When it comes to real estate photography, nothing will have a more positive impact on your target audience than an eye-catching image or video. If you’re a photographer hoping to take your real estate or architectural photography to the next level, here are some helpful tips:
First and Foremost, Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment
A wide-angle lens is an essential tool for real estate photographers. When potential homebuyers are looking at photos online, they want the most accurate perspective. A wide-angle shot will give the viewer a better sense of depth and detail. When it comes to cropped-sensor camera bodies such as the EOS Rebel series, EOS 70D/80D and EOS 7D series, Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, and EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lenses are ideal choices for real estate photography. If you have a full-frame sensor camera such as the EOS 6D, 5D series or 1D series, consider Canon’s EF 16-35mm f/2.8L version II or III and the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lenses. All of these lenses can zoom out far enough to capture a room and make it appear spacious, without creating unrealistic proportions.
On the flip side, a wide-angle lens might not be ideal for small spaces. In fact, if you’re shooting a tiny apartment or a cramped kitchen, a wide-angle shot might result in an unflattering and distorted effect. In cases like these, a photographer must rely on his or her own creativity rather than any equipment. You might need to move about the room or rearrange some furniture until you find the best angle.
Sensor size is another factor to take into account. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the sensor, the higher the image quality. Larger sensors also perform better in indoor, low-light conditions.
Use a Tripod or Off-camera Flash to Get the Best Quality Photos
Homes tend to look their best when shot in natural light. A crystal-clear picture can be difficult to achieve without a tripod. Two key advantages for using a tripod are:
1. No camera shake from hand-holding during long exposures, which allows you to use slower shutter speeds. This enables the camera to gather all the light possible while maintaining a sharp image.
2. Now that your hands are freed up from holding the camera, you can pay more attention to the visual composition of your picture. Activating the Live View function in your camera will also help you visualize what the final image will look like.
Try Using Flash
The built-in flash on your DSLR isn't the best tool for the job, especially when you’re shooting indoors because flash can only expose a scene properly at one distance, leaving objects closer to the camera to be overexposed (too bright) and items further away to be underexposed (too dark). Off-camera wireless flash is very helpful to achieving proper exposure throughout the room you’re photographing. Balancing the ambient light in the room with the light coming in from the windows is one of the biggest challenges for a real estate photographer. Mastering this allows you to capture the views from inside the house looking out, often a major selling point. An off-camera flash will give you much more flexibility when it comes to exposure, resulting in far superior images. If you want to catch the best diffused light, bounce the flash off a surface such as a ceiling or wall, while avoiding capturing any flash equipment in the picture.
When shooting with a flash, more professional results can be achieved with Canon’s wide range of Speedlite flashes. These units are compatible with EOS DSLR cameras and most Canon cameras with a hot shoe for a flash. Advanced features such as wireless technology, an autoflash system and flash exposure lock will ensure the correct exposure and illumination with almost any subject.
Depth of Field (Foreground to Background Sharpness)
The aperture setting (lens opening) on your camera allows you to control the depth of field, in other words, how much of your picture is sharp from foreground to background. This is particularly useful if you are focusing on a specific object within a room. For example, if you want to shoot a close-up of a flower patch in the garden or a distinctive detail, like an interesting doorknob, don’t rely solely upon your focus tool. You need to use your aperture as well. To get a particular object in sharp focus while blurring the background, you should shoot with a wider aperture (one of the small f-stop numbers on your camera like f/2.8 or similar). If you’re photographing a larger space, you want to choose a smaller lens opening such as f/16 or f/22 so that the entire room is in sharp focus.
Strive for the Most Effective Composition
Take your time, walk around the room, and determine which angles are the most flattering. Try to find a spot that gives the full perspective of the space. Be sure to illustrate how each room flows into the other. Photograph the same room from as many viewpoints as possible.
When shooting interiors, one of the most difficult challenges a photographer will face is vertical edges. Whether it’s the edges and corners of windows, doorframes, or walls, the verticals must be completely straight. This issue can be avoided if you use a tilt-shift lens. These lenses are completely manual focus and are often used by architectural photographers. It’s best to make sure your camera is completely level when using a tilt-shift lens. Using a traditional lens for architectural photography is still acceptable, however, you may experience vertical edges that will either diverge or look crooked.
