Highlights and Shadows

The first thing I do when I edit a photo in Lightroom is to make the image as brighter as possible without clipping the highlights. For this, bring up the shadows and the blacks down. At the same time, you might need to adjust the highlights, bringing them down. Highlights and shadows are in the Basic panel in the Develop module. Build the habit of using the Tone Curve for more accurate control.

Correct Lens Distortions

You need all vertical lines to be perfectly vertical. Use the lens corrections panel to correct distortions. In real estate photography, you will always need to apply a lens correction since you’ll often use wide-angle lenses, which tend to make everything appear deformed.

With Lightroom, you can enable profile correction and apply a manual lens profile to fix the distortion. 

White Balance

In my opinion, bright and cool tones work best for real estate photos. Specific lighting conditions may give you pictures with warmer tones compared to what you saw in the room. Since you work with RAW files, it won’t be hard to fix the color temperature and white balance in Lightroom. You can cool down your image by decreasing the temperature with the White Balance sliders. Always in the basic panel, you can choose white balance presets.

Using Lightroom Presets

As you develop your style, you will find yourself applying similar Lightroom effects all the time. In this case, the best thing to do is to create presets to use as a starting point for your post-processing workflow. Saving time is key if you want to get more clients and get more done.

Chapter 6: How to Become a Real Estate Photographer

First of all, if you’ve read this guide up to this point, congrats! You know the technical aspects of taking great real estate photos. Now it’s time to dig deep into some specific elements to help you become a professional real estate photographer.

build a real estate photograhy portfolio

Build a Portfolio

If you are new to this type of photography, building a portfolio is the best thing to do. Since you need to get your name out there, present your craft, and have a website. Showing your work is how you can get more clients if you’re serious about starting a career as a real estate photographer. Make sure to put only the best images in your portfolio. 

Real Estate Photography

In the beginning, you don’t have actual clients. Practice shooting your own space or taking photos of your friends’ homes for free. This way, you can have more freedom to style the rooms to make them look more photogenic. Feel free to polish your pictures as much as you can with Lightroom and Photoshop. But don’t overdo it. Once you have at least five properties to showcase, it’s time to create a website. Use something simple to use like Squarespace.

With Squarespace, you can choose from different beautiful templates, and you will be up and running in minutes. You won’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a website. You can start using Square Space today.

Getting Your First Client

After you have your portfolio up, you need to get your first clients. Let me be honest. It won’t be easy. But here’s what you have to do. Collaborate with real estate agents who may be open to having you shoot for them for a discounted price. Don’t be too afraid to offer the first photoshoot for free.

Real Estate Agent

Another way would be to work as a photographer’s assistant. So you can learn the basics of how to become a real estate photographer. Learning from someone with years of experience in the industry can make a big difference. Apprenticeship is also a surefire way to get in touch with potential clients: real estate agents and property owners who might need your services in the future.

Chapter 7: How to Price Your Real Estate Photography 

So you have built a portfolio. And you put your name out there. At first, you were unsure about your skills and needed some on-the-job practice. You’ve done one or two projects for free to get the hang of it.

Working for Free

Ensure your first clients know that your first job was the only one you could deliver for free. Don’t put yourself in a position to get exploited by dishonest clients. You are running a business like them. You’ve invested your time and money to learn, master your craft, buy equipment, and build your portfolio. It’s time to start charging the right amount of money. 

kitchen Real Estate Photography

Once you’re sure of your professional experience, only accept a reasonable payment. Don’t settle for ‘exposure’ or future business opportunities. If someone proposes the latter, reject their proposal in a polite but firm manner. Once you start accepting less than you deserve, it won’t be easy to ask for more in the future.

So let’s discuss pricing. Knowing what price to quote without under/overselling can be difficult, especially for beginners.

What to Consider When Pricing Real Estate Photos

Real Estate client

Pricing involves many factors, from the time it takes you to take the photos up to delivery. Other aspects are:

  • The home’s size
  • If you are working with a local real estate agent or a prominent real estate company
  • Turnaround time

So, here are some quick real estate photography pricing steps that are worth noting:

  • To determine the price to quote for a particular project, add up the time and costs. Consider the costs of purchasing/hiring equipment and the time it will take to prepare the scene.
  • Include the time for the shoot and edit the required photos. So, quantify the time for staff-hours and factor in equipment costs. Then you will be in a position to determine what to ask for your services. Read also: How to price your photography.
  • Always insist on signing a binding contract with every client. Do it before starting a job. It’s necessary in case you find yourself in ‘muddy waters.‘ The agreement should cover everything from the duties required of you to the client’s responsibilities. And don’t forget the legal options in case of a breach. 

