Real Estate Photography: A Complete Guide

Since over a decade now, I’ve been photographing real estate. As boring and tedious as it may sound, this niche has proven to be very rewarding in the world of photography. There are boring days and repetitive ones, but there are also some days when you are able to walk into a home with a smile on your face because the Realtor referred you.
You have to fight light, your camera and your abilities every day. If you’re good, every day is a victory. This article will explain what it takes to be a professional photographer in real estate and what you should do to succeed.

Table of Contents

  • Your Real Estate Photography Market.
  • Compare Your Real Estate Photography Earnings with Their Costs
  • Essential Camera Equipment for Real Estate Photos
  • Extra Gear You May Not Need Right Away
  • Basic skills in real estate photography
  • Four Styles in Real Estate Photography
  • The Business of Real Estate Photography
  • Finding Success as Real Estate Photographer

Your Real Estate Photography Market and Competition

Let’s get to the fun stuff first. Before you spend a lot of money on gear, it’s worth knowing if your market is able to support you. The bigger the city is, the better. There may be room for someone new if the photographers are all booked. If you live in a small community or see businesses cutting their rates, you might want to reconsider.

While you’re comparing the prices of other photographers on the market, take a look at what they charge their clients and their rates. Because you are a newbie and need to establish yourself, you will likely want to be a bit lower than them. I wouldn’t come in significantly below market value. That hurts everyone in this market and frankly, you won’t last very long, even if you think you will grab tons of business.

Losers will only win in a race to the bottom for rates.

Compare Your Real Estate Photography Earnings with Their Costs

Let’s now take a look at the real costs. There will be insurance, business licenses, as well as many other costs that you may not have considered. To get started, you will need a phone and internet, as well as hosting fees, gas, tax, and other items. You will also need taxes Uncle Sam also wants his share!

Nick Adam’s cost calculator will help you to get a real-world estimate of all the costs. This calculator will help you determine how much you can make each month and how much money you need to live. What does this compare with the amount you can earn based on your pricing plan? Is that possible?

It is important to plan for no business for six months. Can you sustain that? You might consider working for someone else to improve your skills.

Essential Camera Equipment for Real Estate Photos

Let’s take a look at the essential gear. There is nothing extravagant about this.

A Camera and Lens

Images will be delivered at approximately 2000px. This means that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on the Canon R3 or Nikon Z9 thinking you will become a top-notch real estate photographer. Sony APS-C cameras are used by some of the most skilled photographers in the industry, as well as 12mm Rokinons.

It is relatively inexpensive to invest in gear, especially when you consider that you can use the one you already have. If you are determined to buy new gear, I recommend going mirrorless. It’s up to you to decide which brand you want — Sony, Nikon Canon, Olympus, or Canon. Modern systems will include a 16-30 f/4 (APS–C 10-20mm lens) in their range. This is enough to get you started. Most shoots will be f/6.3 to f/11 so spending extra on an f/2.8 is a waste of money. ).

A Tripod

A tripod is a great way to spend if you’re looking to indulge. It is essential to have a stable, steady platform from which to shoot. Although it might seem difficult to understand, spending a thousand dollars on a Gitzo/an RSS will end up saving you a lot of cash in the long-term. You won’t have to re-purchase 2 or 3 tripods that are cheaper down the line. You can now afford the Gitzo with the money you saved by not buying the 14-24 f/2.8

A geared head is the best head for mounting. Ball heads are difficult to level because they flop around too often. While the Leofoto’s and Benro’s are good to start with, the Arca-Swiss cube is what makes real estate photographers’ dreams come true.

A Flash

Flash. Flash. I recommend Godox, also known as Flashpoint.

Begin with two strobes, and then add the R2 wireless flash. The Godox AD200 is my favorite flash in the field. It gives me a wonderful quality of light, so I use a Magmod globe on it. A few Godox AD600s are also handy for big jobs. We shoot everything manually so there is no need to spend extra on TTL.

Other Gear

You will also need the following gear:

Umbrellas. It doesn’t matter if you shoot-through or reflector — white silk is better than silver.

Light stands. Better is more.

Extra batteries. Backups for every piece of gear you have in your kit are essential. It is not professional to have the gear you need.

Extra Gear You May Not Need Right Away

You may need to consider three additional gear purchases depending on your business model. These are all items I would seriously recommend, but you might be better off waiting until your business is more established.

