Are you a real estate photographer looking to nail that perfect shot?
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According to ZipRecruiter, real estate photographers in the U.S. are making an average of $66,002 a year - not bad for a job that lets you express your creativity and travel to interesting locations!
However, real estate photography is far more complicated than it appears. In order to earn a decent income, photographers need to learn how to work efficiently and consistently.
Read on to learn our top tips for real estate photographers to consistently nail perfect shots!
Real estate photography is a highly technical genre, and having the right gear means a faster workflow. This means more clients for you and faster leads for realtors.
Your most important choice will be between a full-frame camera and a cropped sensor camera.
We recommend a full-frame camera - they typically provide a more dynamic range, bigger and brighter viewfinders, better low light performance, and of course more image data to work with when you’re in post. Although larger image files aren’t necessary, you’ll have more flexibility if you need to crop.
Mirrorless cameras are becoming more popular because battery performance is getting better, they’re lighter, and they feature live viewfinders that let you see changes in depth of field and exposure.
A few popular cameras being used today are:
- Nikon D750
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Sony a7 III
Your lens is the second most important investment. If you purchase a lens that’s too wide, your images will appear distorted, unrealistic, and composition will be unbalanced. If you use a lens that’s too long, you won’t be able to capture entire rooms, and the spaces will look smaller and compressed. Realtors hate this!
Most real estate photographers agree that lenses about 10-22mm are the sweet spot. You’ll find that shooting at 16mm will give you the best results when it comes to wide but not too wide shots, but it’s also a personal preference.
Remember that if you’re shooting with a cropped sensor, you’ll have to purchase a wider lens to make up for this.
A sturdy tripod is extremely important for real estate photography. This is because flimsy tripods are far more likely to tip over and damage your gear. Well-built tripods are also less likely to jostle in-between shots.
Two of the most popular tripod brands are Manfrotto and Benro. Carbon fiber tripods are lighter and stronger, but they can be pricey. Aluminum tripods are just as sturdy, but they’re heavier. On the plus side, they’re typically 30-50% cheaper.
Keep in mind that over the months and years your tripod is going to take a beating. Invest in one that will last.
4. Tripod Head
The tripod head connects your camera to the tripod and makes it possible for you to move your camera into different positions. For good-quality tripods, you’ll typically have to purchase the tripod head separately. Your greatest decision will be a geared head vs. a ball head.
Geared heads will provide the most benefit, but they’re costly. With geared heads, you’re able to move your camera more precisely - this makes it easier keeping your camera level and lines vertical. Ball heads are lighter and less expensive, but it may take more time to keep your camera level.
Realtors need enough shots to represent their listings realistically. Through different angles, proper exposure, and correct color balance, you’ll be helping entice potential buyers as they browse online.
5. Create a Shot List
When you’re just starting out, keep a shot list on your phone so you make sure you’re not missing anything. This includes:
- Living/Family Rooms
- Laundry Room
- Media Room
- Game Room
- Exteriors - Front and Back
- Porches and Patios
Most real estate photography packages start at 25 photos for an average-sized home. With this in mind, take at least two shots per bedroom, one to two shots per bathroom, and at least three shots for larger spaces, like the kitchen, living room, and master bedroom.
Your goal is to take enough photos so that buyers have an accurate idea of each space. You also want to focus on unique features, such as large storage spaces and fireplaces. You can ask the realtor if they have any specific shots in mind to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Once you become accustomed to shooting properties, you’ll begin to find a flow that works best for you. For instance, some photographers start in the bedrooms and bathrooms and work their way around till they end in the living room.
6. All About the Angles
The majority of your photos will be taken at angles, or a two-point perspective, as you stand in doorways or in the corners of rooms. Concentrate on creating balanced compositions through the rule of thirds while showing as much of the room as you can. The diagonal lines of two-point perspective shots also help make images look more dynamic.
However, don’t ignore straight-on shots, or one-point perspective. These are usually done when you notice symmetrical rooms or when there’s a specific subject you want to feature, such as a fireplace or large tub.
7. Less Ceiling, More Floor
If your thighs aren’t burning to take each shot, your tripod is probably too high. If your tripod is too high, you’ll be featuring more ceiling than floor. Think of the ceiling as negative space - it’s really not necessary to fill the frame with it because it contains no interesting information.
When you’re in bedrooms and living rooms, you’ll typically have your tripod at about four to five feet high.
When you’re in kitchens or bathrooms, your camera should be slightly above counter surfaces and high enough so that you don’t see the underside of cabinets.
Keep in mind that it’s very situational. If you’re not sure, take photos at a few different heights. After a few properties, you’ll begin to get a feel for how high your tripod should be based on furniture height.
8. Watch Your Verticals
If you can only focus on one thing to improve at a time, focus on the verticals first! Your camera should be level for each shot with no crooked lines. Verticals need to be vertical, and horizontals should be straight and not skewed.
Lining up the side of your frame with a vertical line - like the edge of a fridge or wall - is one way to ensure that your camera is level. Geared heads will help along with bubble levels.
However, you’ll probably still need to do some corrections in post. This is usually done through the “vertical” transformation tool in Lightroom.
9. Close Toilet Lids, Declutter
As a photographer, it isn’t your job to clean up for homeowners and realtors, but you should be willing to move a few objects or wires in order to get a better shot. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time correcting them in post.
Things like soap dispensers, paper towels, and other miscellaneous items that aren’t part of the house staging usually don’t look great in real estate photos. Your goal is to have completely clear surfaces.
Most realtors are aware of this, and they along with the homeowners will declutter the property before you arrive. You can also create a document that provides helpful tips on what to do before a shoot, such as putting pet toys away, decluttering surfaces, and removing personal photos from walls.
You also need to watch toilet lids. It may seem like a small thing, but open toilet lids in shots just don’t look good - make sure to close them.
10. Camera Settings
The only setting that you’ll be changing during your shoots is the shutter speed - this is why a tripod is so necessary. Your other settings will typically be:
- ISO: 100 to 320
- Aperture: f/7.1
- RAW file format
11. HDR vs Flash
The only time you’ll be taking one exposure is for your exterior shots or rooms with lots of beautiful natural light, and even then taking multiple may be best depending on the time of day.
HDR requires bracketing your shots, with an average of five shots from darkest to brightest. All of these exposures are then combined in Lightroom, Photomatix, or Aurora.
Real estate photographers who use flash take one shot as a normal ambient exposure, and one more with flash. These photos are later blended in Photoshop for an evenly exposed photo that’s isn’t too “flashy.” It’s also much easier to attain a realistic color balance with flash shots.
For large spaces, they may take multiple shots as they move their lighting equipment from one part of the room to another.
Both methods will give you great results with enough practice. It’s up to you to decide what kind of workflow works best for you.
Top Tips for Real Estate Photographers
This isn’t a complete list of tips for real estate photographers, but by following our advice, it will get you off to a good start. It’s important to remember that real estate photography takes skill, and like any skill, it requires practice and patience.
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