One of my recent assignments has been working as a property photographer both for rental & sales. If you are selling or renting a residential property out is it worth paying for professional property photography? Is it possible to take real estate interior photography using your phone camera?
Let us start at the end and work backward.
Your goal will be to sell or rent your property out. To do that you need your client or customer to either come and view the property or in the case of letting on sites like Airbnb decide via online viewing that your space is suitable for them. Unless you are relying on close friends or personal recommendations then your target audience is going to want to view it.
Now I am not going to pretend to you that I am experienced in estate agency work and know the tricks of the trade. Before they can even get to work with their persuasive techniques to convince you to part with your money they need to get you to view first. So what will persuade you to view? Well in my experience it’s a combination of things but essentially it’s the images.
What kit do you need for real estate interior photography?
To shoot professional property photography properly you need a few things. There is the kind of equipment used to start off with. Most phone cameras come with a fairly wide-angle lens but not wide enough to shoot real estate interior photography properly. Most standard DSLR cameras come with a standard 18-55mm zoom lens. When used on a reduced frame (regular DSLR) camera this means the actual focal length is closer to 24- 75mm. A good interior/property lens is a wide angle. I shoot with a 16 to 35mm and most professionals will be using a full-frame sensor like me so these focal lengths will be accurate too. Some shoot with a 10-22mm lens but I personally find these too wide.
Another essential bit of kit is a good quality tripod too. A super light one might be easy to carry but the lighter it is the greater the tendency to wobble and vibrate by human movement or passing traffic. Most property photography involves using high apertures and to compensate for this you will need to use slow shutter speeds. For a good clean image, it’s vital that there is no camera shake. Hence the need for a good sturdy tripod. My favourite is the Manfrotto 190. Finally, you will need a flashgun or 2.
Preparing for property photography.
Whether you are selling or renting you want the space to look presentable. 80-90% of real estate interior photography is furniture moving and tidying up. This should all be done before the photographer arrives if possible. If not then you may be forking out extra £££’s for the photographer to organise the space properly. Whether it’s industrial, commercial or residential space it pays to spend time decluttering. Once you have a good clean organized space then it’s time to get the camera out & set up.
How I shoot as a property photographer
For most real estate interior photography its best to shoot from waist height. There are some exceptions such as kitchen shots where it’s better to raise the height a little to show worktops & the appliances. For most rooms, however, waist-height provides the best perspective. If you can get an even amount of ceiling to floor then you are doing well. Of course, this depends on the height of the ceilings but it’s a fairly good rule to follow.
Lighting for professional property photography
The human eye is an amazing piece of biological design. As soon as we enter a room our eyes automatically adjust to the light in the environment and our pupils dilate or contract appropriately so we can see. The camera is not quite so clever. It’s still an amazing piece of engineering and modern cameras are incredibly smart but they can still have a tendency to under or overexpose.
Take a look at your nearest estate agency and see what the images look like? If they are anything like my local agencies then the images will look bright. Really really bright.
This is not by fluke either. When you actually view a property many times they are not that bright so how come the images always look so?
Well firstly with a proper camera it is possible to deliberately overexpose an image when shooting and there are 2 other little techniques that property photographers use.
The first one is to add flash either on top of the camera or via a remote trigger. Sometimes it’s possible to just put the flash on top of the camera and to bounce it around the room but for larger spaces sometimes 2 or 3 are required.
The next technique is HDR or high dynamic range. This is becoming far more popular with property photographers due to modern camera manufacturers including it in the camera settings. By choosing the HDR setting the camera takes 3 separate images and then merges them into 1 single image. A camera only has a certain range of light that it can cope with. By shooting with HDR mode this increases the range and allows for the image to show parts of the image that the naked eye might see but a regular camera won’t. It’s also possible to do this in PhotoShop.
When taking images of residential buildings it’s standard industry practice to turn the lights on even if shooting in the daytime. I don’t know why that is and I often prefer images without the lights on but if the client wants that then the client gets that. It only takes a few secs to find out where the lights are and to switch them on.
Editing for property photography.
As you will now be aware of the taking good quality real estate interior photography images takes a bit more time & knowledge that you might have originally thought. But just taking the images isn’t the whole job.
Editing plays a key part too. There are some fundamentals to professional property photography that a photographer needs to get correct.
Apart from adjusting the exposure & brightness & colour temperature to make the image really light then it’s also imperative to get the vertical lines just that and all parallel too. This can be done in either photoshop or LightRoom. The latest LightRoom version makes this far easier than it used to be.