The 14 Things You Need To Know About Real Estate Photography

Photo by Hugo Sousa

The business of real estate photography is an effective way to entice and provoke interest for potential buyers to purchase their next home or property. This photographic niche has been growing over the last decade, as more realtors and management companies seek high quality, professional imagery to market their available homes and buildings.

As a photographer, you can break into the real estate photography business in several ways including working consistently for a specific agent, freelancing for a real-estate photography company on a by project basis, or building your own business and creating partnerships with agencies and firms within your area.

Whether you decide to become a full – time real estate photographer, casually freelance in the sector or are looking to add exterior/interior architecture content to your existing body of work – there are aspects of the industry and process that you will need to consider. Here is our list of 14 things you need to know to get started in real estate photography.

The Gear You Use Matters

Photographing real estate images calls for a specific classification of professional gear to help you create the most interactive and realistic setup.

When considering which kind of camera to use for real estate, it is most often recommended that full frame cameras will help you to capture high quality and professional imagery. While megapixels and various specifications are important, the full frame sensor is necessary for the varying conditions of interior and exterior shooting. Although a full frame camera is our recommendation, you can still create professional level images using a cropped sensor body. Just remember that a cropped sensor will require a different focal length of the lens in contrast to those used on full frame bodies.

Once you have chosen your body, you will need to pair it with a wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses are vital in interior and exterior real estate photography because they create the most realistic depiction of the scene as viewed by the human eye. You will want to capture images that recreate an individual’s perspective, therefore allowing them to view the slides as if they are physically walking through the property. Examples of effective lenses for real estate photography are the 16-35mm build or even the 17-40mm option. These wide angle zoom options give you the opportunity to create a full framed view of a space without creating heavy, unrealistic distortions.

Use a Tripod

In addition to your full frame body and wide angle lens, serious real estate photographers should be shooting their images with the use of tripod.

A tripod is an effective tool for creating detailed and sharp real estate images. Using a tripod allows you to rest your camera and securely lock it into place. While on the tripod, you can utilize slow shutter speeds without worrying about blur or camera shake. Additionally, using a tripod allows you to properly compose the photograph in symmetric and geometric fashion.

Adjust Your Aperture for Maximum Sharpness

When using your wide angle lens to photograph a room, you will need to pay attention to your aperture settings and adjust based on the lighting conditions of your scene. When you photograph a space with a wide open aperture, allowing for more light to reach the sensor, at an f-stop around 2.2 for example – you will create crisp images where your foreground object is in sharp focus and your background is softer with less detail. This technique is best used when creating any type of detail shot or scenario where you want one object to be in distinctive focus.

Although you may instill this technique in various situations, the majority of your real estate imagery will be shot at a smaller, closed aperture. For example, an aperture that will be able to capture the entirety of the room in focus and with maximum sharpness would hover around f/16. In this case, you will need to adjust your shutter speed and ISO to compensate for the closed aperture value.

Your main concern when determining the proper settings for your real estate images is to establish values that will create crisp, detailed and in focus photographs. Avoid trying to create more artistic and visually appealing effects such as bokeh and background blur. An interested buyer wants to be able to search images that are realistic and comparable to that seen with the human eye. Remember that photographing real estate is less about artistic and creative technique and more about your target audience, compositional intention and selling purpose.  

Exterior Imagery is the Starting Point for Selling a Property

Photo by Jesse Roberts

The first image that an interested buyer will see is the exterior of the home or property they are interested in purchasing. This emphasis on the first initial look, means that your exterior shots of the property must be captivating, well illuminated and draw the viewer in with intrigue. In order to create a stunning exterior image, you will need to consider several aspects.

When photographing the exterior of a property, choose a suitable time of day with flattering light. This will most likely be in the early morning after sunrise, but before the harsh light of mid-afternoon. Additionally, when photographing a property you need to take note of any distracting elements and try to remove them prior to your shooting. For example, it may best to consult with the realtor about cleaning up the yard, adding a fresh coat of paint or pressure washing the driveway to make the property pop and stand out to interested buyers.

In some scenarios, you can utilize the workings of Photoshop to make small adjustments to your images. Do not use this software to heavily alter the appearance of the property or create unrealistic elements within the landscape. Instead, you can fix distracting points such as unflattering window reflections or even harsh light glares. You should aim to create your highest level of quality exterior imagery, remembering that a future homeowner will view this scene first before ever stepping inside the house.

