Does Real Estate photography seem overwhelming? Don’t worry, we have you covered!
Find a home in real estate photography!
As more people shop for homes online, a talented photographer can be a realtor’s best secret weapon. Get the spec sheet real estate photography, the growing market that you might enjoy calling home.
What is Real Estate Photography?
Real estate photography is taking flattering images of a property’s interior or exterior, usually done with the intent of making the property more attractive to potential buyers.
Good descriptions are one thing, but high-quality photos will really help a buyer form a great first impression of a property. Many realtors have found hiring a professional to handle the photography works helps the property stand out from the pack. Images shot for a realtor may be used online, in advertisements, flyers or in real estate marketing material.
The Pros and Cons of Real Estate Photography!
- A growing market. More realtors are realizing the benefits of hiring professional photographers. A smartphone photo is okay, but high-end work can help move homes.
- Less saturated market. Your market might have hundreds of photographers in it clambering for wedding and portrait work, but very few people trying to break into real estate.
- Work year round. Houses are listed and sold every month of the year, making real estate photography a steady income stream for a photog.
- Flexible schedule. Because you aren’t actually shooting clients and are working indoors for much of the time, your shooting schedule has more flexibility.
- Low-stress sessions. Houses sit still and never give you attitude, so they make great models. Many self-proclaimed introvert photographers find they enjoy real estate photography more than any other type because it is more autonomous and moves at a slower pace.
- Fast turnarounds. Realtors want houses listed and sold quickly because time really is money. Edited images may be needed more quickly than you are used to delivering, often just a few days after your shoot.
- Lack of creative expression. Real estate photography isn’t about being clever with creative angles or wowing with shallow depths of field and amazing bokeh. Your client will usually have very clear and precise expectations about the type, number, and angle of photos she needs.
- Lack of emotional connection. If you’re a portrait photographer who really vibes on the emotion of your sessions or a wildlife or landscape photographer who enjoys the natural aesthetic of your genre, you might find real estate photography a bit too impersonal or boring.
- Lack of upselling opportunity. Prices for real estate photography services are fixed. Your clients want digital files, only a certain number of images and isn’t interested in albums, magnets or a huge canvas.
- An introvert’s dream job might not be for you if you thrive on the interaction of high energy shoots or enjoy seeing your images cherished by families.
- Flash may be required. Anyone can shoot a big, open concept house with huge windows and tons of natural light and make it look beautiful. But you may need some creativity and off camera lighting skills to shoot small, dark…er, cozy bungalows or basement apartments. Knowing how to use flash to brighten a space without casting glares is a valuable skill in real estate photography.
What do Real Estate Photographers Charge?
Generally, real estate photography jobs are paid on a per property basis. You could charge a flat fee per property, a rate based on square footage, an hourly rate or some combination of the three methods. Below are a few examples. Please note these are not actual prices but are numbers I’ve used to demonstrate the method. There is no industry-wide standard or set price – you’ll need to set your prices based on your business model and market.
|A||Charges $150 for properties under 2,000 square feet and $300 for properties 2,001 square feet and above.|
|B||$100 per property.|
|C||$.10 per square foot with a $150 minimum.|
|D||$75 per half hour shooting time.|
|E||$.06 per square foot, plus an additional $75 per half hour for farms, ranches or industrial properties with extensive exterior work.|
Again, the dollar amounts used above are just placeholders. You’ll need to determine a price that reflects your skill, costs, and market. When pricing real estate photography services or specific jobs, be sure to consider the driving distance, size, and scope of the job, number of images requested, turnaround, season and the amount of post-processing that might be required.
Premium services like video or aerial images using a drone can command higher prices.
What is the best way to take real estate photos?
Like any other type of photography, quality real estate photos take practice and repetition to get right. You probably won’t knock it out of the park the first few sessions you do, so consider practicing on your own home or friends’ homes until you find a workflow and post-processing style you really like. But here are some ideas to get you started.
Tips and Tricks
Let in the light. Light makes spaces look and feel bigger, especially in a photograph. Open up doors, pull back curtains, raise the shades and let the light come down. Try turning on overhead light as well and see how that changes the feel of the room. Avoid shooting at night or on really dark, gloomy days. Most realtors want an airy, upbeat feel to their homes.
