When you're hired to photograph real estate, you've got an important task on your hands - it's your responsibility to make the property shine so that the maximum number of potential buyers find interest in the home.
With potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line for the seller, make no mistake that real estate photography is a high-stakes and important job.
That being the case, it's necessary that you do all you can to create consistently good real estate photos.
Here are a few real estate photography tips that will help you step up your game and show homes in their best light.
Give the Homeowner or Realtor a To-Do List
The success of your real estate photos begins with preparation.
Not only do you need to do your homework about the property, create a shot list of images that need to be taken, and ensure you've got the right gear to get the job done, but the homeowner or realtor need to do a few things as well.
Primary among their tasks is to get the property market ready.
That means cleaning and decluttering the home - from making every bed to cleaning the bathrooms from top to bottom - so that the property is spotless and ready for photos.
That also means depersonalizing the home so that potential buyers can envision themselves living there. Buyers needn't get rid of every single family photo on the walls, but a concerted effort should be made to make the home as appealing to as many people as possible.
Even better, if time and budget allow, having the home professionally cleaned and staged will give you the best possible canvas for capturing the best photos.
Think About the Lighting
Natural light is a favorite for real estate photography, but it's not always possible to capitalize on natural light.
That means that you'll likely have to rely on the overhead lighting and lamps in the home for some of your photos.
There are pros and cons to having the lights on and off in real estate photography.
On the one hand, having the lights on can make the space feel warmer due to the color temperature of many light bulbs.
On the other hand, the color casts that result from light bulbs can turn the scene very orange or yellow, which necessitates adjustments to the white balance in post-processing.
Going without the lights on helps minimize shadows and can give the photos a more even look.
However, interior spaces can feel a little cold without any artificial light to warm up the space.
The decision to use the home's lighting will be one that occurs on a case-by-case (and often a room-by-room) basis. Just be consistent with what you choose, as you want the photos from throughout the home to have a look and feel that makes the collection of photos feel cohesive.
The light coming through windows in a home presents a unique challenge as well. That’s because the windows are very bright and the rest of the room can be quite dark, which can create a dynamic range that’s too wide for cameras to handle on their own. Fortunately, overcoming that challenge is a simple and straightforward process when you use specialized software with presets that are optimized for natural-looking interiors.
Use a Smart Approach to Post-Processing
The photos you take of real estate need to be an accurate reflection of what the property really is.
That means that Photoshopping out an ugly radiator or changing the color of a room's walls isn't really best practice.
Not every home you photograph will be a grand mansion - some will be well worn and downtrodden.
But that doesn't change the fact that the photos you take need to be almost photojournalistic in nature. They are intended to tell an accurate story of the home, not something that you've dreamed up in Photoshop. In other words, less is often more when editing real estate photos. Keep things natural looking!
Bracketed photos from 1/500 sec. to 1/4 sec. (f/8, ISO 400). Each exposure is exposed for a different part of the scene.
One way to maintain a natural look in real estate photos is to keep in mind how powerful the HDR technique can be for improving the quality of your interior shots.
Looking at the series of images above, you can see how some are vastly underexposed and others are vastly overexposed. But when you combine the images together, it’s well-exposed throughout.
Using this technique in which photos are merged in HDR software like Photomatix, you can create a well lit real estate interior photo that looks natural and gives potential buyers a clear view of the interior spaces of the property.
Wrapping It Up
As noted in the introduction, there's a lot riding on your ability to portray a home in its best light.
The pressure of the job aside, often the best photos are those that are simply planned out well, make use of the best lighting, and are processed in a way that looks and feels natural.
If you can check those boxes off your to-do list, you'll be well on your way to learning how to take real estate photos.