Property Photography Tips for Beginners

Real estate property photography can be much more than snapping some photos associated with interiors. Successfully capturing the property’s unique elements may challenge your skills like a photographer and as an editor. It’s this aspect of property photography that has made it my favorite subject as a professional photographer.

If you’re seeking to take better real estate pictures, and operate a real property photography business, there are some suggestions I recommend that can make a huge difference in the results plus client experience. In this article, I’ll break down some of the major details I keep in mind when approaching a new property for digital photography.

Table of Contents

Challenges of Real Estate Photography

As a professional photographer, I’ve worked with a wide range of topics and genres, yet some thing about the technical and deliberate nature of real estate digital photography has continued to appeal to me. Whether it’s a small or large property, each place has something exclusive to showcase, and it is an enjoyable, creative challenge to quickly find that angle.

Beyond working with the property itself, there’s also problem of the client’s expectations. In contrast to many other professional photography topics, you’re not taking photos of the client. But you nevertheless need to understand what the client – typically the realtor or agent – wants. You need to determine what to emphasize and de-emphasize about the place you’re shooting in order to meet their wants.

Lastly, anticipate time pressure. Whether it’s a brief window that the proprietors will be out of the property, the little amount of time the agent would like to spend at the listing, or a requirement for a quick turnaround, there is often a very compressed time frame for shooting and editing. Within this window, however , there is a clear need to deliver outcomes the first time. Reshoots are often likely to present a problem for both the customer and owner, leading to dissatisfaction all around.

Real estate photography can be divided straight into two processes: taking the pictures and editing the photos. I’ll cover both processes below.

How to Take Real Estate Photos

1 . Lens Choice

These days, you can find incredibly wide lenses pertaining to very little money, and there’s no doubt that wide and ultra-wide lenses are essential in order to real estate photography. However , moving wider than necessary can in fact work against you. Should you be able to get the shot in 20mm, you don’t need to go to 14mm or 12mm just because your lens can zoom out that much. Going too wide can result in perspective distortion, throwing from the look of the room. Ultra-wide views also require more care to be taken with aligning verticals, to avoid making it seem like the room is crooked.

On the other hand, there are going to be times when there’s just no alternative to using an extremely wide lens. Small bath rooms are virtually impossible to photograph any other way, plus you’ll often find that despite an ultra-wide, you’re trapped compromising. In these cases, just focus on making the shot enjoyable and functional. An ancillary bathroom won’t make or break the viewer’s interest, but you perform need a photo of it.

Your choice of wide angle lens also doesn’t need to be particularly fast. I take with the Nikon Z program, and I’ve found the particular Z 14-30mm f/4 to become a great fit. It’s smaller and less expensive than an f/2. 8 zoom, and the distortion (automatically corrected in most editing software) is seldom problematic. I previously used the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 , but I’d be comfortable using an ultra-wide zoom from any brand name. The technical requirements for the purpose of typical real estate photography just aren’t that intense.

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The Z seven and 14-30mm is a great combo, covering an essential range of focal lengths for real estate photography.

2 . Ultra-Wides, Tilt-Shifts, plus Specialty Lenses

When photographing front side of a building, tilting your own camera back to capture the roof can lead to issues with your verticals. This tilt makes it appear to be the building is falling back. There are a number of ways to deal with this: stepping back, using a tilt-shift lens to correct with this in camera, or fixing it in post.

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NIKON Z seven + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 16mm, ISO 64, 1 minute, f/8. 0

If you’re just starting out, a tilt-shift lens such as the Nikon PC-E or Canon TS-E is probably out of the question, both as a matter of spending budget and just for convenience (setting up a tilt-shift lens’s movements properly is much more slowly than a regular lens). Then there are times where you just can not step back any further, either due to an obstruction or something else.

Instead, a good option in these scenarios would be to shoot a wider-than-necessary composition, while trying to keep your top to bottom lines as straight as possible. Then, in post, you can crop the image and/or work with a tool like Lightroom’s Transform panel to fix any issues that remain. Again, it’s really important that you shoot wider compared to necessary, as any correction via Transform will result in the image becoming cropped.

In the event that budget is an issue, and you also still need something broad, two of my favorite choices are  Venus Optics’s line of lenses   and Rokinon’s . Both companies create a variety of ultra-wide lenses in the wide range of mounts. The only drawback for these lenses is that they’re typically manual-focus only and sometimes can’t have their aperture controlled via the camera, yet neither of these are significant problems for real estate make use of. It’s easy to focus personally with a non-moving subject.

3. Effectiveness Is Key

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NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 14mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 64, 1/80, f/4. 5

There is a wide range of techniques you can employ when photographing real estate. Among the options just for lighting, there’s natural light, HDR, flash pictures, and “flambient”, which mixes natural and flash exposures. Each of these comes with it’s very own look, benefits, and drawbacks, but underneath all of them will be the need for efficiency. Time can be money, for both you and your client, so developing an efficient workflow is important. Furthermore, every property can be quite different. What realy works for an open floor strategy with light walls might not work for a dark, 70’s ranch-style.

