Real estate photography tips: how to take pictures for a house listing

by Corben Grant on 18 Nov 2021

In today's world more than ever, real estate photography is one of the skills that every real estate agent should have a basic grasp on. You can be selling the most fabulous-looking home in the world, but if your real estate photos are poor, you won't draw a lot of potential buyers. Think of listing photography as a movie trailer. It needs to represent the product on offer, but it also needs to impress the audience and get them in the door.

Another fact about the modern world is that real estate photography is easier than ever to get into. In fact, most people these days have a fairly capable camera with them at all times. But, just having the camera isn't enough to take great real estate photos. You also need to understand a bit more about the process of composing, shooting, and editing photos.

Even if you have a professional photographer who handles your real estate photos for you, it’s still important to know a bit about how they do their work. It will help you communicate your requirements to them, help you stage and set up the home in a way that is appealing for photos in the first place, and it can help you understand potential buyers' expectations once they arrive for a showing.

In this article, we will walk you through some of the processes of taking pictures for a real estate listing.

Gear for real estate photography

Of course, the most basic thing you will need is a camera. These days, there are numerous options for near-professional level cameras at consumer prices. There is no need to buy the most expensive camera on the market, but be sure to look for something that takes high-quality photos and is comfortable to use.

Also, consider an option with interchangeable lenses as this will give you a lot of flexibility when it comes time to shoot.

You may be tempted to use your phone and this isn't a bad beginner option. If you have a more modern or high-end phone, the chances are the camera on it will be pretty decent. However, phone cameras can struggle in less ideal shooting conditions. It may be worth getting accessories for your phone such as attachable lenses or a tripod mount.

Don't forget the accessories

There are a few extra things that will make your photography experience much better. These include:

  • Lighting: Cameras need ideal light for the best photos, so it is helpful to have a portable photography light when the situation calls for it.
  • Lenses: Your lens can play a big role in your photography. It's helpful to have multiple choices of lenses for different scenarios.
  • A tripod or stabilizer: You may think that you can hold your camera steady, but there are times you will really benefit from a tripod. Also, consider a Gimbal or Steadicam if you plan on shooting lots of videos.
  • A camera bag: Your camera will be of no use to you if it is lost or broken, so a high-quality camera bag is a must-have.
  • A backup drive: Photos can be large files, especially if you are taking hundreds on a regular basis. A backup drive can help you from losing your photos and help you keep you organized.

Preparing the house before you shoot real estate photos

What is in front of the camera is even more important than your camera itself so make sure to set yourself up for success. Just like staging before a showing, you should set up the rooms of the house before you photograph them. The way you set up a house for staging and the way you set up a house for photography may not be exactly the same.

Setting up the room

Before you take real estate photos you should do the following:

  • Clean all rooms thoroughly
  • Put away any clutter or unnecessary items
  • Put away any potentially identifiable items for the homeowner. These photos will likely be shared online and it is important to respect their privacy
  • Open blinds to let in as much light as possible and consider removing window screens for a cleaner look
  • Replace any burnt-out light bulbs and turn on all of the interior lights
  • Make beds, align pillows, hang fresh towels, and other common staging practices

Shooting your photos

You've got your gear, and you've got your home set up, now it's time to start taking photos. Here are some things to pay attention to:

Camera settings

Make sure your camera is set to take high-quality photos as this shows more detail and gives you more choices for editing. If you aren't well versed in photography terms, choose auto mode over manual mode.

Lighting

Try to take photos sometime in the daytime so you can make the most of natural light. This will also allow you to get exterior photos of the home. Open windows to let in natural light, but if direct sunlight is coming in, consider closing them as this can throw off your photo's exposure.

Try different lighting setups until you find the perfect one. Different lights can make a space feel warmer or cooler, so consider what look you're going for. It’s generally recommended to avoid using the camera flash as it creates an unnatural look to the lighting of a photo.

Use a wide-angle lens

One of the biggest keys to getting that real estate photography look is to use what is called a wide-angle lens. Wide-angles are not only wider, but it also accentuates the depth between foreground and background, making the room look more open and spacious.

Every lens has a different focal length, and essentially the smaller the number the wider area the lenses can capture. For general use, anything from 25-50mm is a perfectly suitable range. For close-up shots and exteriors, you may want a higher focal length lens. For tighter spaces, you may want to consider a lens below 25 mm.

Try multiple angles

For each room, you need to consider the best angle to photograph them from. There are almost infinite combinations of camera position, angle, height, and zoom level from which you can capture photos. Each room will be different but there are some general tips to follow.

The first and most important thing is to capture as much of the room as possible, meaning you should shoot from a corner for example. Also, try to highlight any eye-catching or appealing features prominently in the photo. If the living room has large elegant windows, for example, you should shoot from the opposite side of the room to show these off.

Also, make sure you shoot straight and the vertical lines of the walls are actually vertical. It is subtle but it will make your photos much better.

Don't feel like you need to take only one perfect photo. It's better if you take many different photos and you can select the best later on.

Video, aerial, and 360 degrees photography

These days the options for listing photography goes beyond plain still photos, and now include videography or 360 degrees (sometimes called 3D) photography. For these types of photography, the lighting and staging will be similar to traditional photography.

Video

Before taking a showing video, make sure you have a route around the building planned. Try to end your video on the most visually impressive part of the home. Finally, cover as much as possible, but keep the video short. You do not need an hour-long tour video. That's what showings are for!

360-degree photography

360-degree photos are the hot new technology and they can give a much better sense of space than flat photography. For the best results, they usually require a special camera and specialized software. Unless you are very technologically inclined, we recommend leaving this to a professional.

Aerial photography

Another newer type of photography is aerial photography with drones. These photos are some of the most unique and eye-catching real estate images. Again, you will likely need specialized and expensive gear, plus you need to learn how to fly a drone, so consider hiring a professional.

Editing

You may think that photographers get awesome photos right from the camera, but there is a lot of work that goes into editing real estate listing photos as well. For a beginner, less is more. Do not try to add all sorts of distracting artistic effects. Editing should consist of simple tweaks like cropping, lighting, or colour correction.

When to hire a professional real estate photographer

If you feel like you don’t have time to learn all of this yourself, hiring a professional is a totally valid option. There are many skilled photographers out there who specialize in real estate photography and can help you take the very best listing photos.

This is a good option if you don't have time to learn all the skills of photography or to actually shoot and edit the listing photos yourself. A pro can also give you access to professional photography equipment for only the price of a session. They also have a highly trained eye for what to highlight and how to best show it off and will easily produce very professional photos. Now all you have to do is focus on your clients and help them sell their home so they can move on to their next journey.

Conclusion

The best real estate photos can make all the difference in impressing buyers and selling your home fast. Keep these tips in mind and you will be taking stunning real estate listing photos in no time!

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