Real estate photography is important because real estate is one of the most popular financial investments in the world, attracting individuals, governments and corporate investors alike.
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.
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.
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 Do You Become a Real Estate Photographer?
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 the 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. However, knowing the right price to quote without under/overselling can be difficult, especially for beginners. 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.
Best Gear and Camera Settings
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.
You only need two main hardware items; a wide-angle lens and a solid tripod.
The former 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.
How to Shoot 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.
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.
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.
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.
Realty 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.
Hopefully, the above tips drive you to become a better property photographer.