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How to Make Money out of Real Estate Photography

There is a constant demand for real estate photography, and while much of the work available does not pay vast sums, there is money to be made if you’re prepared to work at it. And if you get really good, the photographers who get assignments for Architectural Digest do get well recompensed and they may well have begun their careers photographing the interiors and exteriors of houses for sale for web or print based real estate listings.

So what sort of work does real estate photography involve? The most basic form goes something like this:

  • Realtor Coldwell Banker (or any other) wants to sell a house or building.
  • They need photos of the place that make it look great, attractive, desirable.
  • They hire a photographer (you?) and tell you what they need.
  • The photographer goes to the house or building and takes a series of interior and exterior photos that show the property off at its best.
  • The photographer edits the photos to make them look just right.
  • The photographer hands the photos over to the realtor or uploads them straight to a server for posting on the web.
  • The realtor pays the photographer for the work.
  • If it’s good, then you can expect to begin over at #1, again...and again.


What do you need in order to break into real estate photography?

  • A digital SLR. Medium and wide and very wide angle lenses or zooms.
  • A tripod. You will need this in order to get adequate depth of field in low light interior situations. Also a tripod will help you photograph interiors in natural light which usually look better than using flash. Nothing like poorly used flash to destroy atmosphere.
  • A computer and Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. You need a photo editing program which allows you to remove lens distortion and correct the perspective (converging verticals are key). Often you will want to use a very wide angle lens for interiors (like a small bathroom for example). The resulting photo will have various forms of distortion which is typical of wide angle lens shots. You can correct all of this with Lightroom and Photoshop for sure. There may be other programs which will allow you to make the same corrections. This is vital for professional looking real estate photography.

You do need to be able to take high quality shots of interiors and exteriors of buildings. If you do not have these skills, they are not hard to master. You can take a course at a local community college or study from books and get some practice. You can also get jobs assisting experienced architectural photographers. Even if you start off carrying equipment and going for coffee, you will learn enough from the experience to get going under your own steam.

Selling your services is not that difficult. Contact all the realtors in town. Prepare an online or printed portfolio showing only your very best work. Check on Craigslist for jobs. Advertise your services. Do some really good assignments and word will get around. You may have to start with low paying jobs while you build up a portfolio. Patience, persistence and hard work will pay off and you will get more and better paying jobs. Then you can branch out into shooting covers for local magazines, brochures and promotional material. You will find that some realtors go beyond the photos of their listings to include attractive photos of a neighborhood, community or town for brochures or the web. This work could lead to assignments for better paying architectural magazines, Sunday papers and book publishers. And so it goes.
Find a point of entry which you feel comfortable with and work up from there.

There is money to be made in real estate photography and it can also be a stepping stone to higher paying architectural photography.
Good luck!

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David © Phillips is a professional writer and photographer living in Seattle, WA. You can find out more about him and his work at www.dcpcom.com.
Photograph(s) in this article are © David C Phillips, All Rights Reserved.

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