• Travis Brant

How to: Real Estate Photography


Unfurnished vaulted living room, dining room, and kitchen apartment.
Drop it low, girl!

Never underestimate the power of a good real estate photo set! Today, especially since COVID-19, shoppers are online pixel peeping and spying. Having high-quality photos or photospheres is what you need to stand out in a crowded market flooded with point-and-shoot photos with dark corners. Let's break down how to take good real estate photos.


Equipment


Camera


You don't need to spend thousands on a camera. With proper lighting and composition, you can get away with the camera you're holding your hand: your cellphone. There are limitations, however, with cellphone photography. The biggest limiting factor is dynamic range. You'll want to invest in at least a crop sensor mirrorless camera. My camera of choice is the Sony A7RIV because of its full-frame sensor and high dynamic range, even in dark rooms.


Lens


You'll want to pick up a lens with a variable focal length. I recommend something that has a range between 12 mm to 24 mm with an F stop of 2.0. You can use a higher F stop lens, but you may struggle in low light conditions. I also like using a 24 mm to 70 mm lens as well for larger spaces or detail shots.


Tripod


If you are shooting HDR images, you'll want a tripod. This way, you don't have to worry about ghosting when you stitch your images together. Tripods are also handy in rooms with low light.


Flash


Flash is helpful for sharp images but should be avoided if you are taking HDR images. You'll also want to add diffusion to your flash and watch for reflections and blowouts. I avoid using flash, but everyone has their preferences.


Setting Up


If possible, have your home or apartment staged. Furniture and decor help the buyer see what possibilities there for the space and provide scale. Another focus is to have the space as clean as possible. Every spec of dust will show. I find myself carrying a microfiber cloth with me on shoots to wipe down surfaces. Mirrors need to be spotless. If your floors are glossy, make sure they are polished. I usually take my shoes off before I enter a space so no dirt is brought in and carpeted floors retain their vacuum lines.


The Shoot


Timing


Scout the property. Figure out the angles and shots you want to capture. You'll also want to consider the time of day for the shots you want to capture. Avoid taking photos at noon and observe your golden hours. If you have a house with east-facing windows, shoot in the morning. West-facing windows, shoot in the evening. Exterior shots should be taken when the "face" of the building is basking in the warm glow of golden hour. You can also do afternoon shots, which work fine if you don't have the time to take evening shots. Consider sky replacement in Photoshop.


Yellow condo building with green shutters, autumn trees, and grey cloudy sky
Edited photo, but I didn't like the grey sky.


Yellow condo building with green shutters, autumn trees, blue sky, and wispy clouds
The sky replacement really took this photo to the next level.

Golden sunset on a large glass building and it's promenade
Golden hour for exterior shots add a little extra spice to exterior shots.

Angles


Shoot low and wide. This makes a space feel larger and captures the entire room in one frame. You can always punch in with a narrower focal length to get details, but buyers want to see a macro view of the space first. Don't be afraid to switch between landscape and portrait orientations in your photos, particularly if you have a grand entry to capture.



HDR image of a furnished living room.
HDR and low angled images capture both shadows and size.


Leading lines


What is the subject of your photo and how can you guide the eye to the subject? Leading lines are your friend. Using the rule of thirds, place our subject on your guidelines and angle your camera with parallel lines to the subject for that extra pop.



Long carpeted hallway flanked by red doors.
The client wanted to highlight new lighting installed in the hallway. Notice how the leading lines guide the eye down the hallway?

Editing


Edit your photos to remove as many shadows while also limiting blowouts in your highlights. I will typically blow out windows to properly light a room, which is my subject. If I want to capture what's outside of windows, I'll use HDR to get the complete range of highs and lows. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. This is where the artist comes in. Just have backup shots and be ready for the client to either say they love it or absolutely hate it!



Indoor pool with water vapor lifting off the surface of the water.
This image is moodier than a teenager! Creates visual interest, but doesn't actually show the room.

Indoor pool room flanked with floor to ceiling windows
Well exposed room with blown out windows. I wanted to hide the dirty windows and external clutter.

Conclusion

Real estate photography seems daunting, but with patience and practice you can come up with some impressive shots that will wow your buyers or clients. Practice in your own home! Share on social media and get feedback. Over time, you'll develop your own style and have some fun along the way!

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