Envira Gallery Blog

Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources

How to Photograph Real Estate

by Elizabeth Kosowesky on Oct 25, 2019

Learning how to photograph real estate requires an understanding of lenses and other photography factors to achieve the best high-quality photos. The key is knowing what equipment and techniques work best with your style and your clients’ needs. In this article, you’ll find some real estate photography tips to get you started. 

We’ll discuss:

  • Elements of Real Estate Photography
  • Equipment Needed For Real Estate Photography
  • Challenges In Real Estate Photography
  • Best Real Estate Photography Tutorials

To edit your real estate photography after you’ve shot them, you’ll need to have downloaded Photoshop. If you don’t already have it, you can get it through Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan. This bundle also includes Lightroom for a total of $9.99/month.

Elements of Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography involves not just taking great photos, but also learning how to edit them so that they come out perfectly. Having a few photography and editing tips can take you far in this profession.

What is Real Estate Photography?

There are many different variations of real estate photography, but they all involve photographing buildings — both interiors and exteriors. So, what is the difference between architectural photography and real estate photography? 

Primarily, real estate photography’s intent is to sell a property, while architectural photography tends to be for more aesthetic purposes. Most of the time, real estate photographers take photos of living spaces — homes, apartment buildings, condos and more. 

What Should You Be Aware of When Taking Real Estate Photos?

When photographing the exterior of real estate properties, there are a couple of key factors to keep in mind. 

Lighting

You’ll first need to consider the time of day and the light availability at the time you plan to shoot. The time of day at which you shoot will, in part, determine how your final images look. 

For example, if your client wants photographs of their property taken during the day, then you might consider photographing on a cloudy day so that you don’t have exposure issues. Harsh shadows produced by bright sunlight will make adjusting highlights and shadows in post-processing harder.

Exterior of cottage-style home with green lawn
Original Photo by Jesse Roberts via Unsplash

Sometimes, clients may ask that you photograph the exterior of their property at dusk. In that case, you’ll have to take special care to research when sunset happens, where you need to place extra lighting and how long your exposure should be. 

Dusk balances shadows and light, so you might find that you prefer taking real estate photos at dusk. That being said, you will likely need additional lights so that you don’t get dark spots in your images. Working with a balanced base photo is better than losing detail in highlights and shadows.

You should know how to take both exterior and interior photos as a real estate photographer. But, interior photos require a different process and might require more editing than exterior photographs. 

Lighting your interior and exterior scenes depends on a variety of factors, including how many windows the property has. Carrying multiple flashes with stands help, because every property will be different and have different lighting needs. In general, you should plan to bring extra equipment, just in case.

Lenses

The most important skill you can have as a real estate photographer is knowing what type of lens your subject calls for. Since it’s most important for commercial real estate photography to capture as much of the property as possible, a wide-angle lens works best for this photography niche. 

Expectations for Your Work

Sometimes real estate photographers are responsible for more than just snapping photos. Some clients like their photographers to stage the home, or even clean and tidy up the property before shooting. 

The best way to know what’s expected of you as a real estate photographer is to develop a contract with your client ahead of time. This contract should, of course, include your rate. But, it should also clarify what your responsibilities will be on the day of the shoot. Once you and your client iron out the details, you’ll better be able to plan your time. 

If your contract includes moving furniture and staging scenes, you might consider investing in some insurance. If, in the process of staging a room, you accidentally break a client’s vase, you’ll want to be covered for those damages. Having insurance is an expense, but it will relieve stress while on the job.

How Do You Edit Real Estate Photos?

Real estate photo editing doesn’t require an immense amount of retouching, unless you need to make drastic alterations. Many times, simply adjusting Curves, Hue/Saturation and using a Layer Mask in Photoshop, will provide the finishing touches to an already well-lit photo. Interior photographs may require more time, especially if they require the Dodge and Burning tool. 

Sometimes, you may find that your interior and exterior photographs have a green, magenta or blue hue. This effect is typically caused by tungsten and fluorescent lights. Tungsten bulbs produced an orange tone, while a fluorescent bulb produces a blue tone. Mixed lighting in your scene will change the coloring of the images and will require color correcting after the shoot.

Original Photo by Bonnie Kittle via Unsplash

Many photo professionals create presets that cut down on editing time. These presets are especially helpful when the turn-around time for you images is 24-48 hr, which happens! Custom presets take care of the bulk of the editing for you so that only a few minor adjustments remain per image.

Equipment Needed for Photographing Real Estate

Before you purchase any equipment, make sure you understand what equipment will work with your needs and your style. What additional capabilities would you like your equipment to have that will make your job easier? What might you need in the future? 