Chapter 8: Real Estate Photography Ideas and Inspiration

If you need inspiration for your real estate photography, you may want to first lookup sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. On these platforms, established photographers post their work. Train your eye to see the standard camera angles. Look for general trends and techniques. You’ll start noticing the different ways to shoot different types of properties.

Real Estate Photography interior

Then, try to recreate some of the best shots using your camera. One of the advantages of real estate photography is that it’s easily accessible. Start from where you live, then ask friends and family if they can help you improve your craft. 

Real Estate Photography interior

Check how your photos improve with time. See if you can match the angles, lighting, and quality of the work you see online. You will realize your shortcomings and identify the skills that you lack. This way, you will form an idea of where to adjust your learning process.

With time and practice, you will see massive progress in your work.

exterior luxury house
Real Estate Photography

Chapter 9: Useful Real Estate Photography Videos

During my research, I found this great video on YouTube by photographer Lizzie Peirce. I’m sharing it with you here. Watch it if you want some very useful insights on how to become a real estate photographer. Learn how to start making money!

The video also focuses on interior photography. If you’d like to read one of my latest articles on this topic you can find it here.

Summary

So, to venture into this genre, you need to have at least a basic knowledge of photography techniques. You’ll also need the right photographic equipment. 

Required gear:

  • A good camera
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Tripod
  • Basic Lighting equipment 

Optional accessories include a drone and a 360 camera.

As we’ve seen, these are the steps to master real estate photography:

  1. Planning is fundamental. Know how many photos you need to take and as much info about the property as you can.
  2. Prepare your equipment the day before. Your only concern is to show up at the property on the day of the photoshoot.
  3. CompositionExterior photos are the first thing potential buyers see. Shoot from angles and include elements of the surroundings. Interior photos are more challenging. Use a tripod and favor one and two-point composition.
  4. Camera Settings. Nothing fancy is required. Make sure your images are sharp and bright. Shoot in aperture priority and start from an aperture of f/5.6. I recommend ISO 100 in most cases.
  5. Lighting. For exteriors, try to shoot in the early hours of the day or late afternoon/evening. For interior photos, use a single flash and bounce off the light to the ceiling to get better exposure.
  6. Bracketing. Know how to use this technique so that you can rely on the least amount of lighting equipment and obtain the best results. Take multiple shots changing the exposure by one stop up and down, and blend them using Photoshop.
  7. Pro Tips. Follow these tips to deliver clear views of properties and get the most out of your craft.
  8. Post-Process your pictures. Adjust contrast and white balance. Fix lens distortion and create presets to speed up your workflow.
  9. Become a Real Estate Photographer. Follow these steps to get your first clients and learn how to price your services.
  10. Get inspired. Real estate photography images to get you inspired and improve your skills.  
  11. Useful videos. A short collection of valuable videos by professional photographers from YouTube.

Before You Go 

Real estate photography can be a lucrative venture. In particular for people with a passion for landscapes and interior home photographs.

So, to become a good real estate photographer, you need to have basic photography skills. Take a look at my FREE 7-Day Photography Course and start taking better photos today.

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Please note: the FREE course will teach you the basics of how to use a professional camera. It’s not specific to real estate photography.

To capitalize on this, you need to aspire to learn new techniques. 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.

Here on Pixinfocus you’ll also find these resources:

Over to you know.

If you find this article useful, go ahead and share it on social media right now!

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Comments

  1. Real estate photography is indeed a lucrative profession. But if you think about the return income, it is worth an investment. Thank you Stefano for the heads up!

  2. For someone like me who is looking to get into real estate photography, your blog was very very helpful! I will download Lightroom and see what I can do with it. Thank you stefano!

    1. Author

      I’m glad you found it helpful Octavia!

  3. Thank you for this well-detailed content. I’m sure this will be certainly helpful in the near future.

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