How To Get Into Real Estate Photography in 2022

Although it can be daunting to try and break into real estate photography without prior experience, there are plenty of resources to learn the craft – from traditional schooling to getting hands-on experience, this can be a flexible, lucrative career if you are willing to learn.
How To Get Into Real Estate Photography

They say a photo is worth a thousand words. When you’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a home, the images need to show you what’s going on with the property. Real estate photography is a very lucrative industry, and it’s gratifying but incredibly difficult to get established in it.

If real estate photography is the dream that calls your name, here are a few real estate photography tips and tricks. We’ll discuss equipment, techniques, and some ideas on how to get photography clients and making a name for yourself among your local realtors.

What is Real Estate Photography?

Real estate photography includes pictures that are specifically taken for available real estate properties, and many photographers fall into one of two niches: house photography or commercial real estate photography. House real estate photographers primarily photograph available homes on the market, while commercial real estate photographers tend to shoot commercial buildings, like offices or storefronts.

Regardless of your niche, both types of photos are typically taken for online property listings, so the goal is to make the property look as flattering as possible for potential buyers or renters.

It’s important to note that real estate photographers do more than just show up to the listing, snap a few photos, and send them to an agent. For many photographers, it’s their responsibility to handle things like:

  • Creating shot lists of what images you will need to take
  • Staging the property for photos, like rearranging furniture or decorations
  • Positioning the lighting in a flattering way
  • Using and maintaining your own camera and lighting equipment
  • Editing the photos, usually with extremely quick turnarounds of 24 to 48 hours

Beyond the job description, real estate photography also has the flexibility of being a freelance career if you want it to be. You can be a staff photographer for a real estate or property management company, make money as a videographer, but it’s also possible to freelance with individual real estate agents or landlords, too.

How Do I Get into Real Estate Photography?

How Do I Get into Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography has the potential to be a profitable career, but how do you get into it? There’s no specific licensing or certifications you’ll need to become a real estate photographer, but the career does require plenty of technical skills if you want to be successful. Some of the most common ways that people venture into photographing with the real estate industry include:

Obtain the Right Equipment

Like almost any photography career, it is the photographer’s responsibility to obtain and maintain their own photography equipment. To get into real estate photography, you’ll need your own camera, lenses, lighting gear, and tripods – and we’ll touch on more specifics with your equipment below.

Get a Photography Degree

While a college degree may not be required for real estate photography, many photographers develop their skills by studying photography in art school or university. Some schools may offer specific real estate photography courses.

This is a great way to learn many of the technical skills required for this job, and if you’re looking to photograph for a larger real estate company, taking professional courses and classes can look good on your resume.

Practice and Start Building Your Portfolio

Whether you’ve studied in school or you are self-taught, a great portfolio of real estate photos can make all the difference – and give you plenty of time to practice and learn the equipment before you start taking on paid jobs. One thing you can do is reach out to local real estate companies or agents and offer to take a few free or discounted photos for them.

Not only will this give you access to properties and pictures for your portfolio, but it could also earn you a potential client too.

Equipment You Need for Real Estate Photography

The right tool for the job will always make the job more manageable than trying to blunder through without the proper accessories – here’s what kind of equipment you’ll likely need for your real estate photography business.

camera

Camera

A full-frame camera with bracketing capabilities will be the hands-down winner in this category. Point and shoot cameras can take some lovely photos, but you can tell when agents choose to cheap out on the real estate pictures. So many of them use their phones and depend on the market to sell the home.

In fact, homes photographed professionally sell 32% faster than those photographed by the realtor or owner. A bracketing compatible full frame camera will capture more data to create a higher quality photo. The bracketing technology also captures more of the visible light spectrum than a point-and-shoot camera, allowing you to see into the shadows for more precise detail.

When searching for the right camera, look for one labeled as a High Dynamic Range DLSR or HDR DSLR.

Wide Angle Lens

When it comes to picking out a lens, you want to stick with a wide-angle lens and steer clear of fish-eye lenses. While fish-eye lenses might seem optimal for taking wider shots, they also create visual distortion that won’t make your real estate photos more appealing to buyers – and they can be extremely expensive.

Using a wide-angle captures more of the space without the distortion familiar with the fisheye lens. Further, the lens achieves a more precise image combined with the camera quality than any point and shoot or phone camera could ever hope for. Even when you’re just beginning, look for a lens in the 16-35mm range for ideal photographs. You are shooting at an f-Stop level of f2.8-f4.

Tripod

It should come as no surprise that a tripod also makes the list for essential real estate photography equipment. Although a lightweight tripod may be tempting because it’s easy to transport, a flimsy, lightweight tripod is not a good idea.