Here are some photography tips for choosing the best equipment for real estate photography:

How Do You Choose the Best Photography Equipment to Photograph Real Estate?

In today’s market, there are so many camera and lens options to choose from. And, every professional photographer you talk to will have their own personal favorite setup

The best way to figure out what works best with your workflow is to do a bit of research. Figure out what type of camera works best with real estate, what lens will best serve you and what lighting company has the best reputation. 

You can also try renting equipment from a camera rental company. That way, you can test out equipment before committing to it at a steep price. Although you’ll spend money on the rental, it’s better to try a setup briefly before purchasing it so you know you’re making an informed decision.

What Cameras Are Best for Taking Real Estate Photos?

Figuring out the best camera body for taking high-quality photos as a professional photographer is vital. Your camera body is, ultimately, the most important piece of equipment. If you are new to real estate photography, you’re probably wondering if it is better to shoot with a mirrorless camera or a DSLR

What’s the difference? DSLR cameras create images with a mirror, located inside the body. The mirror bounces information into the viewfinder and light into the sensor when the shutter is open. Take a look at a film camera to get a better understanding of this mechanism. They work the same way, except that one is digital and one is analog! 

Diagram via Pinterest

As the name describes, a mirrorless camera does not rely on a mirror to retain and transmit visual information. Instead, the sensor captures all of the information and sends it to ad electronic viewfinder. Without this mirror, the camera body is much slimmer and lighter. Unfortunately, not as many lenses are available for mirrorless cameras yet, because the style is newer.

Diagram via Pinterest

The technical differences between the two camera types isn’t as vast as you might think. Some mirrorless cameras have pulled ahead of some DSLRs because they have quicker autofocus speeds and a faster shutter speed. But, you’ll be able to achieve great images with either type, as long as you invest in a good body.

Examples of Camera Bodies

Canon’s 5D Mark IV and the Nikon D850 are both great DSLRs that are fierce competition for mirrorless cameras. The Canon 5D Mark IV gives a very generous ISO range, which maxes out at 32,000 and is perfect for twilight real estate photography. The Mark IV also captures Dual Pixel Raw images, which allows you to adjust the focal point of the photograph slightly after it’s been taken. 

The Nikon D850 offers higher resolution pictures than the Canon 5D Mark IV, which might be helpful for your photography. The ISO range is also quite impressive; its minimum bottoms out at 64. Because it is increasingly common for clients to request video for real estate properties, this camera’s 4k video capabilities are an exciting accessory feature. 

Where Can You Buy Real Estate Photography Gear?

There are so many companies to choose from when it comes to purchasing real estate photography equipment. Typically, equipment used in professional photography isn’t necessarily found in any store, but some pieces of gear can be found online or at box stores like Best Buy. 

Generally, the best way to purchase equipment is online through reliable resources. When you can, purchase used or new equipment directly through the manufacturer’s website, or through photography equipment sites like B&H. This company plays “middle man” for creatives wanting to purchase photography, video, and audio equipment. Unlike brand name websites, B&H will give sales and bundles. 

While it is safe to purchase smaller pieces of equipment from Amazon, you should try to avoid them for larger camera and lens purchases. Unfortunately, purchasing through Amazon might result in incorrect or faulty equipment. If you do choose to purchase through Amazon, make sure that the seller is reputable.

Challenges in Real Estate Photography

Every photographer, in every niche, runs into problems during shoots and in editing. Luckily, many of these snags have simple, straightforward solutions. Here are some simple real estate photography tips for any type of shoot:

How Do You Take Good Real Estate Photos?

Creating professional real estate photography is the result of practice, time and attention. But, as we mentioned earlier, proper equipment is key.

Always use a tripod and at least a 24 or 35 mm wide-angle lens. When it comes to your camera settings, keep the aperture between 5.6 and 11 so that the majority of the room or exterior is in focus. 

Image composition can also make or break a photograph. For example, you might be tempted to shoot with the camera equal to your height or slanted downward when using a tripod. But actually, photographing at waist-height will result in a more realistic picture that accurately perceives the environment. 

It is also a good idea to use your camera’s grid settings to make sure that any lines in your image are perfectly straight. Slightly crooked lines in an image are actually quite noticeable, and they will detract from a more architectural look. For example, pay special attention to the lines that the furniture or pictures create, and make sure they are parallel to one another in your shot. 

Interior living room with window and natural light
Original Photo by Francesca Tosolini via Unsplash

Keep in mind that real estate photography is typically shot horizontally. By photographing horizontally, you can capture more information in a single image. A horizontal orientation also compliments architecture well, which will only add to the appeal of your photo.

Lighting can be one of the trickiest aspects of professional photography. As mentioned before, having mixed lighting in a photograph will cause an unwanted hue to color you picture. Stick with as much natural lighting as possible, and try photographing interiors during the brightest times of the day.

