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Smartphone Photography for Real Estate - Tips to take social media ready photography

Over the past few years, the cameras on our smartphones have improved drastically and the days of pixelated, grainy images are gone. Although they are still not ready to replace professional quality camera gear and the experience of the camera user, they are definitely good enough to get some great quality, gram worthy images for your social media.

We have put together a beginner's guide which will help you to take some stunning real estate photos to wow your audience and help you as an agent, to take your Social Media marketing to the next level.

Keep it Steady

If you have ever taken a photo with a smartphone and wondered why the image was so blurry, the reason is likely that the camera was moving whilst the shot was taken. The lower the lighting conditions, the longer the image takes to process and therefore the longer you need to keep your camera completely still.

The ideal solution for this is to invest in a gimble or a tripod for your smartphone. A gimble is a portable device that holds your phone and keeps it level and steady whilst you are walking around. These are great for both phone imagery and video but can be quite expensive. For a good quality one, you would expect to pay upwards of $300-$500 and for a professional level one, you could be looking at $1,000+. 

We know this is pretty over the top if you are only taking the odd photo for social media though and a tripod will do just as well, if not a better job for photography than a gimble at a much lower price point. The reason we recommend a gimble over a tripod, is gimbles are much more portable than a tripod and also work wonders for video as opposed to just static photos. Therefore, you will get better bang for your buck if you are going down the video route also. You can pick up a decent quality table-top tripod for smartphone for under $50 and a full size one for under $100. Bear in mind that ideally you will want a full size one, however, they are much bulkier and can be annoying to carry around. If this is something that you are cautious about, you are better off taking a tabletop one and sitting it on a chair than a full size one that you leave at home.

Finally, to get you started without spending any money, there is a special tip that will help you out in the meantime. When you are holding onto your phone and taking the photo, don't hold your phone at arms-length. Because of how far away the phone is from your body, you will have much less control of it and the device will move around a lot more than it will if you hold it close into your body. 

Keep your elbows in close by your side and hold your phone roughly at chest height. This will give you the most control, and as we mentioned in a previous blog "Beginners Guide to Shooting Real Estate Photography" you will more often than not want your photos to be taken at waist height anyway so this technique will help you get to that lower angle, without needing to sit on the ground.

Editing and Filters

Unlike 1years ago when we were playing snake on our Nokia bricks, our smartphones have become an all-in-1 computer that we carry around in our pockets. One of the big functions this has allowed with photography is the ability to edit our images on our pocket-sized devices. 

Whilst the functionality is often basic, it is generally enough for most basic users to tickle up their image and add some special sauce to it. Instagram is the most simplistic and easiest ways to get started. We recommend uploading your images to Instagram initially where you have the capability to add filters and do some basic edits. You can then either share the same post to Facebook or download the edited version and create a new post on Facebook using the same image as you posted on Instagram.

Often high-end smartphones have inbuilt photo editors and there are endless apps on your app store that vary both in complexity and pricing. We recommend you do some research online and try out some 'free trials' on different apps to find one that works great for your needs.

Don't use Zoom

Never use the zoom function on your smartphone's camera. This form of zoom is known as 'digital zoom'. What this does is crop your image in and enlarges it. This is different from the zoom on a professional camera where it uses the lens to optically zoom in, which retains the image quality. Whilst, you may not notice the impact straight away, you will likely be cropping your image down further when you post it on your social media pages in the 1:1 format. Because you have already cropped you image by this point, you risk a large loss in the final image by the time it hits your social media page which may result in a blurry/grainy photo.

Many modern-day, high-end smartphones achieve a form of optical zoom through the use of having multiple different cameras attached to the rear of your device and generally have an option for 2x,3x or even 5x zoom. These are better, however do be cautious that these cameras often aren't as high quality and sharp as your main sensor so you may still have issues with the final image quality.

The best way to control how much of a space you get in your shot is to physically move closer or further away depending on what you are trying to achieve. Another option is to invest in smartphone lenses for different situations. These are inexpensive, clip-on style lens magnifiers which can give you different zoom capabilities for your smartphone, without effecting the final image quality. You can generally pick these up from online retailers or on AliExpress.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most challenging aspects of Real Estate photography, especially when shooting interiors. That's because there is a high dynamic range. This means that there is a large difference between the bright parts of the image and the darker shadows and most cameras struggle to get the detail in both areas simultaneously in a single shot. 

The ideal solution is that you plan out your shoot when the sun isn't too overbearing in the rooms and they are evenly lit throughout. This allows your phone to capture the as many of the details as possible. Don't use your Smartphones flash to compensate though as this rarely produces good results. Even as professional photographers who use flash photography methods to help light a room, we never point our lighting directly in front of the camera. We will always bounce it off either a ceiling or a diffuser. Pointing your flash directly in front of your camera in a room will produce strong and unnatural shadows which aren't pleasing to the eye.

Alternatively, many high-end smartphones have a HDR function built in. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and generally takes 3x images at different brightness levels and stitches them together. This way, your image will retain more details in the blown-out highlights where the light is streaming into the room as well as the darker shadows where the natural light doesn't reach. If your device doesn't have this feature built into it, there are plenty of apps you can download from your respective phones app store that will give you this functionality. They are often free if you don't mind putting up with the ads.


Shoot for the Platform

Different social media platforms require different formats and image sizes to be effective. For example, Instagram recommends a 1:1 ratio (square image) whereas your stories and Pintrest will be a portrait style, These companies periodically update their recommendations and formats so take a look at this Social Sprout Blog to get up-to-date guidelines for all of your images sizes from your Facebook cover image, profile pics and general post sizes.

Once you know and understand the format, have a think when you are taking the image whether it will still look nice when it's cropped to fit an Instagram post, video, profile pic etc. If you intend to use that particular viewpoint for different platforms, you may want to cover yourself and take 2-3 shots including a portrait, landscape and zoomed out version to make sure you have the right shot when you go to crop it for the respective social media platforms.

Conclusion

Although smartphones aren't a replacement for professional quality camera gear and an experienced photographer, your smartphone is more than capable of taking some stunning images to help with your social media campaigns. 

If you liked this guide to Real Estate Photography on a smartphone, you should check out our blog on "Beginners Guide To Real Estate Photography" where we cover a few points you need to look for when shooting stunning Real Estate Images.

Alternatively, you can register below to receive regular, helpful guides like this one to help take your photography and social media content to the next level.