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Beginners Guide to Shooting Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography can be challenging. Not only are you up against challenging lighting conditions but it can be difficult to figure out how to make a space look attractive and to portray the feeling of the space in a single image. 

Although, professional camera gear and experience trumps a smartphone camera every time (as good as phone camera's are getting these days), we have broken our process down into 6-steps to enable you to capture some eye-catching and impactful, social media ready images today, regardless of what camera you are using.

Framing your shot

Framing is how you are able to draw your viewers eye to a point of interest. This helps to make your image more easily disgustable for the viewer and ensures they are able to focus on the area you intended, as opposed to an area that may have a negative effect on the result you are aiming for.

The most common way to frame a shot is by using the rule of thirds. You may have heard of this before but in essence it's simply dividing your photo up into a 3x3 grid. This helps to balance out your image and guide your viewers eye as shown in the image below. 

Height

The height at which you take your shot is extremely important when shooting buildings as one of the keys to a professional looking real estate image is having the verticals straight. This mean that all of the main vertical points in a room i.e. doors, corners of the room, windows etc need to be parallel with the side of the image.

Therefore, you want to have your shot at a height where there isn't too much floor or ceiling in your shot. As a general rule of thumb, we like to start at about waist height. This is great for most cases, however when you are shooting higher objects (such as over a kitchen bench) you may want to raise the height so you can see what's behind the object i.e. kitchen cabinetry.

Keep in mind if you are shooting higher than waist height, you may have to move closer to your subject to avoid the ceiling dominating your shot, unless it's the centrepiece of the focus.

Width

In Real Estate photography, we break it down to 2x different styles of shots. Perspective Shots and Detail Shots. Perspective shots are generally giving you a sense of the size and layout of a space. These are generally taken with a wide-angle lens to enable you to fit a large range of view into 1x image. If you are using a professional camera, you ideally want to be using a 10-18mm lens on a crop sensor camera or a 15-20mm lens on a full frame camera.

If these numbers don't mean a lot to you and you are just shooting the photos on your smartphone for social media, never fear. Most modern smartphones have multiple lenses on them which are often great for these situations. Look through your cameras settings to see if it has an 'ultra-wide' setting. 

This lens is often secondary in quality to the main lens and they generally have a lower amount of image quality to the main sensor. These are still more than adequate foe social media, however if you are cropping the photo, you may start to find the image becomes a bit pixilated. 

The best way to get around this drop in quality is to pick up a wide-angle lens attachment that clips onto your smartphones camera and just use the main lens. These are cheap and can be picked up online for a few dollars. If you are taking a lot of real estate photos on your smart phone, they are well worth the investment.

The other aspect to bear in mind is that images on Social Media work best in a 1:1 aspect ratio. Therefore, you will likely be cropping in your shots from a rectangle to a square. When you are shooting your photo, make sure you keep enough space at the sides, so you are able to crop the image in without losing any of the key focal points.

Detail shots tend to be taken with narrower field of view lenses. On a professional camera, these are often about 50mm. On a smartphone, just use the standard or the dedicated zoom lens (if your smartphone has that function. 

Having a narrower field of view helps to negate any distortion when you are close up to a subject and helps achieve nicer bokeh (background blur).

Detail shots are a great way to make a space feel magazine worthy and portray premium quality to your audience. They can be a close-up of an object such as a plant or piece of furniture or a mid-range shot focusing on a particular aspect or feature of a space. When you are taking these shots, keep in mind the rule of 1/3's and try to make sure there is nothing in the background that may take your viewers' attention away from the main subject.


Lighting

Lighting plays a key part in taking a good real estate photo. Often professional photographers will use flash or other lighting techniques to help balance out the lighting of a room or multiple spaces. If you don't have access to this equipment you will have to substitute the artificial lighting in other ways.

One method is using HDR. HDR is when your camera takes multiple shots at different exposures (levels of light) and blends them together. The resulting image with allow you to see the details in both the dark/shadowy areas as well as the bright/blown out parts of the image.

Check in your phones settings if you are using the camera on your phone to see if you have access to this feature. If not, there are plenty of apps in the app store which will allow you to take HDR images on nearly any device.

Even with HDR imagery you want to make sure the lighting is as even as possible throughout your image. Try shooting with all of the lights on to help brighten the darker areas of the room. You may however, run into problems if the lights are a warm yellow colour. This can cast unpleasant colours onto parts of the image and make the natural light seem cold and blue. This scenario is a case-by-case situation and if the first image isn't pleasant, try turning the lights on/off and have another go.

Straight On v.s Angled Shots

Angled shots have more information than straight on shots, however, straight on shots lead the viewers eye to a main focal point more effectively. We like to take a combination of the 2 to ensure we get the right balance between perspective shots and emotionally connecting images.

The first point to note is that angled shots are simpler to shoot than straight on shots. When you are shooting angled shots, you only need to make sure that the vertical lines are straight, as opposed to straight on shots where you must ensure that both the vertical and horizontal lines are straight. 

If the vertical and horizontal lines aren't straight, the image can be disorientating to the viewer. If your image feels 'not 100%' but you can't quite put your finger on why, it may be that these lines aren't straight. 

I have placed below a couple of similar shots we have recently taken to show how much of a difference the different angle shots can make to the final feel of the photo.

Tell a Story

Purchasers don't necessarily purchase a property for its features, they purchase it for how it makes them feel and for the lifestyle is offers them. Therefore, to showcase these aspects of the house, you need to be able to tell a story. Use your images to show them what this property will be like when they are entertaining or where their children will be playing whilst they are relaxing. 

The most common forms of this are the over-the-counter kitchen shots showing how the kitchen links to the dining area or how the BBQ area links to the lounge. Get creative with these and highlight the key stories the space has to tell.

Conclusion

Whilst photography is a form of are and professional photographers spend years perfecting their craft, these tips will give you a head start to getting great quality real estate images for social media. 

The best way to improve your shots is to just practice. The more photos you take when you are intentionally using these principles, the better you will become and in no time at all, you will be able to quickly look at a space and determine what images are going to look great and which ones aren't worth spending your time on. 

Professional photography is still well worth the investment when selling property, however if you are a real estate agent who utilises social media in your marketing campaigns, being able to take great shots of your own will ass more diversity and allow your marketing budget to go further and be more effective.

For more tips on shooting Real Estate photos on a smart phone, check out our blog "Smartphone Photography for Real Estate - Tips to take social media ready photography" or fill out the form below to receive regular tips, tricks and guides to take your Real Estate Media to the next level.

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