How to best photograph real estate

Trends in the industry demand professional photographers

Due to the nature of our global economy, we are all concerned about our real estate property values dropping in value. Homeowners and commercial property owners alike, who are contracted to estate agents and brokers need to acquire the best return possible on their investments. This also applies to developers and contractors alike, who are involved in long-term residential and commercial projects.


This is where the role of a professional photographer is required, both on the private as well as on the corporate level to ensure that all properties being marketed are showcased in such a way to attract a prospective buyer to the offer. As there is now an abundance of properties on the market, competition is fierce and for this reason the image counts. Photographers are plentiful in the market place to service this need, however, not everyone has the experience, knowledge and the correct camera equipment and lighting to deliver a job of the level and standard that is required. This is where you come in and showcase your work to secure and seal the job. Not only is there a demand for photographers with the skill and ability to deliver this type of work, but realize that once you deliver a to the standards expected by the client for this market, you will have the opportunity to secure further contracts moving forward by the agents and brokers moving forward.

I am going to outline certain key factors that will assist you in focusing on real estate as a career.

Prepare yourself before the day

Ensure that your camera battery is charged and that you have a sufficient number of formatted memory cards on hand for the day for storage of your captured images.

Have your tripod ready as well as all stands, umbrellas and softboxes loaded and in the car.

Lighting and transmitters is your next step. All flash heads, as well as speed lights needs to charged, take extra charged batteries, as well as battery chargers and adaptors along to the shoot.

Ensure that your transmitters are working and charged and your cables are packed.

Crises management and challenges need to be avoided at all times to ensure that your shoot runs smoothly as planned and according to your brief. The less the stress, the better the result.

Plan your route on your GPS as getting lost and being late is an immediate indication that you are not professional, be on time, it’s only the beginning and first impressions count. Clients do not want to be kept waiting.


Finally do your weather check to ensure that you will have the correct light and weather condition for the duration of the shoot. I suggest to that when you initially chat with your client once the job has been confirmed, that you pencil in a second date and time to ensure that weather conditions do not hinder deadlines and planning and that the client be made aware of the importance of this. You cannot shoot a landscaped garden with a swimming pool; and a tennis court in the rain, it just will not work… and there goes your chance with securing future contacts with the client, it again is just not a professional way to work.


Visit the property and understand the brief prior to the day of the shoot

Never just arrive at the location to shoot the property blind and expect to wing it, this just does not work and again detrimental to securing future work. Try secure an appointment with the client for a viewing and walk around, this will assist you in your planning regards to the camera equipment that you need to take as well as the lighting and the angles that you need to understand for your planning process. You need to be prepared.

It is important to understand that if outdoor photography is required, the landscape often changes due to seasonal and climate forecasts. The garden is either green or brown, the lawn has been mowed or is still over grown, the trees have leaves or they don’t. This is just one factor to be considered.

The state of the property needs to be communicated prior to the shoot, should the location, indoor or outdoor need maintenance, or just a clean, this needs to be addressed and implemented before you arrive on the day. Note that this is not your responsibility, you are the photographer and your time is of concern. The state of the property needs to be in a perfect shooting condition and free of clutter on your arrival. Communication is key.


How many photos and what format is expected from the client

There is no exact fixed number of images that are required for a shoot. It is all dependent on the brief and the nature of the location and what the client is portraying in the look and feel required.

Larger properties will obviously require more images than a smaller property, alike with exteriors. It is important to clarify this with the client before you quote on a job so you are both on the same page and there are no miscommunications as to what is required. Normally a small to medium residential apartment will require around 20 images, where larger properties and estates require more. Developments, commercial, as well as residential alike, normally require frequent visits due to the phases and changes in the development process.

Enquire what the images are being used for, online, print and/or billboard. This will determine the format you set your camera to as well as the lenses that you need to pack for the shoot. Remember the most important piece of gear in your bag is your lens. The aperture as well as the quality of the glass is what will give you the effect and the result you require.

My suggestion is always shoot in RAW (large image setting), as these and be saved and resized to accommodate other platforms and uses. RAW images are also better designed and display better results when in post and edit. For those photographers who are not acquainted or familiar to lens ranges and file options, may I suggest you do some research before the shoot, as this is very important.


Indoor tips

Firstly, ensure that you have a lens that will meet the range requirements; normally a wide angle will work for this kind of shoot. Make sure that you understand composition and how to work with a wide angle lens, screw and distorted wall are not an option, proportion is everything. Make sure the image depicts the size of the space, normally a common error from photographers and this will just suggest that the photographer is not qualified for the job and in turn require a reshoot and a very disappointed client.

Avoid direct sunlight entering the room, as this will cause glare and shadows, which is not good and might involve extra time editing. Close the blinds or the curtains, or shoot from an angle that is diffused and clean. Pay attention to the lighting in the room, as it is often useful to create the ambience and feel that needs to be depicted in the images. Sometimes the lights need to be off as they might interfere with the white balance due to wall color, the kelvin and temperature of the light, or just where the light is situated in the room.

I often prefer to use a tripod and natural light and avoid flash, as flash creates a false white result, removing the ambience of the lights created in the room, which might be intentional. Shooting with lights or just a tripod and natural light is something that needs to be decided upon and understood in the planning process before the shoot is set up. I again suggest doing a flash and lighting workshop or a course to understand the benefit and advantages of theses options.


Outdoor tips

The light is your most important concern when shooting outdoors. Avoid bright or direct sunlight as this will just cause issues and have an impact in the quality of your image. The result in harsh shadows, blow-outs and burnt areas which are difficult to repair in post.

Plan your times around early morning or late afternoon, where the light is soft and diffused and you might even wish to use fill in sunlight from the bounce back of surrounding walls to add some depth and “pop’ the image in terms of depth.

Again the lens is important when shooting outdoors, take the range into consideration as well as the quality and aperture of the glass.