Should you be just getting started, I’d suggest first developing a strong competency with photographing natural light, and obtain comfortable adding flash when necessary. Flambient is the most well-known look, but it also requires dedicated skills for setting the camera, configuring your sensations, and editing your photos. It can be a great skill to build up, but it may be overkill and overwhelming when photographing lower-end properties and when you’re simply getting started.

What ever your choice of lighting, being efficient with it can make a huge difference within how your shoots go. If you’re photographing HDR stacks, understand how to set your automatic exposure bracketing and burst mode to quickly grab each stack of photos. Across 50 stacks, taking an extra minute setting your camera each time can double the amount of time you spend at the property.

4. Develop a Workflow

Efficiency applies to all aspects of your shoot, beyond just shooting and lighting. A good workflow is essential to making sure you’ve captured all the photos you’ll need for each room and angle. This workflow might look significantly different depending on what type of property you’re photographing.

For all properties, but I like to start by grabbing only a quick photo of the leading of the property and the quantity plate. This makes it easy to prepare each shoot, and serves as an easy reference point when communicating with your customers. This is also when I decide whether to photograph the exterior or interior first. Pay attention to the lighting conditions, the traffic/activity level outside, and how you anticipate the light to look later in the day. The answers determine whether you should keep photographing the exterior or circle back to it later.

Having a workflow doesn’t mean you always need certainly to follow an exact checklist, nevertheless, you should at least have an agenda to make it through the house efficiently. Ideally, you’ll shoot in a logical order, covering the entry, main living spaces, kitchen, master bed and bath, junior bedrooms, and utility spaces. This means that when it’s time to export, your files are already in a logical order and ready to upload.

There are also little optimizations to be applied when approaching each room. You’ll typically want all the interior lights on, so walking through the house once to turn them all on can give you the opportunity to scout the best angles for larger rooms. It’ll also give you a feel for what order to go through the house when shooting.

While it’s best to have the home to yourself to photograph, sometimes agents and their customers will still be present. They may even be going from room to room, as agents may be taking notes because of their written listing descriptions. If you pleasantly communicate with your client and let them know what rooms you’re planning to shoot next, you will maintain your professional appearance and can avoid interrupting each other’s jobs.

5. Find a Pace of Shooting That Works for You

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NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 18mm, ISO 64, 1/400, f/5. 6

Based on what you’re trying to get out of real estate photography, as well as the market you’re operating in, the pace at which you book and complete jobs can be quite different. Shooting a high volume of jobs could mean covering a number of houses per day, prioritizing quantity over all else. This can work great in a more price-sensitive market, as agents listing lower-end domiciles won’t have a significant marketing budget, but also won’t need flambient images and a twilight shoot showing off the yard.

On the other end of the spectrum, a high end property could require all that and more, meaning you may only get through one of these listings in one day, often with another day focused on post-processing the images. Neither approach is necessarily much better than the other, but each does require some different skills as a photographer and businessperson. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer to get a good sense that market works better for your desired pace.

6. Expand Your Offerings

Creating great photos of the inside and exterior is no longer the entire job for many shoots. Many clients are looking for drone photography , videography, 3D tours, and other offerings. While you might not want or be able to offer all of these, having a broader skillset might help you secure more jobs and earn more for each one.

Regardless of which offerings you add, think about the impact that each one will have on your business. A wider range offerings means more equipment to buy, maintain, and insure, but each of these should enable you to charge more for the actual shoot and work at higher-end properties. It’s also important to consider the broader business necessities associated with each offering. Planning to video may require you to change how you handle delivery, while drone photography in many countries will require commercial drone licensing, as well as other considerations for each shoot, like checking the suitability of airspace and getting authorization.

How to Edit Real Estate Photos

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NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 16mm, ISO 64, 5 seconds, f/8. 0

1 . Too Much Editing Can Be a Bad Thing

For many uses of real estate photography, especially including images that will be used for property listings by realtors, the photo has to realistically represent the property. This doesn’t mean you can’t work as hard as possible to make the property look nice, via smart angles, lighting, and more, but it does mean that you can’t Photoshop out an entire neighboring house. Understanding the standards that your client has to follow for listing images is important, so consider checking with them about what those standards are, along with where they intend to utilize the images.

There are a variety of edits that have be popular that may or might not cross this line, according to your use of them, along with the specific rules in your area. Some that come to mind are replacing the grass, compositing in new paint colors or creating virtual staging without indicating it as such. The usage of these techniques significantly changes the look of the property, and could be a problem from the viewer’s perspective. It’s important to keep in mind that your potential future clients are also viewing your projects, as the agents searching properties are often your exact clientele, and they may view the legitimacy of these techniques differently than your existing client. You will need to balance between making the photos look as good as it is possible while not losing track of the property’s actual appearance.

2 . Streamline Your Edits

Smart use of shortcuts and presets can massively reduce the amount of time you spend editing. I perform about 80% of my edits in Lightroom, with 20% requiring more work in Photoshop. Within Lightroom, almost any edit can be done to multiple pictures, and this is where a large chunk of time may be saved.