Choose the Proper Lighting and Time of Day

As previously noted above, choosing the proper lighting and time of day is necessary to create your most stunningly captivating real estate images. When we talk about lighting, we want to cover both bases of interior and exterior lighting sources.

For exterior lighting and time of day, you have two options that will result in alluring imagery – during the early morning right after sunrise or the hours right before sunset. Both pockets of time are known as the golden hours and will produce a soft, flattering light to your subject. Although you can also choose to photograph your property during the middle of the day, it is best to prepare yourself for the potential of any harsh glares, reflections or unappealing sun spots.

The time of day you choose to photograph the property will also have an effect on the interior lighting conditions of the home. When photographing interior spaces, it is ideal to have the ability to turn off any form of fluorescent or tungsten lighting. Instead of using artificial light, you can choose to work with the natural light that will peer in through the windows. This method can only be used during the hours of bright sunlight and may have to be adjusted depending on the location and placement of the sun.

One point that may seem of concern when photographing during the day is the potential of the windows in your images being blown out or overexposed. Although this may cause some frustration with ever changing lighting conditions, it is very common for real estate and interior photographs to have windows that are not properly reflective of the outside landscape. Focus more on the interior shots you create and when in doubt, post production editing can aid in bringing detail back into the property’s windows.

Whether you choose to use natural, artificial or a mixture of both lighting sources – remember to choose a time of day with plenty of soft, natural light for optimal shooting conditions.

You Should Cover All Interior Bases

The best way to begin photographing the interior of a home is to survey the number of rooms and spaces available within the property. For an in-depth interior look at a property, you will be tasked with creating images for each room with potentially different compositions and viewpoints.

To make this process seamless, consider creating a checklist of all interior spaces you will need to photograph including the bedrooms, bathrooms, common areas, dining, kitchen, backyard and even the garage. Depending on the size of each space will determine how many shots you should compose of each room.   

Make sure that certain rooms such as the kitchen, living room and master bedroom are photographed with varying perspectives and viewpoints. These rooms are considered high priority for potential buyers, so you want to deliver an all-encompassing outlook and visual variety.

Remember to Adjust Your Height and Perspective

Photo by Aaron Huber

For most traditional real estate images, photographers aim to create work with a horizontal perspective. Using this specific set of orientation allows the photographer to capture the entirety of a space for the viewer. While maintaining a consistent style and array is important, you can adjust other visual elements to add dimension and diversity to your set of images.

By adjusting values such as height and perspective, you can give the viewer a varied look at the interior from complementing and contrasting viewpoints. A prime example of how you can change your height and perspective is during the process of photographing a space with multiple levels. You can start by capturing the bottom floor from a standard viewpoint and slowly make your way up to the additional floors, photographing the same space but with an overhead, bird’s eye viewpoint. These small and simple changes in perspective will allow a buyer to envision the entirety of a space through an array of various perspectives.    

Adjust Color Balance for Interior Lighting

While shooting interior spaces you will be faced with the complications of properly controlling a mixture of ambient and artificial lighting sources. Due to the fact that you will be most likely photographing an interior space with fluorescent or tungsten lighting sources as well as any natural light peering in through the windows from the outside – your lighting elements will be varied and sporadic.

In order to control your fluctuations in lighting, you may consider bringing a grey card to establish color balance within your camera. A grey card gives you the ability to individually set your own white balance and manually capture images that are free of varying color schemes. It is recommended that you use a grey card over adjusting the white balance settings in your camera to a preset option. Although these can be useful, these settings do not necessarily take into account multiple levels of lighting from both the exterior and interior.

Use Prop Styling and Design to Set the Scene

Photo by Jason Briscoe

Real estate photography is not only about snapping pictures to sell a home, but rather it is used a tool to formulate and create a story for the potential buyer. As a real estate photographer, you want to create a set of images that allows the buyer to envision themselves within that home and building their life there.

In order to set the scene and fully deliver to your client, you should consider using prop styling and design elements to add character and creativity to the space. In some cases, homeowners have already done a substantial amount of styling and prepping in order to increase the chance of their home selling. Yet, on the other hand, some homeowners may have already moved out or left the bare minimum behind.

