Real Estate Photography Tips

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Real estate photography involves taking photos of properties, and making them look their best, in order to sell the property. It is particularly important for more expensive homes, where the high selling price of the home can justify spending more time (and money) on getting the best shots possible.

When photographing real estate, make sure that the property is clean and in pristine condition. It should also be furnished nicely. If cost allows, then a professional property staging company can be used. This ensures that the property looks at its very best for your photos.

Dining Room with Recycled Wood Ceiling
Dining Room with Recycled Wood Ceiling by Jeremy Levine Design on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

If you are trying to build up a portfolio for real estate photography work, try contacting the sales offices for nearby new builds. You can ask to shoot the show home, which will be professionally staged and give you a good chance to get some great real estate photos.

Use a wide lens

Use a wide angle lens to get as much in as possible. Using a wide angle lens can also make a room look larger and spacier. Mount the camera on a tripod, and try to position the camera so that straight vertical lines appear as straight vertical lines in the finished image.

LIving Room
LIving Room by Jeremy Levine Design on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

In some situations you may need to use a Tilt/Shift lens to correct for converging verticals. Otherwise, if you do find you have images with converging verticals, you can correct this using perspective correction in Photoshop.

Use a small aperture e.g. f/11 and set your focus about one third of the way into the scene. This ensures as much of the room as possible will be in focus.

Nearly all lenses have distortion, but some are worse than others. If your lens has bad distortion, it can make straight lines appear bowed. This will need to be fixed using the Lens corrections available in Photoshop, or Lens correction software such as PTLens.

Show the full view with 360° panoramas

Mansion in Fountain Grove, California
Mansion in Fountain Grove, California by Bob Dass on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

360° panoramas are a good way of showing off real estate on the web. These can be taken with what is known as a "1 shot lens". This is basically a parabolic mirror that mounts on top of your camera's lens, and reflects a 360° image. These one shots solutions are only used for low end real estate as the image quality is not very high.

Panoramas can also be taken using a panoramic head fitted to a tripod. You mount the camera on the panoramic head, then rotate the head, taking shots at regular increments, with some overlap between each image. Then the shots can be stitched together into a single image on the computer. This is quite time consuming, and so 360° panoramas taken like this tend to be reserved for more expensive real estate.

Lighting for Real Estate photography

The lighting for real estate is both very important, and very tricky to get right. The main problem is that there can be a large difference in brightness between the well lit areas of a room (e.g. the windows) and the darker areas of the room. There are two differing solutions to deal with this.

One solution is to shoot bracketed exposures. This ensures that you capture detail in both the highlights and the shadow areas. Then you can use HDR processing or a similar technique to blend the exposures into a single well lit image.

Great Kitchen in HDR real estate photograph
Great Kitchen in HDR by on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

The other solution is to use artificial lighting. Normally this would be in the form of speedlights (hot shoe flash units). These are small, and don't require mains power (no wires), so they can usually be hidden behind pieces of furniture and kept out of the shot. A radio trigger is often used to fire the flashes from the camera. Normally the exact positioning and power of the flash units needed will take a bit of experimentation before you get it right.

Great photos have become particularly important in today's world where people are more likely to search online for a home than visit an estate agent. The photos need to grab the viewer's attention and make them want to find out more. The tips above should provide a good starting point for real estate photography. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out the website, which contains numerous articles and discussion on the subject.

Written by Discover Digital Photography

May 6th, 2012 at 10:24 am

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