A 3D Camera

The first is a 3D camera. Matterport is the most well-known, but there are many other options. For example, a Ricoh Theta Z will cost you one thousand dollars. It can be used on Matterport. The Theta is faster than a Matterport cam, but the Matterport camera is superior in quality. The full Matterport camera costs about $3000, and you’ll need an iPad. You also have the option of full systems such as iGuide, which is also Theta Z-based, and editor/showcase websites like Eyespy360 or 3DVista.

A drone

Drone footage is another service that you might consider adding. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is my favorite drone. It’s stable and has a high-quality camera. The price of the Mavik 3 2’s is now lower, which is great news for those just starting out. The 3 doesn’t offer any additional functionality, especially when you consider the high price. An FAA license is required if you plan to use drone footage for commercial purposes, either still or video. This is the law and you cannot get around it. A drone insurance rider can be added to your commercial photographer’s policy.

Video Equipment

Lastly, consider adding video to the service list. This topic is so broad that it deserves its own article. If you’re thinking about video and how it can be used to stabilize your iPhone, you might consider a video stabilization unit. It can either be a standalone unit (Osmo), or a mountable unit (Ronin).

Basic skills in real estate photography

Now that you have a lot of gear, how are you going to use it? Let’s get started with your basics skills. Although you can, I do not recommend it. Just get on the ground. It’s better to know at least a little bit about the work you are doing before you go.

Composition

First, you must learn how to compose photography. The art of composing in a frame dates back to a thousand years. There are many places you can learn good composition. Start by studying the compositions of master painters. You could then look at the frames of your favorite TV series or movie. You can choose to follow the same rules, or ignore them when you want to be thrown off your feet.

This is not the purpose of this article. I won’t go into detail about it or mention the rule-of-thirds. If you want to get this job, here is one of your homework assignments. Learn and study composition.

You can join real estate forums on Facebook to read real-time critiques. You can even post current photos. This is your chance to get better! Don’t hesitate to don an asbestos suit and post your test shots. The pros will help you improve for free.

Learn about angles and lines.
Learn about light, shadow, patterns, and textures.

Lighting

It is also a great time to learn how to work with light. Shoot your living room first thing in the morning and then the lounge in the afternoon. Have a look at the photos. What has changed? What has worked? What didn’t work? What is the dark spot? Try adding a flash to see what happens. This is a great idea. Take a look at your photos right away to see what different exposures and flashes do to your images.

You can get used to shooting in different conditions and at different times. Ask your parents, friends, and anyone you know who might be selling their home. Start small and expand your knowledge as you go.

Four Styles in Real Estate Photography

There are four types of photography used in real estate.

Ordinary Photography

You probably already have the first one: simply shoot it. You will quickly realize that this won’t work in real estate. You will see darkened or blown out windows in your interiors, which is not what you want to create the beautiful images that you desire. How can you improve your images?

High Dynamic Range (HDR).

Many real estate photographers begin by taking HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. This method involves setting up multiple exposures, one each for the windows and the room and one each for the darks. Then you combine the best elements to create a final image. Lightroom can do this automatically, but there are additional add-ins (Enfuse Photomatix Aurora), that allow you to fine tune and control your blending in Lightroom or Photoshop.

HDR makes editing and shooting easy. The main benefit for some business models is the speed. You can shoot a 2000 ft home in just 20 minutes if your skills are good and you’re fast. HDR is great for some situations, but not in all. It isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to accurately capturing color. To improve color reproduction, one of the most important considerations is how the light affects the scene. Mixing colors, such as daylight and incandescent, can result in tinted, skewed and off-color results.

Flash Photography

You can correct color and light problems by replacing the low-level mixed colors with a single source of light, a flash. The flash can reproduce beautiful colors if it is properly balanced. Flash makes dark rooms brighter and more light.

It is not as easy to solve problems as it seems. It is expensive to purchase the units. Flashes can be cumbersome and heavy, which can slow down your workflow. The process of setting up and bringing in light stands is a complicated one. Flash tends to look very flat unless you’re very skilled at lighting (and willing to spend a lot more time crafting it), It looks flashy.

Flambient Real Estate Photography

The fourth type of photography, also known as “Flambient,” is a combination of all three. It combines an ambient, naturally lit frame with one or more flash layers to highlight the best parts of each layer. This also has the negative aspects of all three: it takes much longer, it costs more flash, and takes much more time to edit.

To do this well, it takes more skill from the photographer.

