The ultimate guide on how to take Real Estate photos

Photography
Jun 25, 2020 by Monica Linzmeier
12 MIN

Sports, fashion, still life, portraits, street, weddings, artistic, food, there are tons of different types of photography, and each has its own set of rules: whether we follow them or not is up to us. 

There is a certain style of photography, however, where the rules are a little bit less flexible... At least when starting out. Real estate property photography typically has a commercial reason behind it, and as such, there’s a certain level of expectation and technique associated with it.  

A mix of complicated techniques, rigorous setup, patience, and eagle-eyed attention to detail are all required to succeed. 

If you’ve given it a shot and you find your photos lacking or if you’ve never even tried it because it’s too daunting, we’ve broken it down for you to cover the basics. Once you know the rules of shooting interior photography, then you can start to shake it up and add your own flavor. 

And to learn more about how to shoot food photography, check it out here! 

There’s quite a lot to cover, so today, we’re going to go over: 

1. The three types (framing) of interior photography

   A. Wide Angle

   B. Medium shots

   C. Detail shots

2. The specificities of shooting real estate photos

   A. Recommended equipment 

   B. Recommended settings

   C. How to use bracketing

3. Tips for composing and choosing your angles

   A. Wide shots

   B. Medium Shots

   C. Detail shots

4. How to take it to the next level with staging

The three main views of interior photo

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to set and compose your shots, we want to break down the three types of interior photography. To master real estate photography, you need to be able to take all three of these types of shots to really paint a complete picture for a listing. Each of these types of shots takes practice and ideally, you’ll need different lenses for real estate photography.  

Wide Angle: The bread and butter of real estate photography

Meero Interior Photography

© Meero


The first type of shot is probably the one you’ve come here for: the wide-angle lens shot. That’s the most important type of photography for real estate agents. These photos are supposed to show an entire room in all its glory, defining the space and giving context. 

For a classic photoshoot, you’ll want to avoid distorting the photo (although some clients and realtors prefer the fish-eyed look, so be sure to figure out which style they are expecting!) It can be tricky to do a standard shoot due to the wide lens (18mm ideally), you’re going to need to focus on not distorting the photo, maintaining straight lines, and correctly balancing the light. 

For these photos, you want the whole room in focus so we recommend shooting between F9-F11 and maintaining the lowest ISO possible. Since your speed will be slower, your tripod will really become your best friend! 

Medium Shots: Fleshing out a listing

Meero Medium Shoot

© Meero

The second type of shot is a medium shot, and the idea is to highlight specific areas of a room. This is the time to really show off stunning features of a property, for example, a full range stove, or a well-maintained chimney. These photos are really to help flesh out the photos you initially take with a wide-angle. We suggest using a lens between 28 and 35mm and playing with the aperture between F5.6 and F8. 

Detail Shots: Seal the deal

Meero Detail Photo

© Meero

You’ve heard the expression: the design is in the details. Detail shots come in to really complete the picture. These photos are the most useful when a property has very charming details and decoration, or to highlight an amenity. 

They help potential buyers complete the image they have in their mind’s eye. They can communicate a host’s personality or a hotel’s client service. We recommend using a 35 to 50mm focal length. 

The technicalities of shooting 

Recommended equipment

So what kind of equipment will you need to master interior photography? There is no one best lens for real estate photography. You can obviously take photos of an interior with whatever material you have, but to really learn the right technique and become a professional photographer, we recommend the following: 

- A full-frame camera

- Lenses

- 18mm, 28-35mm, 50mm

- Tripod

- Built-in timer or remote control

- Memory Card

- Batteries 

Recommended Settings 

We recommend shooting in manual mode, but that can be intimidating when you’re just starting out or testing a new type of photography, so priority aperture mode is a good building block. Put your camera in AV-A mode and it will choose the settings based on the light sources available, and you’ll simply need to set the aperture. 

You can set your white balance to automatic, but if you find the images are too warm or cold, you’ll need to set it manually to 5000k, which is the most neutral temperature. 

When shooting wide interior shots, you want the whole room to be in focus, so make sure your aperture is between F9-F11.  (For medium and detail shots, you can use a shallower depth of field to create the right mood). 

Using a tripod is essential as you will need to bracket your images where there are windows, or for when you find yourself in low-light situations, as you shouldn’t go over an ISO of 800 to avoid noise.

For those of you scrolling, to summarize: AV-A Mode, F9 to F11, 800 ISO Max, Fixed on a tripod. 

If you’ve tried out interior real estate photography before anywhere with windows you’ve probably come across the problem of finding the balance between overexposed windows and underexposed interiors. In order to combat this problem, we recommend bracketing. 