If you feel that there is a necessary element missing from your property, feel free to add small props and details that can give the space that homey and personalized touch. Small additions such as flowers on the kitchen table, books on the shelves or even picture frames hung on the wall can give a buyer the vision they need to consider this space their future home.

Add Color to Each Room

Depending on the interior design and decoration of the home you are photographing, you may find that some areas need a bit more life and excitement to draw attention. The use of color creates both emotional and psychological stimulation for the human brain – with each color representing and evoking different feelings for the viewer.

As a real estate photographer, it is your job to create images that will effectively sell a house or property. In order to do this, you must appeal to the humanity and psychology of interested buyers by enticing and drawing them in with strong color associations.

For example, the color orange is used to represent freshness and youth, while the color yellow is used to display optimism, cheerfulness and happiness. By adding these two colors to a room, let’s say in the form of a bouquet of flowers, you will draw the eye of the viewer to the pop of color, creating an overall subconscious sense of contentment and happiness that makes this house, a true home.

Move Furniture if Needed

As an interior photographer, you will need to learn how to inspect and survey a space prior to creating your images. If you are setting up to compose an image, note any elements that may be distracting or unnecessary to your scene. In order to capture the space properly, feel free to move around furniture to create the shot.

In some cases, furniture can be placed in a manner that consumes the space rather than complimenting it. Making changes such as pushing a couch up against a wall, moving a bookshelf or reorganizing a coffee table arrangement can quickly transform the look and vision of an interior. If faced with a crowded or ineffective use of external elements, be proactive and move furniture or any household items as you see fit.

Consider Adding an Element of Video

Within the last few years, the inclusion of video production has grown to accompany the still images of real estate photography. Including the element of moving visuals can add an extra dimension to the showcasing of a property and develop an overall more interactive experience for the viewer.

Whether you learn how to create 3D representations or short, cinematic films, you will want to maintain the same wide angle perspective as your property images. Be sure to create a video with layers, depth and variety to keep the viewer engaged and interested in the comprehensive view of the property. Understanding how to create the perfect real estate video can be a great way for you to expand your portfolio and competencies in this medium. Not to mention that depending on your client, a real estate video can sometimes result in two to three times more financial compensation than the still life images.  

Continue to Build Your Portfolio

Photo by Aaron Huber

Once you have successfully photographed several homes and properties, it is important to keep building your portfolio. A real estate photographer has multiple options for creating and marketing their work. The simplest and most effective way to share your book and use it to land more work is to create a website.

You will want to choose a platform that is highly visual, where you can easily display your images for potential clients to see and review. In addition to creating a strong online presence, you can choose to use social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram to further showcase your images.

Once you have photographed a few homes and properties, it becomes increasingly easier to book more jobs and offers with your established portfolio. Out of all of the professional photography markets, real estate is highly accessible and pretty simple to integrate into once you have a set image base. As long as you have examples of your work and can deliver a final product with a quick turnaround time – you could be shooting multiple properties in little to no time.

Compensation for Real Estate Photography

Our last topic on the world of real estate photograph deals with how much money you can make pursuing a career in this niche. You may be curious as to the pricing and compensation a photographer receives for photographing a real estate property and in truth, prices vary depending on the client, agency or real estate broker you are working with.

After referencing several sources, it is evident that the amount offered per photo session differs by state. For example, in New York, the range for a standard photo session ranges from $175 to $299. In California, the same package has an interval from $275 to $400. And in the state of Texas, 10 images can be sold for $95 and up to 32 images for $170. If you are a drone photographer, there is a small boost in price for this kind of work and in some instances can even reach prices close to $5000.  

Lastly, if you are creating video content for real estate properties, you can expect your compensation to start around $1000 per video. While those creating 3D simulations can make around $500 per home.

Real estate photography is an architectural niche that combines image creativity and the art of selling into one successful industry.

The demand for high quality real estate photography by brokers, realtors and agencies has never been higher, allowing more photographers to experiment and test their skills in this field. When creating either still photographs or video imagery for properties, it is important to choose your gear wisely, understand how to create sharp images, balance light, set the scene and create a welcoming, homey atmosphere for the potential buyer.


Are you a real estate photographer or looking to start your career in the industry? Do you have any insight or tips for creating quality real estate images? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.