Even if it requires a little more heavy-lifting, a tall, sturdy tripod is usually your best bet. Having a supportive, sturdy base for your camera is crucial, and it will also help you keep your images framed correctly – and minimize the use of alignment functions during the editing process.

photo editing software

Photo Editing Software

As mentioned earlier, real estate photographers are responsible for editing their pictures, so having the right editing software is essential. Some of the two most popular options for real estate photographers include Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, which allow you to change and adjust even the tiniest details of your photos.

Keep in mind that these are subscription-based programs, so you will have to pay a monthly fee.

Drone Camera

While this may not be an essential for real estate photographers that are just getting started, some photographers eventually add a basic drone camera to their arsenal of equipment. This is especially true if you take photos of larger properties, like apartment complexes, strip malls, or storefronts.

A drone camera allows you to take aerial images and videos of a property, which can highlight its location and nearby attractions in a way that most traditional cameras cannot. Keep in mind that using a drone camera for real estate photography does require a license, and there are certain regulations on where you can (and cannot) fly a drone.

Lighting Extras

Depending on the property, photographers are often responsible for using their own lighting equipment, especially in interior rooms. Even with natural light, flashes, diffusers, and umbrellas tend to be extremely useful.

At the very least, you should invest in a single flash, which can reduce heavy shadows in houses or buildings. If you’re looking to highlight features of the property more directly, wireless flashes, umbrellas, or a diffuser can certainly come in handy.

Umbrellas, for instance, can be convenient when you need to soften your light, but the ceiling is too high or you can’t produce enough “light bounce.”

Matterport or 3D Rendering Camera

Matterport is another investment that can help but isn’t needed for success. Matterport is a 3D imaging program developed in 2011 that allows you to capture the home you are photographing as a fully interactive, “walkable” tour. You can also use the Matterport cameras and technology to create a floor plan to share with your clients.

How Much Should You Charge as a Real Estate Photographer

How Much Should You Charge as a Real Estate Photographer?

So, you’ve got the equipment, developed your technical skills, and have a portfolio – now that you’re ready to market your services and take on work, how much should you be charging? The answer will often depend on the scope of the job and your location.

For a small, quick job that only takes a day to complete, a photographer might charge the client around $100 to $200. For instance, if you’re taking pictures of a house or space that’s less than 3,000 square feet, you might only charge $200.

Larger jobs that require more equipment, lots of back and forth, and days of shooting and editing could earn you $500 to $1,000 or more for your work.

If you’re not sure how time-intensive a project will be, you can always charge your client by the hour or the day as well – which can make it easier to avoid quoting a price that ends up being too low for the time you end up putting into the job.

Should Beginners Work for Free?

It’s sometimes recommended that beginners looking to build their portfolios offer their services for free to local real estate agents so they can gain experience (and find a potential client). If you truly need the practice and have zero experience, you can offer your services for free – but it’s usually better to offer a discount for those first few jobs.

Even as a beginner, you’ve still invested into professional equipment, editing software, time, and possible schooling, which can still be extremely valuable to a real estate agent or landlord.

Rather than offering for free, be honest about your experience and that you’re trying to build your portfolio – if a client hassles you about paying a discounted rate or tries to strong-arm you into doing the job for free, they’re likely not someone you want to work with anyway.

Real Estate Photography Tips For Getting the Right Shot

Whether you’re an experienced photographer or not, there can be a learning curve when it comes to taking real estate photos. Here are some quick tips for capturing that perfect shot.

Bring a Shot List to Your Shoot

Bring a Shot List to Your Shoot

While real estate agents may ask you to shoot specific things, many agents and companies rely on the photographer to know what to shoot – which is why having a shot list of what images you want to take can come in handy. Many real estate photographers use a standard shot list, and only adjust as needed.

A typical shot list might include:

  • Two shots of the home’s front exterior
  • One to three shots of the home’s backyard, unless it’s extremely scenic or there are specific features you want to highlight
  • Two wide-angle shots of the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms
  • One shot of typical features like the garage, laundry room, and cabinets/pantry
  • One photo of the bathroom, unless it’s got unique features you want to highlight

It’s always a good idea to give your real estate agent your shot list ahead of time, so they can make adjustments if needed.

Always Check Out the Property Ahead of Time

Even if you have a standard shot list, you should always check out the property before you go to shoot it. Every property is different, and seeing it ahead of time can help you plan around things like having no electricity or bad lighting, ugly decorations, or other eyesores.

Plan to Clean Up

Not all properties will require you to declutter them, but homes or other residential properties may. You shouldn’t need to spend more than an hour decluttering or staging, but you may need to stash unappealing decorations, paperwork, trash cans, or other unsightly items out of the way.

