Years ago, we got into photography to shoot events. The fact that the field of real estate photography existed was an unknown factor for us. Of course we saw beautiful pictures of homes on magazines and flyers, but we never really connected the dots. That was until a realtor friend of ours brought it to our attention. That’s a photography field too??! We asked. Oh yes, and a great one too if you’re obsessed with architecture like we are.
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We immediately started looking into the field and researching other real estate photographers whose work really inspired us. We learned a lot from other photographers and adjusted our photography mindset towards real estate and architectural photography. But, as the corny saying goes, experience was the best teacher. From the mistakes we made, to the best solutions we found, here are our Top 10 real estate photography tips that anybody getting into real estate photography might need.
Opps, there’s your camera, on the floor
Handheld? NO! Hell no! Architectural photography needs to be done on a tripod with a great tripod head that will keep your photos straight and steady. On top of that, make sure you get a great, sturdy tripod. This is not a place to skimp. Our first tripod was a cheaper one we got around $300 (yes, that’s considered cheap for this field). After few months of daily shoots, it started to die on us. One day, we left our camera on it for a quick second to go adjust something and the next second, our camera was on the floor, lense broken. Trust us, a great tripod that’s light, easy to maneuver, and sturdy is worth the cost in gold. It’s something you’ll be using as much as you use your camera. Invest in it.
Not too narrow, not too wide
It’s basic knowledge that you need a wide angle lense for most real estate and architectural photography. What’s not basic is exactly which range of wide angle lense works best. Considering anything below 35mm is considered a wide angle lense, there are a lot of options out there. We started out shooting with a 10-18mm lense but use a 16-28mm now (with our full frame camera). We find 16-24mm to be the perfect range. Go below 16mm and it will be too wide and distorted. Go above 24mm and the shot will be too narrow to show off the rooms.
You break something and you owe them your first born
When we started out, we didn’t quite have insurance figured out. We moved around homes with fingers crossed that we won’t accidentally push a billion dollar vase off the million dollar coffee table. Save yourself the extra worry and get liability insurance. Still be careful not break something, but if you do, you’re covered.
Where you running when you shot these photos?
When you get to a property, first thing you should do is walk around and explore the property. Look at the rooms from different angles, check out the light sources, and start to get the feel for house. Rush through the photo session and your photos will show it. Take your time to find the best angles and your best lighting. If you’re shooting for real estate, we know how rushed those jobs can be. But, if you want a good quality result, you have to set your standards for how long you will take at shoots. If you’re worried the agents will rush you, let them know ahead of time how long you will expect to take. If you’re worried you won’t make any profit if you take your time to shoot, then re-examine your price sheet and make the necessary adjustment so you won’t compromise quality.
Is that an adult toy in the corner??
Before we get to the adult toy, let’s make one thing clear: it is not the photographer’s job to clean up the house or de-clutter. It is not the photographer’s job to stage the house. With that being said, the photographer can and should suggest that homes be cleaned and de-cluttered before a photo shoot. We’ve shown up to homes that made us hate our lives because we literally had to step over pile of clothes on the floor and keep shooting because the agent needed the photos ASAP. And then there was that house with an adult toy just left out amongst the mess. In some instances, be flexible enough to move some clutter out of the way if you have the permission. It will just make your photos better and your life easier.
Mirror, Mirror, Is that a photographer?
Sometimes, bathrooms are the toughest rooms to photograph because there are mirrors everywhere! But that’s not the only room bound to trap your reflection. Decorative mirrors, windows, and appliances are all possible traps. We have gotten into the habit of automatically scanning for anything that causes reflection and avoiding it as much as possible. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, and we have to go into Photoshop and take reflections out while post-processing.
Can I book you for 5:12PM?
Does your home look so amazing in the morning and look kinda scary in the afternoon or vise versa? The lighting in homes varies throughout the day depending on which direction the home faces (East, West, North, South). If you get a chance to pick the times you can shoot, ask the client which direction the property faces or look it up. If you’re shooting for real estate, you might not have much freedom to pick the times as most agents will just book you whatever time works best for them or the homeowners if it’s occupied. But keep in mind shooting at the ideal time will deliver much better results for you, so utilize that as much as you can. Here is more detail on what time is best to shoot: http://www.frankschrader.us/2015/10/best-time-of-day-for-real-estate-architectural-photos/ --- We use a app called LightTrac to see where the sun will be at a certain time.
On camera flash? Really?
😐 HDR has become a popular way to shoot for real estate and it delivers pretty decent results in most cases. However, after we discovered off camera flashes that worked well for us for affordable prices, we never looked back! The main point there? Off-camera flashes. If you show up to a real estate or architectural shoot with your flash on the camera, you should get fired on the spot. That’s unless you have figured out some type of miraculous flash that evenly lights up the whole room (think long, narrow kitchens, wide living rooms, open floor plans) from your camera. But if you haven’t there is no reason to be using on camera flash. Put your flash on stands, get you some remote flash triggers from yongnuo and move them around to where you find they give you the best lighting. ( usually behind you )
The chair stole your angle?
Once upon a time, we showed up to a shoot and photographed the property exactly as it was. There was this really great angle but one small chair was in our way? Oh well, if only we could move the chair out of the way. Oh wait, we can? Yes, we can and so can you. If you need to get in one corner but a couch is your way? Move the couch and get in that corner! This is a lesson we learned recently. Things can be moved around in order to capture amazing angles. Most clients don’t care if you do that as long as things are returned back in place.
The Picture above shows this evil chair in the way of my reverse angle.
SO I MOVED IT .. to get everything in the shot.
Cats and dogs make the shoot better!
Our last and favorite tip, if you’re gonna do this, it helps if you love pets. We’ve run into dogs that refused to leave our side, cats we had to keep chasing out of our shots, dogs that barked in the backyard the whole time we were shooting, cats chased their balls back and forth. Other pets are very rare. We absolutely love it because we absolutely love cats and dogs. You’ll have more fun if you do too.
Share your DUH! Real Estate Photography tips with us, we would love to hear what experience have taught you.