If the property does not have enough access to natural lighting, light your rooms with the same kinds of bulbs. Turn all other lights off so that you don’t accidentally mix tungsten and fluorescent lights.

What Makes Real Estate Photography so Difficult?

As is the case with many photography genres, if one technical aspect isn’t set correctly, the rest of them will suffer in a domino effect. For example, every lighting situation at every property will be different. If you don’t nail the lighting, the editing process will take much longer than it needs to, and you may not even leave with any usable shots.

Image Tones

Forgetting to set your white balance or color balance will have a similar effect. Your camera has an internal setting that allows you to tell it what color lighting you’re shooting in. If you set this incorrectly, or forget to set it at all, your images might once again have a strange color cast to them. You’ll be forced to (attempt to) correct this mistake in post-processing, which may or may not work. 

Split kitchen image showing cyan, magenta, and green color casts caused by incorrect lighting
Original Photo by Naomi Hebert via Unsplash

Creativity

To some, executing a creative vision is actually a very difficult part of photography. Noticing the best and most aesthetically pleasing place for a flower pot can be the difference between a good photo and a great photo. Even though the title “interior designer” isn’t specified in “real estate photographer,” it doesn’t mean that they don’t go hand in hand.

Close Corners

You’ll likely also face the challenge of photographing in a small or tight space. Generally, the best problem-solver for a cramped area is photographing from the doorway. This will be the best solution to capture more of the room.

Spaces can become cramped when there’s unnecessary clutter throughout the house. Picking up objects in a shot can be time consuming and may even be uncomfortable to do in someone else’s home. Contact the real estate agent ahead of time to ask clarification about how you are allowed to change an area while photographing.

Low Light

Another common challenge you’ll face as a real estate photographer is photographing in low light environments. This is especially common in the interior of houses with fewer windows, or in basements. If you find yourself shooting a lot of darker rooms, consider purchasing a camera with high ISO performance or lenses with wider apertures. 

You can also try using a tripod and a slower shutter speed. You might also test a speedlight flash, but make sure to position the light properly so that it doesn’t give the appearance of a camera flash in your photo.

Best Real Estate Photography Tutorials

Acquiring more information as the technology world changes will only help your photography business. Nothing will deter clients more than being behind in technological trends. Researching how to better yourself and improve your real estate photography skills will help you get more clients and produce more impressive work. 

Where Can You Find Good Real Estate Photography Tutorials?

One of the best resources to find Photoshop, photo editing and photography tutorials is Envira Gallery. Envira Gallery gives step-by-step instructions on how to break into different photography niches, edit for specific and common photo issues and improve your general photography skills. Check out more of our articles on photographing and editing real estate.

What Are the Best Real Estate Photography Tutorials for Beginners?

Starting as a beginner in commercial real estate photography may seem overwhelming, but starting on the right foot will take your business far. As a real estate photographer, having the fastest and most efficient workflow will cut down on time, which will allow you to work with more clients at a time.

After you complete a photo shoot, you’ll need to move on to editing your photos. As we mentioned before, creating or using existing presets in your editing workflow will help make your images look consistent while saving you on time. After you’ve employed a preset, you’ll likely only have small adjustments to make before you’re done. 

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are the industry-standard photo editing programs you’ll likely use to edit your images. Luckily, both of these programs have their own free and paid presets. Even if you edit in a Photoshop or Lightroom alternative program, those may also have their own versions of many popular presets. 

For more instructional help, you can visit free sites like YouTube, which has millions of tutorials for a variety of photography subjects. But, take the advice you find on YouTube with a grain of salt, and test those methods beforehand to make sure that they work for you. Anyone can create and upload a tutorial to YouTube, so choose carefully whose opinion you take.

How Much Can You Expect to Pay for Real Estate Photography Tutorials?

Surprisingly enough, Envira Gallery’s Blog is filled with hundreds of tutorials that are easy to access and completely free. YouTube’s video tutorials are also free. In today’s day, many content creators give away free tutorial content online, so you just need to know where to look for it. 

Conclusion

Anyone with a desire to learn and a passion for practice can become a real estate photographer. You only need to know how to get your hands on some starter gear and start shooting! Hopefully, this guide has given you a good starting point from which to begin your research on real estate photography. 

For more information on real estate photography, read out guide on How to Get Into Real Estate Photography. But, most importantly, get out and start photographing!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on How to Photograph Real Estate. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more photography tips and photo editing tutorials, or sign up for our email list.

Add a Comment

We're glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our privacy policy, and all links are nofollow. Do NOT use keywords in the name field. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.

[i]
[i]