How to use bracketing

Bracketing is a method of shooting three photos at the same time, one photo overexposed, one photo underexposed, and one right in the middle. With Meero’s AI technology or your photo editing software of choice, you can merge these three photos to create one properly exposed photo. 

This video explains exactly how to do it for your first time (or for a little refresher):

In the video, we explain how to take several photos at the same time, all exposed differently. Each camera has a different menu and settings so be sure to refer to your manual for more details.  

To make sure your bracketing is working properly during the shoot you should be checking your histogram. 

Composing your shots

When it comes to framing your shots, practice makes perfect. Once you get to shooting often enough, you start seeing the angles you’d like to capture right away. But until it comes naturally, there are some guidelines you can follow for wide, medium and detail shots. The end goal is to use the three types of photos to tie together a listing and present a clear and comprehensive understanding of a property. 

Think of an interior design magazine, that’s what you should aim for: take the time to carefully frame your shots so that they are balanced and well-composed. 

Framing wide shots

When covering a house or a property you’ll want to cover as much ground as possible. Start by analyzing the space and try a few different locations in each room to see which is the most flattering angle. 

Where to place your tripod

For wide photos, you want to include the entire room, with most everything in focus. Begin by placing your tripod as far back as you can and start by shooting straight on before moving to a corner. 

Your camera will need to be perfectly straight, so use the level on your tripod to make sure that it is perfectly flat. If you are shooting with a low shutter speed, use a remote or a timer to be sure to avoid motion blur. 

When shooting from a corner, avoid being too close to the wall to avoid distorting the walls. 

Tripods, a real estate photographer’s best friend

For the height of the tripod, you want to show the room as a person would see it in real life, so approximately 120 cm or around 4 feet.  You want to balance the floor and the ceiling in your photo, and if you have to choose, including more floor is preferable. 

How to handle furniture in shoots

You may have to adjust the height according to the furniture in the room. If the bed or coffee table is low to the ground, you’ll want to bring your height down so everything is straight. While positioning your camera, make sure you aren’t cropping furniture legs off needlessly. 

You may have to move furniture to avoid distorting it and to avoid having it take up too much ‘real estate’ in your shot. 

For real estate agents looking for more insight into how to improve your real estate image performance, check out our ebook! 

Framing medium shots

Medium shots come in handy to complement the wide-angle photos and paint a larger picture that conveys the ambiance of an apartment or home. These are even more important for short term rentals where people are looking for that Instagrammable angle for their vacations.  

To find the right elements to capture, focus on amenities: is there a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom? Is there a gym with a treadmill? Gas range stove? Anything that adds value but may have been overlooked in the wide-angle shots. 

Using your 28-35mm lens will allow you to get closer to the subject, and the image will feel more intimate. 

Framing detail shots

Finally, framing your detail photos is going to take the most creativity. Play around with a shallower depth of field and freehand it to really get in and capture the essence of a property. These photos typically won’t appear in a Real Estate ad, but they can go a long way for the marketing of a Bed and Breakfast or a hotel pamphlet.  

Capture the things that make the place feel unique, or ‘homey.’  Focus on one single element and make it purty! 

How to take it to the next level with staging

Getting the photography part down is only half of the battle. To really bring your images to the next level, you need to be analyzing the room as much as you analyze your photos. 

Do a sweep of the room, and check each of the following:

1. Reduce clutter: removing clutter is essential. This includes making sure the pillows are aligned and that the sheets and bedding look pristine. Anything that doesn’t add to the style of the room should be removed.

2. Reorganize the furniture: Don’t be afraid to move things around! If the furniture is cutting off the flow of a room or if they are close to the edges of your frame remove them (this should be done sparingly for short term rentals, however, as the property should look as close as possible to what the visitor will see. This is less important for property purchases as the furniture isn’t permanent. Use your judgment!) 

3. Light it up: If the lighting adds to the aesthetic appeal and is part of the general design, turn it on. 

4. Doors: Open doors to show the flow of the rooms 

5. Mirrors: Don’t catch your reflection in mirrors! Either frame your shots so you can’t see your camera, or photoshop your tripod out after. 

6. Curtains and blinds: Open it up! Not only will this let in more natural light, but it will also help a viewer get an understanding of the location and views. 

7. Consistency is key: be organized and systematically check your photos and your settings to avoid having to redo the shoot!

And that's it! If you follow these tips and tricks you're sure to produce some high-quality photos! At the end of the day, the best way to improve is to practice, practice, practice! If you're curious about what it's like being a real estate photographer full-time, be sure to check out our interview with New York-based Meero partner Todd Feeney

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