Using flambient photography to properly light an interior space while preserving the natural look of the world seen through the doors and windows.
Using “flambient” photography to illuminate the interior of the space while a natural sunset is seen outside.

The Business of Real Estate Photography

First, you will need to choose a business model that suits your needs and work style. Then, work on the best techniques for that model.

It’s okay to start doing whatever you can. There are other options available. While you are building your skills, you can also work for someone else. Although it is not as fulfilling personally, a guaranteed income is a good thing.

You can choose to become a volume shooter. You can shoot at very affordable prices and get a lot done in one day. Shoot 7 shoots for $75 and you will see a lot of demand. This model is very popular and can be used in many locations.

You can also target homes of high value with more expensive photography packages. You can spend as little as 1 to 2 hours photographing a home and then charge according. You will need to be professional because you are selling quality.

Marketing Your Real Estate Photography

It is also important to think about how you will attract clients to your business. Word-of-mouth marketing is a great way to build a business. You won’t have this as a beginner. There are many other options. It is a good place to begin. This is a great place to start.

Meet the agents and brokers you are interested in hiring. Ads are not to be discounted! They can be an excellent way to kick-start a business otherwise neglected.

Finding Success as Real Estate Photographer

What are the steps you should take to succeed? It is impossible to predict the outcome of this game, so I won’t try. I’m happy to share what worked for me, and I hope that you can adapt it to your situation.

It’s a challenge to run a small business.

You will need to have many things come together. Although it’s not necessary for Jupiter to align with Mars in order to have a successful business, you must be proactive. Many of the things you should do are just common sense. Reach out to your local Small Business Administration (SBA), center or community college if you are new to running a business. There will be people who can help you plan and even critique your plans (probably for no cost!).

Do not judge your progress or place in the field based on what other photographers are doing. Each of us are on different paths with different goals. We all start in different places. Slow down and be deliberate. This is not a race. You want to do it right the first time. Practice, take your time and be patient.

Professionalism pays off

If your business goals are to sell quality, don’t take the easy route when it comes to business practices. Do not lie and fake it. Treat your job like a professional if you want to be treated professionally. Dress appropriately. Sloppy behavior will reflect badly on you.

Make a mistake and take responsibility. Then, make it more for the client. If you are ten minutes late, it is considered on-time. Your client should be your only priority when you’re with them. Talk about your next shoot or other customers. Your client is the only person you should be talking to.

Standing out from the crowd

There are hundreds of thousands of “photographers” competing for jobs, and another million shouting “But my iPhone is great enough!” To make an impact on this crowd and be noticed, you have to stand out from the rest and represent something. Your market segment, in product and business, must be created. My goal is to be known for my high-quality images and exceptional customer service. That is what I have done with the business I built.

You shouldn’t assume that what I have written here is the best way to succeed in this industry or the only way. That would be impossible to explain in a ten-page article. These are simply my experiences, what I consider helpful and what I wish that I knew when I started. This is how I laid it all out to help you plan your journey. It is wide and can accommodate many travelers. There are also many junctions along the road. You must choose your route.

Your path should be based on your interests in photography and business. You will succeed if you are honest and trustworthy in dealing with customers and colleagues.

Get active in your photography career

You must work hard to maintain your business after you have established it. It is important to stay active in your photography career and to strive to become a better photographer each day. Joe Edelman, my friend, has a saying that I love: “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shots!” Use this to guide your day. Participate in forums on Facebook and professional organizations such as PFRE or PPA.

Analyse the work of your peers and others in the industry. Take a look at the work of other Instagram photographers. You don’t have to be a real estate photographer! You will be following real estate and architectural photographers like Rich Baum, Rich Hargis, Wayne Capili, and Mike Kelley. You would be great if you spent time keeping up to date with a wide range of visual artists such as Kat Irlin and Lindsay Adler, Joe McNally, Dondre green, Moose Peterson. Sean Tucker, Simone Bramante and any other that catches your attention.

Learn from everyone and incorporate what you love into your life. Never stop looking; never stop learning from others.

Ask questions online: Professional real estate photographers LOVE nothing more than to share their opinions.

Real Estate Photography: 1% Picture Taking

Photography is more than just taking pictures. Thomas Edison said, “Genius” is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine perspiration. I would change that to apply to photography and say that the business is 99% problem solving. If you don’t think that a career in photography is about pushing buttons, creating beautiful pictures, and then collecting large checks, you will be extremely unhappy and severely disappointed.

If you enjoy the creative process, problem solving, and being your boss, there are no better places to be.