Shoot exteriors at golden hour. Sometimes using soft beautiful light is as flattering on properties as it is for portraits.
Shoot from a corner or doorway. Shooting from a corner or doorway allows you to capture more of the room and helps the room appear bigger. Don’t be afraid to shoot through a doorway, too, and see shot you prefer.
Use a tripod. Using a tripod ensures maximum sharpness and allows you to take advantage of slow shutter speeds to attain proper exposure. Make sure your VR or IS or whatever your lens manufacture calls its image stabilizing software OFF.
Move furniture and eliminate clutter to create space. Don’t be afraid to move objects to create more negative space or clean up an image. This includes furniture and clutter around a property’s exterior as well! Just be sure to clear it with the realtor and put it all back the way you found it.
Shoot from roughly eye level. The point of real estate photography is to give customers a preview of what the space looks like. Your images should represent how a client will view a space.
Some locations can include people. If you’re taking photos for a commercial or educational space, for example, it might be helpful to show the space functioning as such. Having people in the images also helps provide a sense of scale.
Edit toward light and airy. You might love a dark and moody portrait, but that might not be flattering for a residential or commercial property. Keep your edits clean and simple with true to life colors.
What Settings Should I Use for Real Estate Photos?
Start with apertures of f/7.1 to f/11 to create a moderate depth of field. This will let you get most of the room in focus from front to back without losing sharpness at the corners of your image. Stop and check your image in the back of your camera and make sure you’ve gotten the focus you want. Double check that furniture in front of and behind your focal point isn’t too soft or ghostly.
Next, set your ISO. Start with an ISO of 100, but be raising it to 400 or even 800 is acceptable. A lower ISO is always preferable to eliminate grain, but most cameras handle 400-800 ISO well andpost-processingg can help alleviate that as well.
I set my shutter speed last when determining settings for real estate photography. We want our room to feel bright and inviting, so often I need a shutter speed of 1/60 or even ¼ of a second. This is where a tripod is a critical piece of equipment. I typically spot meter off a gray card placed in my scene and then check the histogram on the back of your camera to ensure I have a correct exposure.
Use your preferred white balance method. A white balance tool, like a white balance card or Expo Disc in your shot helps you ensure your edits represent colors more true-to-life, but use any method you feel comfortable with.
Bracket your exposures.
The camera can’t quite take in the full dynamic range of an image like our eyes. To help with this you can use a technique called bracketing. This allows you to shoot a range of exposures, from underexposed to overexposed and then combine those exposures in post-production to create an image more indicative of how a house hunter might see it.
What lenses are good for real estate photography?
Forget bokeh and compression – for real estate shots, you’ll want a wide angle lens that is sharp and reliable.
For crop-sensor bodies, lens choices would include:
- Canon 11-24mm f/4 or 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6
- Nikon 10-24mm
- Tokina 12-28 mm f/4
- Tamron 12-24 mm f/3.5-4.5
For full-frame bodies, look at:
- Tamron 15-30 mm f/2.8
- Nikon 16-35mm f/4
- Canon 16-35 mm f/4
- Tokina 17-35 mm f/4
- Sigma 18-35 mm ART f/1.8
Finally, stay away from fish-eye lenses. Yes, it can make a small room look incredibly spacious, but a fish-eye lens also causes unrealistic proportions and expectations.
If you find that real estate photography is becoming a large portion of your business and it’s something you really enjoy, then it’s probably time to invest in specialized equipment like a tilt-shift lens. Tilt-shift lenses help you alter the perspective of your lens, obtain straight vertical lines and solve the problem of convergence in wide angle lenses. A tilt-shift lens essentially lets you control the angle of the lens so you can fit an entire room into your image, without any distortion. But these specialized lenses come with a pretty hefty price tag, so you’ll want to make sure real estate photography is something you are going to stick with before making the investment.
Real estate photography can be a thriving business in some markets or a means of supplementing your income in slow portrait photography months. It can also an excellent way to make new contacts in your market. After practice and experimentation, consider adding it as a service to your business. You might just unlock the door to your future passion!