Breaking Into Real Estate Photography: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” When you’re in the process of buying a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, those pictures better be worth every penny.

How To Get Into Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography is a lucrative field that presents a unique blend of challenges and rewards. However, establishing yourself in this industry can be a daunting task, especially if you’re starting from zero. Fear not, though. This guide aims to equip you with essential tips and tricks to break into real estate photography, covering everything from necessary equipment to client acquisition.

What is Real Estate Photography?

At its core, real estate photography involves taking high-quality pictures of properties available for sale or rent. This niche can be divided into two categories: residential and commercial real estate photography. Residential photographers primarily focus on houses for sale, while commercial photographers capture images of business properties like office buildings and storefronts.

The primary aim of real estate photography is to present the property in the best light possible for online listings. However, the job demands more than just showing up and clicking a few pictures. A real estate photographer’s responsibilities often include:

  • – Creating shot lists for each property
  • – Staging the property for photoshoots
  • – Adjusting lighting for optimal results
  • – Maintaining camera and lighting equipment
  • – Editing the photos with a quick turnaround time—usually within 24 to 48 hours

One of the perks of this profession is its flexibility. You can work as a staff photographer for a real estate company, become a videographer, or freelance with individual real estate agents or landlords.

How Do I Get into Real Estate Photography?

How Do I Get into Real Estate Photography

Getting into real estate photography doesn’t require any specific certifications or licenses. However, being successful in this field does necessitate a wealth of technical skills. Here are some steps you can follow to kickstart your career in real estate photography:

Equip Yourself with the Right Gear

As with any photography career, it’s your responsibility to procure and maintain your equipment. This includes a high-quality camera, lenses, lighting gear, and tripods. We’ll delve deeper into the specifics of each piece of equipment later in this guide.

Earn a Photography Degree

While a college degree isn’t strictly necessary, many photographers hone their skills by studying photography at an art school or university. This not only helps you learn the technical skills required but also boosts your resume when applying for jobs with larger real estate companies.

Practice and Build Your Portfolio

Whether you’re a photography graduate or a self-taught enthusiast, having a compelling portfolio can set you apart. One way to accomplish this is by offering to take free or discounted photos for local real estate companies or agents. This not only helps you build your portfolio but could also win you some potential clients.

Equipment You Need for Real Estate Photography

Having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference in your work. Here are some of the essential pieces of equipment you’ll need for your real estate photography business:



A full-frame camera with bracketing capabilities is your best bet. Homes photographed professionally sell 32% faster than those photographed by the realtor or owner, so investing in a good camera is crucial. Look for a High Dynamic Range DSLR (HDR DSLR) for the best results.

Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens is ideal for capturing more of the space without distortion. Aim for a lens in the 16-35mm range with an f-stop level of f2.8-f4.


A sturdy, tall tripod is essential for keeping your pictures framed correctly and minimizing the use of alignment functions during editing.

photo editing software

Real estate photographers are responsible for editing their own photos, so having the right editing software is crucial. Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are popular choices.

Drone Camera

While not strictly necessary for beginners, a drone camera can be a valuable addition to your equipment list, especially for shooting larger properties. However, using a drone for real estate photography does require a license and adherence to certain regulations.

Lighting Extras

Lighting equipment, including flashes, diffusers, and umbrellas, can be extremely useful, especially for interior shots.

Matterport or 3D Rendering Camera

A Matterport camera, which allows you to capture a property as a fully interactive 3D tour, can be a worthwhile investment

How Much Should You Charge as a Real Estate Photographer

How Much Should You Charge as a Real Estate Photographer?

You’ve honed your skills, invested in quality equipment, and curated a compelling portfolio. Now, you’re ready to market your services as a real estate photographer. But how much should you charge? The answer is nuanced, depending on several factors such as the job’s scope and your location.

For a relatively small, quick project that takes a day to complete, you might charge between $100 and $200. For example, photographing a house or property under 3,000 square feet could fall into this price range.

On the other hand, larger assignments that demand more equipment, substantial communication, and multiple days of shooting and post-production could earn you between $500 and $1,000 or even more.

If the project’s time-intensity is uncertain, consider charging your client hourly or daily. This approach can help you avoid underquoting for the time and effort you invest in the job.

Starting Out: Should You Work for Free?

Should You Work for Free

Beginners often receive advice to offer their services for free to local real estate agents to gain experience and potentially secure future clients. If you’re completely inexperienced and need practice, this could be a viable option. However, offering a discount for your initial jobs is generally a better strategy.

Remember, even as a novice, you’ve invested in professional equipment, editing software, and possibly formal education or training. These investments can add significant value to a real estate agent or landlord.

Instead of offering your services for free, be transparent about your level of experience and your goal to build your portfolio. If a client resists paying a discounted fee or tries to convince you to work for free, consider whether this is someone you want to work with in the long run.

Real Estate Photography Tips: Getting the Perfect Shot

Keep the Lights Off

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a newbie, real estate photography can present a learning curve. Here are some tips to help you capture the perfect shot:

1. Bring a Shot List: While some real estate agents might request specific shots, many rely on the photographer’s expertise. Having a standard shot list can guide your work and ensure you cover all essential aspects of the property.

2. Check Out the Property in Advance: Each property is unique, and visiting beforehand can help you plan for potential challenges such as poor lighting, unattractive decor, or other aesthetic issues.

3. Plan to Clean Up: While not all properties require decluttering, residential properties might.

4. Keep the Lights Off: While artificial light can add warmth, it can also create uneven color temperature, meaning more time adjusting the white balance in post-production.

5. Keep Your Camera Straight: This prevents distortion and saves you editing time.

6. Capture the Season: Incorporating seasonal elements can elevate your photos.

7. Golden Hour: This soft, golden light is the most welcoming for building photography.

8. Ensure the Home is Person and Pet-Free: You want the property to be the star of the shot.

Navigating Real Estate Photography Challenges

Navigating Real Estate Photography Challenges

Every career comes with its own set of challenges, and real estate photography is no exception. You’ll face competition, demanding clients, equipment failures, and more. Common challenges include quick turnaround times and uncooperative residents. However, with experience, optimism, and professionalism, you can overcome these hurdles.

Finding Paying Clients

When starting, it’s normal to struggle to convince potential clients to trust your skills, especially with a limited portfolio. Broadening your market can open doors. Airbnb hosts, office buildings, rental agencies, hotels, and even restaurants often hire real estate photographers.

Taking the Leap

Breaking into real estate photography can seem daunting, especially without prior experience. However, plenty of resources are available to help you learn the craft. With determination and a willingness to learn, this can be a flexible, lucrative career path.

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