Built-in electronic levels inside the viewfinder also help to correct camera tilt. During handheld shooting, a camera icon will be visible at the bottom of the viewfinder, allowing you to detect and correct any tilt. The electronic level can also be displayed in the viewfinder before shooting. Using the autofocus points, the viewfinder will provide an electronic level and grid to help you achieve straight images.
Real estate photographers often disagree about shooting height, another crucial element of composition. Some advise to shoot from chest height, which is typically about midway between the floor and ceiling. Others prefer to shoot from hip height. Since there is so much debate on the subject, it’s probably better to position your camera based on the layout of the room. In a kitchen, for example, a potential homebuyer will likely be interested in the amount of countertops and cooking space. In this case, it would make sense to shoot from chest height, at a slightly higher angle, so the countertops would be in full view. A bedroom, on the other hand, contains many objects that are below hip height – beds, night stands, dressers, etc. Here, it would make more sense to shoot from just below the hip and let the contents of the room fill the frame. A real estate photographer should always attempt to avoid dead space.
Tips for Photographing a Home’s Exterior
Keep in mind the first image that a potential buyer will likely see is an exterior shot of the property. Clients will usually want the house photographed from the front and rear. Important features and amenities (decks, patios, pools, hot tubs, gardens, etc.) must also be taken into account. Your photographs should focus on the features that make the property unique and desirable.
Photographers try to schedule their shoots when the light is best. The period just after sunrise and just before sunset, known as the golden hour, tends to provide the most optimal lighting. Real estate photography is no exception. The dusk/dark technique is a style often requested by clients. All the lights are turned on in the house, and the home is photographed from the outside. This technique allows someone to see the house from an entirely different perspective than in daytime. A potential buyer can also gauge each room's light exposure more accurately.
Google Maps™ and Google Earth™ are two quick and easy ways for a photographer to determine the best time of day for shooting. You can see which direction the property is facing and gauge when the light is at its best. When photographing an exterior, avoid shooting into the sun. Instead, shoot from the same angle as the sun. Shooting on a cloudy day has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about the sun’s position. The downside is that overcast skies tend to detract from an otherwise colorful image.
Use Video to Create a More Interactive Experience for Viewers
Real estate videos are also highly effective at showcasing properties and giving viewers a true feel for what it’s like to be in the house. Most videographers’ first of rule of thumb is to always shoot wide. Close-up shots of furniture and décor are unnecessary unless these items are included in the property. Potential homebuyers want to see a clean space, one that they can easily envision empty or decorated with their own belongings.
When it comes to real estate videos, the aperture setting comes in handy once again. For a smooth, cinematic look, you want to have a shallow depth of field. A wide aperture, f/2.8 or wider, will achieve this and let in lots of natural light. An open aperture reduces in-focus areas and creates a more harmonious sense of depth and layers.
Videographers also say you should keep your real estate video under three minutes in length. Unless you’re advertising an extravagant property, anything longer than that will likely be a waste of time and money. Clients usually breeze through potential listings, and if their interest isn’t piqued within the first few seconds, they will whiz right past your content. You want to grab their attention. Be sure your video or slideshow showcases the property’s biggest selling points right at the start. A real estate video should include the property address, if possible. Some sites, including most social media networks, will allow branding while others will not. There should also be a call to action, typically at the end of the video, which tells viewers what to do if they are interested in the property, whether it’s contacting a homeowner or realtor, attending an open house, or scheduling a viewing.
A slideshow is one of the easiest and most popular mediums for showcasing a property. Most of these videos actually use photographs in a click-through, interactive format. When creating a slideshow, you want to choose your best photos, the ones that really pop. You also want to emphasize the features that will appeal to a potential homebuyer. Does the property have a pool? A fireplace? A brand new stainless steel kitchen? Be sure to highlight these assets so that your work will stand out from the competition.
The right equipment and a wide range of photography skills are essential to producing the best real estate images. Architectural photography is a competitive industry that may present some challenges to the intermediate photographer, but don’t be deterred by the technical aspects. With some extra gear and a bit of practice, you will be able to produce the highest quality images to help you excel in the real estate sector.
The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.