This article is part of a larger series on Real Estate Lead Generation and Marketing.
Using high-quality photos in real estate listings is one of the most powerful ways to attract more leads and drive sales. Real estate photography requires thoughtful composition, staging and preparation, the right camera settings, proper equipment, and ample lighting. It’s an art that goes beyond making a few clicks on your smartphone. We compiled effective real estate photography tips, showing you how to present the best views of every property either by doing it yourself or hiring a professional.
Pro tip: While any agent can learn real estate photography with some time and effort, many choose to outsource the job by hiring a professional. To get a general idea of the cost of using a professional service and the best ways to find the right photographer, check out this real estate photography pricing guide.
Start improving your photography by following these 11 proven real estate photography tips:
1. Compose Each Photo Mindfully
The composition of real estate photography is more important than in any other type of photography. Composition essentially means the right positioning. Changing the angle of your camera by just a few feet can completely change the quality of the photo.
In order to fit the room into the photo, it’s best to take photos from the corners of the room. However, it’s important to identify some of the most important rooms or features in the home and try taking photos from a variety of angles. For example, taking head-on shots of key home features like fireplaces or the primary bed can be impactful.
Another example of the importance of composition involves light sources. In the photo above, the first image feels particularly dark because its angle creates harsh shadows. In the second example, the photographer captures the brightest side of the room. In addition, this angle captures the large doorway into the next room and a beautiful staircase—making the entire room feel larger and more luxurious.
Pro tip: Take note of the natural lines of a home and take steps to keep them straight in your photo. For example, unintentionally turning your camera just a few degrees can make an entire room feel crooked. You can straighten the composition by using a wide-angle lens and a tripod.
2. Use the Right Camera Settings
Even the best camera in the industry isn’t going to automatically take high-quality pictures. In order to use your photography equipment to the best of your ability, you need to get familiar with the settings and learn how to capture the right amount of lighting and clarity in your photos.
As a general rule, the three camera settings you need to get the most familiar with are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Follow these general guidelines for each:
- Keep aperture (opening of the lens) between f/7.1 and f/9
- Shutter speed (length of time allowed to capture the photo) should stay between 1/60 and ½ a second
- Keep ISO (camera’s sensitivity to light) under 400
3. Plan Around the Weather & Natural Light
Lighting is one of the most important elements of all kinds of photography—drastically impacting the photos of a real estate listing. The best real estate photos have plenty of natural light, so schedule your photo shoot accordingly. The best time of day for natural lighting is often about half an hour before sunset or early in the morning.
In addition, weather conditions can make or break your real estate photos. Wind, rain, snow, or fog should be taken very seriously because they impact the light inside the home. If you live in a location that is frequently rainy or cloudy, investing in studio lights may be your best option.
Pro tip: Although interior photos should be taken with plenty of natural light, try taking exterior photos at twilight. This is a trick recommended by many top real estate photographers to help balance the home’s lights with the sky’s lights.
4. Prepare Each Room for the Photo
There’s nothing worse than scheduling a photography shoot at the right time and getting all the right angles, only to later realize that the bedding was wrinkled or you forgot to add fresh flowers to the table. Before snapping the photos, make sure you go into each room and check if it’s ready for the picture. This includes clearing off all surfaces, adding accents like fresh flowers or a bowl of fruit, and making sure the curtains are open and the toilet lid is closed.
In addition, it’s important to identify each room’s selling point before taking the photo. Whether the room is particularly spacious, has plenty of natural light, or has a beautiful accent wall, real estate photography should showcase its features. In the example above, both photos are taken from the same angle. However, having all surfaces cleared of clutter draws the viewer’s eyes toward the room’s space and brightness rather than the clutter.
Pro tip: Not only is decluttering each room important for your real estate photos but also in preparation for the open house. Add this tip to your open house checklist so the property buyers are seeing in listing photos match the home they’re seeing in person.
5. Hire a Photography or Editing Freelancer
When you want to take advantage of someone else’s photography expertise, consider utilizing an online marketplace like Fiverr. With Fiverr, you can search through freelancers with real estate photography and editing experience and view their expertise, previous work, and reviews. The platform can also help you connect with freelancers to help you edit your photos, whether you need lighting adjustments or the removal of objects.
There’s no need to put your time and energy into learning the tricks of the trade if you aren’t interested—instead, you can simply outsource the job to experts. Just search the Fiverr platform for the freelance talent you need.
6. Use Virtual Staging
Home staging is a popular method of making sure a real estate listing is displayed with maximum appeal. Moreover, virtual staging is another key tool to boost the property’s real estate photography. Virtual staging can digitally furnish vacant properties or remove and replace existing furniture in a home for a fraction of the time and price of traditional staging.