Typically, closets – which don’t get photographed unless you’re trying to highlight ample closet place – are a good spot to store these odds and ends.

Keep the Lights Off

Keep the Lights Off

If the building you’re shooting in has electricity, it’s often a dilemma for photographers as to whether they should keep the lights on or off. Leaving lights off can sometimes make the space feel cold or dim, especially if the building doesn’t have a lot of natural light to work with.

However, turning the lights on can give you an uneven color temperature, which means you will spend more time adjusting the white-balance in the editing stage. Of course, artificial light can sometimes add warmth and coziness, even if it does take a little color correcting.

While it’s best to work on a case-by-case basis, it’s generally a good idea to keep the lights off, use as much natural light as you can, and employ lighting equipment, like your flash, to highlight the room.

Keep Your Camera Straight

Whether you’re shooting from a low angle or a high one, it’s always a good idea to keep your camera straight to prevent distortion – and to save you some time with editing. A sturdy tripod can also come in handy here, as it will keep your camera at exactly the same height and angle unless you manually move it.

It can depend on the property, but generally, the ideal height to shoot most real estate listings at is around five feet.

Try to Capture the Season

While it’s not a requirement by any means, many real estate photographers aim to capture a bit of the season in their photos. The focus should always be on the property, but adding a seasonal touch can elevate your photos – and here are a few, quick easy ways to do so:

  • Winter: This is a great time to capture snow or show off attractive features, like a fireplace.
  • Spring: You can take photos of the garden if there is one, or place seasonal flowers around the porch or exterior of the home.
  • Fall: There’s no better time to include fallen leaves or a pumpkin on the doorstep.
  • Summer: Summer provides plenty of gentle sunlight, but you can also add a bowl of seasonal fruit or a pitcher of lemonade to interior shots.

golden hour

Golden Hour

The best hour for photographing the home’s exterior, as with most other forms of photography, is the hour of golden light between sunset and dusk. This light level soaks the scene in a soft golden light that emphasizes the home’s beauty.

This is the most welcoming light level for photography of buildings.

Make Sure the Home is Person and Pet-Free

While it’s normal for tenants to leave during the shoot, you may also need to accommodate pets and neighbors. If you’re taking a wide, exterior shot of the home, the neighbor mowing his lawn could be a distraction.

As a general rule, you should always notify close-by neighbors ahead of time – and if you’re doing drone shots, you’ll want to let them know you’ll be taking aerial photos.

As for pets, be sure to remind tenants that they’ll need to make accommodations for dogs, cats, or other pets when you shoot. Certain pets, like fish, may not be moveable, and a fish tank could be worked into the shot.

Real Estate Photography Challenges

Every career comes loaded with challenges and struggles. This industry is no different, and you’ll deal with competition, demanding clients, equipment failures, and so on – and some of the most common challenges for real estate photographers include:

Quick Turnaround Times

Unlike portrait or wedding photography, real estate photography requires a quick turnaround time – sometimes in less than 48 hours. Real estate agents may expect you to shoot and edit most typical projects within two days or less, which is why it’s important for photographers to work quickly while still providing a professional, clean result.

As you gain more experience, it’ll be easier to judge how shooting and editing will take you, and you can set realistic expectations with clients about turnaround times.

Uncooperative Residents

Uncooperative Residents

When working on luxury properties, you’re less likely to run into this issue; however, if you’re working on multi-family housing projects, farm projects, low-income housing complexes, or other circumstances wherein the tenant is disturbed, you may run into a fair amount of opposition.

Remember that this isn’t the case for every shoot and can easily be overcome with a healthy dose of optimism and professionalism.

Whether their home is untidy, or they choose to pester you through the shoot, it’s important to remember that you are a guest in their home. They may not be happy that you’re contributing to the sale of their house or may feel that you are intruding on their space. Remember to keep in touch with the realtor, remain calm and professional, and try to build rapport so that you can put them at ease.

How to Find Paying Clients

When you’re first starting, you’ll likely struggle to convince new potential clients to have faith in your skills when you have little evidence to share with them. However, looking at a broader market to offer your services to is an excellent way to find a way in the door.

Airbnb hosts often hire real estate photographers. If you look at websites for office buildings, rental agencies, hotels, and other accommodations, you will see that they also use real estate photographers to showcase their spaces.

Even places like restaurants, diners, and event venues will need updated photos of their areas to stay current. Check with local businesses to build your online portfolio, and improve your value to potential clients.

take the leap

Taking the Leap

Although it can be daunting to try and break into real estate photography without prior experience, there are plenty of resources to learn the craft – from traditional schooling to getting hands-on experience, this can be a flexible, lucrative career if you are willing to learn.

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