Look at a series of shots of spare bedrooms with similar lighting, flooring, and paint color. These images will probably all need a similar set of adjustments, making them a perfect candidate for editing one, and syncing the adjustments over the rest. In Lightroom, that is easy to do with the “Synchronize Settings” menu option or with the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+S (Command+Shift+S on Mac).

The exact same goes for your use of the Adjustment Brush. If you’ve found a setting you often use, like a soft-edge, warm color temperature brush for reducing that blue spill from windows, save it as a preset! There’s no reason to not customize your software to your needs.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of HDR

HDR has gotten a bit of a bad reputation, owing to the trend of garish, crunchy HDR that was so common a few years ago. Today’s implementation of HDR, however , can appear quite natural. I particularly like having the HDR bracket available for use in Lightroom. Lightroom’s HDR functionality is quick and easy, with the blended file appearing as just another raw file, albeit one with an extended dynamic range.

HDR’s main benefit is that it’s far faster than shooting flambient, and it is essentially as fast in field as shooting available light. If your camera supports it, you can shoot a bracketed HDR burst with merely a button press (by just how, this is a great option for reducing movement when shooting handheld HDR). This burst is very rapid, and a simple 3 or 5 shot HDR stitches quickly on modern computers. Taken together, this can reduce your time at the property significantly, compared to shooting flambient or flash. This makes it a perfect fit for jobs with a quick turnaround time, or those where in fact the client has a lower budget. The results may not be as polished, but again, understanding your client’s needs and industry could dictate that this speed advantage is worth it.

If you’re planning on HDR, there are a few things to watch for: movement, color temperature differences, and framing. The first big issue is movement of any kind. Movement of your camera will prevent the frames from precisely overlapping, while movement in frame will cause the exact same issue, but in a localized area. While some HDR computer software claims that it can reduce this ghosting, it’s never perfect. Instead, try to eliminate any movement like ceiling fans before taking the shot, and avoid shooting the bracket at all if it’s windy (HDR and waving trees are a bad combo).

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NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 14mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/5. 6 – The ceiling fan here is a clear example of how movement could work against you in an HDR. Turning it off is easier than trying to composite one frame back in.

Mismatched color temperature is another significant issue. The view through the windows will typically be much bluer than the warm yellow of interior lighting, and this difference might only be exacerbated by HDR. While you can edit surrounding this, some houses just won’t work for this style.

Framing is the final issue, but it’s definitely a smaller consideration. If you’re shooting handheld, your computer software may have to crop your pictures to align the frames, and this can mean a significant difference in composition. Either use a tripod or frame the image a bit wider than necessary in order to give enough breathing room in the HDR’s composition.

4. Don’t Prioritize Your Style Over Your Client’s Preferences

Real estate photography, unfortunately, is not the best place to work on your artistic style. While creating visually appealing images is important, that is more like cooking at a restaurant, rather than hosting a dinner party for friends. The reason by that is that you should emphasize consistency and client satisfaction, as opposed to trying new things that you find interesting.

This focus on consistency should also include image-to-image consistency. As much as possible, photos from the same shoot must have the same feel. Having one room dimly lit, while yet another has all the lights going can leave the house feeling disjointed.

The biggest challenges to maintaining this consistency come from lighting choices. Some houses will have a different color temperature of light bulb atlanta divorce attorneys room, along with a mix of CFLs, incandescents, and LEDs. Wanting to unify these can require some smart editing. If you’re looking to take extra care, consider using a product just like the ColorChecker Passport , or even just a gray card to set white balance – relying on auto white-balance can lead to minor color variations that will slow down your editing.

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NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 14mm, ISO 500, 1/30, f/5. 6 – Sometimes you’re just stuck with difficult lighting or window views that just don’t work, so it’s vital that you be flexible and manage client expectations.

I’ll mention “Synchronize Settings” again here, as I find that this helps me maintain a consistent look between shots with less effort, while still being more adaptable than a dedicated preset.

5. Outsource Editing

If you’re shooting at a high volume, it’s worth considering outsourcing your editing. Whether this means hiring an editor, or turning to a service that delivers outsourced editing, spending less time editing can mean spending more time shooting and earning money. I’ve not personally used any of these services, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending them. But I know there are wide range available. If you find that you’re more productive behind the camera, the added cost can be worth it.

Conclusion

Real estate photography can be much more complex than it first appears. Thanks to the proliferation of “good enough” cameras, many clients expect that you offer both a high quality product and a high level of service, at a very low cost.

This isn’t an impossible standard to meet, but instead requires that you thoroughly understand both how to photograph a property and how to run a business – just having skills behind the camera may not be enough to succeed. When shooting, you have to be flexible, and understand the wide array of photographic skills you’ll have to make a property look good.

Whether your market requires you to be comfortable shooting and lighting complex “flambient” lighting setups, or instead requires you to have the ability to churn through an amount of properties in one day, real estate photography can be an exciting challenge and a great learning experience as a professional photographer. I really hope the tips in this article gave you some good ideas to make the process smoother.

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