Although many high-quality virtual staging companies are available, one of the most popular services is BoxBrownie. BoxBrownie provides both residential and commercial virtual staging with a turnaround time of just 48 hours. In addition, it offers an extensive number of photo editing services, from item removal, to day to dusk, to 360-degree renders. Sign up for free to start using BoxBrownie’s virtual staging or other editing services.
7. Use Landscape Orientation
The human eye sees the world in about a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the most common ratio of a smartphone photo is 16:9. No matter how popular vertical smartphone photos become, horizontal listing photos can more accurately showcase the home.
As you can see in this example, wide photos have a surprisingly significant impact on each photo. On the left, the wider shot shows additional home features, a better balance of light, and an overall better composition, making viewers feel as if they’re standing in the space.
8. Make Photos Interactive Through Current Technologies
Real estate photography no longer means only shooting still photos of properties. Consider using new technology to add video and interactive elements to your listing photos through virtual tours and drone photography. As the technology grows, real estate video marketing is becoming more expected in online listings.
Virtual tours allow potential buyers to click through the property and view it as if they were physically present. It feels like a high-tech development, but it can be very easy to create one with a tool like Asteroom. Asteroom provides professionals for hire or do-it-yourself kits to create 3D tours, 2D floor plans, panoramic property photos, and even 3D dollhouse views.
9. Add a Pop of Color
Real estate and home staging professionals typically suggest using neutral color palettes in order to appeal to the maximum number of potential buyers. However, that doesn’t mean that the home should be void of all color. In fact, small pops of color have a major impact on real estate photography.
If the rooms you are photographing do not have any color, add a few throw pillows or a bright bouquet of flowers to make the photo stand out. In the example above, there is just one color that carries the load—bright yellow. Instead of adding something with a variety of colors, this is a great example of how you can do something simple and still make a big impact on the home’s photography.
10. Utilize Editing Presets
For real estate professionals who are continuing to learn how to take real estate photos, another impactful shortcut is using preset editing options. Presets automatically make photos look more professional with different combinations of lighting adjustments, temperature, and white balance.
There are many preset options available for free and for purchase in Photoshop or Lightroom. Instead of having to adjust multiple photo settings for each image, you can choose a specific lighting style for each property—creating a cohesive collection of photos instantly. Real estate presets can make an entire room feel brighter and more appealing without decreasing the photo’s clarity or overall quality.
11. Choose the Right Primary Image
After you’ve taken the photos, carefully choose the main photo for your real estate listing. With the majority of homebuyers browsing hundreds of listings, the influence of the primary image is crucial. It is often the determining factor in whether or not people will click on your listing and get more information—it’s the “money shot.” Therefore, take the time to look at every different angle and shot and even gather opinions from other real estate professionals.
For example, this listing includes multiple shots of the home’s exterior, but clearly chooses the grandest photo for the primary image on Zillow. Since Zillow is by far the most popular real estate platform with around 36 million monthly users, it’s essential to strategically choose which photo viewers will see first.
It’s also important for the sale of the listing and the real estate agent’s business to take advantage of the massive amount of traffic on Zillow—attracting buyers and potential leads. As a Zillow Premier Agent, you can automatically receive motivated buyer leads from other agents’ listings as well as your own. There are also many additional tools to track your contacts and automate communications. Read our detailed Zillow Premier Agent review to know about its costs and features.
Real Estate Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
Many real estate agents and photographers take great quality photos, but make a few key mistakes that drastically decrease the impact of their photos. Make sure to look over your photos and listings with a detailed eye each time, and learn from your mistakes to continually improve your craft.
1. Posting Too Many Photos
Although it’s recommended to take photos of each room at many different angles, that doesn’t mean every photo should be used. Instead, choose the best shot of each room. For any rooms that are particularly important or oddly shaped, two photos could work well. Keep in mind that nobody wants to sift through a library of 50 photos—they just want to get an idea of the property and main features before scheduling a tour.
2. Leaving the Photos in the Listing
The best real estate photography in the world will have minimal impact if you add it to your listing and stop there. Instead, successful real estate agents make sure to get the most mileage out of their real estate photography. Use the photos to promote the listing on social media, through email, on a single property website, and your real estate agent website.
To make sure your top-notch photos are consistently generating real estate leads, use a service like Placester to build a real estate website that attracts homebuyers and potential clients. Placester offers a wide variety of website templates as well as a service marketplace to hire a professional for any part of your website development. You can even try Placester free for 30 days.
3. Assuming the Photos Are Accurate
When learning how to take real estate photos, it requires a lot of time and effort. This includes practice getting the space ready for photos and setting up the camera. However, don’t assume that even the perfect shooting scenario will result in flawless photos. In fact, it’s common for distortions to happen when using wide-angle photography. Be sure to give your real estate pictures a close review and fix problem areas before publishing.
4. Overediting the Photos
Real estate photography doesn’t end after all the shots have been taken. Post-production editing can be extremely necessary in order to showcase the best possible photos of every property. However, there’s a fine line between making the photo look bright and open versus making it look overexposed and unrealistic.
For example, photos taken in bright sunlight tend to create darker shadows in some places. While you can increase the photo’s brightness or white balance to decrease these shadows, the result can end up looking extremely washed out. The right real estate photo editing software can help you develop a good editing eye.
If you don’t already have a go-to photo editor, don’t hesitate to check out Canva. It includes basic lighting adjustments, an extensive number of filters, and editing tools like frames, shadows, and enhancement. It also includes thousands of free photos, fonts, and graphic elements to add and create marketing materials. You can even start using Canva for free.
5. Always Hiring a Professional Real Estate Photographer
It can be intimidating to look at all the camera settings on a DSLR, and it’s frustrating when your photos come out much darker than you hoped. Hiring a real estate photographer is an ideal choice for many real estate agents and brokers, but others find that they can produce great listing photos with just a little bit of time and effort.
Don’t automatically assume that you will be unable to produce high-quality photography without extensive experience or fancy equipment. Instead, practice on a few homes and try it out. As a real estate agent, you are most familiar with the property, and that may help you create quality photos.
Equipment to Assist With Professional Real Estate Photography
Even with the best real estate photography tips available, you need the right tools and equipment to make it happen. Many recent smartphones have incredible cameras, but professional tools are still the most reliable long-term investments in your real estate business.
The most important real estate equipment can include:
- DSLR camera: DSLR is short for a digital single-lens reflex camera. It allows you to use interchangeable lenses and adjust photos to focus and shoot faster. There are hundreds of different DSLR cameras that can do the job, but a few popular real estate photography cameras are the Canon EOS and Nikon D850.
- Tripod: Even if you have a steady hand, pictures taken without tripods are never going to be as clear as pictures taken on a tripod. Using a tripod can also help you position the photo at the perfect angle.
- Wide-angle lens: Using a wide-angle lens is essential to capture the full essence of any space. Wide-angle lenses allow for wider shots and provide a better sense of depth and detail.
- Remote trigger: A camera remote may seem like an unimportant detail, but it can massively simplify the process of setting up the perfect angle and settings.
- External flashes: Although natural light is always best, it isn’t always available. It’s extremely helpful to have high-quality external flashes that can help you produce a bright photo even in the gloomiest weather conditions.
- Flash diffusers: Flash diffusers prevent your flash from creating light that is too harsh by bouncing the light around the room. While having a flash and diffusers is not necessary for every climate, they can be key real estate marketing tools.
Pro tip: Avoid using a fisheye lens for the best real estate photos. Fisheye lenses create ultra-wide shots but produce a highly distorted view. These photos may seem trending, but providing an accurate view of the property is much more important.
When you want to expand your real estate photography skill set and provide your own 3D images and tours, you’ll need specialized equipment. Asteroom provides a selection of 3D real estate photography kits, starting at around $109.99. Along with the kits, Asteroom also provides 3D tour hosting and an easy interface to produce them.
Examples of the Best Real Estate Photos
The best way to learn how to avoid posting poor real estate listing photos is by looking through plenty of strong and weak examples. After reading the real estate photography tips above, look through the following examples to see how each tip can be implemented in your properties:
The photographer of this Los Angeles home did a great job preserving the natural lines within the home. Because of the angle of this shot, the photo naturally highlights a major home feature—the large windows and doors.
This beautiful kitchen in Austin, Texas, was photographed from the corner of the room in order to showcase the entire space. This particular listing includes additional kitchen photos to highlight different elements of this recently updated kitchen. This primary photo is key to helping potential buyers understand the scale of the space.
The majority of real estate photography isn’t artistic because its primary purpose is to communicate and market a home. However, when you are marketing a property to high-end buyers, including a few strategic close-up shots can make the home feel even more special. This photographer includes artistic photos that communicate the feeling of the space.
When you’re trying to show a large space through a collection of photos, it can be difficult for potential buyers to understand the property as a whole. Aerial photography helps viewers zoom out (literally) and see the property from a completely new angle. Plus, it stands out from a sea of living room and kitchen photos in every listing.
Take your real estate marketing to the next level with high-quality, carefully curated photographs. By making the most of local weather conditions, highlighting photogenic features, and using the right equipment, you’ll be able to make properties stand out from the crowd. Once you take the photographs, use editing software or hire a professional to correct lighting and touch up your images. Pair these with detailed listings, and you’ll be attracting buyers in no time.