It’s rare to see a real estate listing online without any accompanying images. It’s rare because images help to sell properties — after all, people are visual by nature.
But simply pulling out your camera — whether your phone or a high-def digital camera — and snapping a few pictures isn’t enough to help sell more properties. Especially if you want to sell properties quickly.
To take better real estate photos, you have to think strategically and decide early on how your images will hook your audience. Before potential customers ever step foot in one of your listings, the images you choose to showcase should give people an idea of the kind of atmosphere to expect. It’s this feeling that triggers a call to you to find out more.
To help you think differently about how you approach taking real estate photos, here are five tips for planning your next photo shoot.
1. Do a walk-through of the property before you begin.
When you stage an open house, you do a walk-through first to make sure that rooms are clear of clutter, blinds are open to let in lots of natural light, and aromatic candles or diffusers create a warm and inviting ambiance.
While some of those elements can’t be captured in an image, you can still use your real estate photos to create the type of atmosphere that you want buyers to experience when they see your listings online for the first time.
Start by walking through each house to plan your photo shoot. And to get composition and staging ideas, study real estate photos that you like.
For example, you might find that instead of taking pictures of rooms head-on, it’s better to focus on different angles that showcase different dimensions of key features — like a beautiful staircase near the front entryway:
Or even a hallway with carpet and wall sconces that make it look longer:
As you walk through a house, think about which features best represent each room. Remember that some rooms may require more than one photo. For example, many potential home buyers spend the most time exploring kitchens. Consider the trends your audience is interested in, and take multiple images to show unique style elements and to entice people to book an appointment to see the house — and kitchen — in person.
Finally, use your walk-through to remove clutter and stage each room. For example, consider adding pops of color to emphasize features and to create a welcoming atmosphere. This can be as simple as adding a few colorful pillows, a vase of flowers, or other accessories to show off the space.
2. Consider the time of day for the best lighting effects
When it comes to photography, lighting is everything. Many of the best images are not only well staged but also make good use of light, giving rooms a high-end look and feel.
Use lighting to make rooms look bright and airy, but be mindful that too much natural light can cause a glare and make rooms look darker than they actually are. For example, look at this kitchen before and after a remodel. Do you see how lighting makes the second image stand out and appear more appealing than the first image?
Keep in mind that the time of day and the direction of the sun also play a roll in taking better real estate photos. For example, take photos based on the direction the property faces:
- East, take pictures in the morning.
- West, take pictures in the afternoon.
- North, take pictures between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- South, take pictures first thing in the morning or at dusk.
Taking pictures at the “right” time of day adds a more dramatic effect. Take this image, for example. It was shot at dusk with all of the lights in the house turned on. The effect brightens the house, makes it stand out even more in the picture, and creates curb appeal.
Compare the first example to this house, which was taken during the day and looks darker:
Use a flash for darker spaces, but diffuse the light by turning the flash around to bounce it off a wall or ceiling. This technique makes for a softer image with fewer shadows. Depending on the room you’re in, use the wall to create a softer lighting effect. This works best with white walls, which are more likely to prevent color distortion in the final image. Bouncing the light of a flash off the ceiling spreads the light around so it isn’t in front and too bright, causing shadows. Just be mindful of how tall the ceilings are, because higher ceilings reduce the effect.
3. Correct vertical distortions with Photoshop.
When you start taking photos, be mindful of the vertical lines in the images. Sometimes they appear distorted and impart a low quality to the image, which can influence buyers’ perceptions of the house.
The most common type of distortion you’ll encounter is barrel distortion, which causes vertical lines to look like they’re bowed outward:
Wide-angle lenses cause this distortion based on how wide a shot you’re trying to capture. The wider the shot, the more pronounced the distortion will be.
To fix this issue before publishing your images, use an editing tool like Adobe Photoshop to make your them look more appealing.
Simply upload your images to Photoshop and the default Auto Correction option will automatically fix distortions. But for the best results, use the Lens Correction filter to allow Photoshop to auto-detect which camera and lens you used. Once that data is received, Photoshop uses optimal distortion correction on affected images.
4. Experiment with camera settings to capture the best images.
While professional equipment is great to use, it can be expensive. So can a professional photographer, who probably charges hundreds or thousands of dollars to come in and shoot for a few hours. Depending on your advertising budget, you can get someone to take pictures for you, or you can take them yourself with the tips provided so far in this post.
The good news is that even though smartphones aren’t ideal in every situation, they’ve evolved enough so that you can take professional-looking real estate photos with just a few clicks. Almost all mobile phones — iPhone and Android — have multiple settings to choose from to get the look and feel you’re after.
[Source] Camera setting on Samsung Galaxy models
[Source] Camera options on iPhone models
While the wide range of settings and options might seem intimidating at first, they’re designed to help take your images from average to professional. Test features like ISO, shutter speed, exposure, white balance, focal length, and color tone until you find the right mix for your property. Keep in mind that the settings may have to change depending on the lighting, time of day, and even the size of each room. Do a few test shots, and use different camera angles for the best real estate photos.
5. Incorporate drone video with real estate photos
Selling a property isn’t just about documenting the inside space; it’s also about showcasing the outside curb appeal. Taking a picture of the front of the house is pretty standard, so consider taking things to the next level by using a drone to take images and video of the entire exterior.
Drones add more character, and they work especially well with large properties that have a lot of outside space. Use a drone to show prospective buyers multiple views of the house and to give people a reason to contact you to find out more about the property.
Why stop there? Capture images and video of the surrounding neighborhood and amenities. For example, include shots of nearby grocery stores, entertainment venues, fitness centers, and schools. That way, your listing caters to a wider segment of your target audience. Yes, the home looks beautiful, but the surrounding area and proximity to the amenities that matter most help sell your properties.
What’s great about the above example is that the drone video includes the distance from the house to each amenity. With access to information conveniently at our fingertips, your audience is spending time online researching before they contact you. So if you can add as much information as possible to your drone images and video, think about how much more qualified your leads will be.
Learning how to take real estate photos requires trial and error
What’s important is that you experiment to see what works and then modify your strategy accordingly. There are lots of variables to consider — lighting, time of day, camera type, image composition, and more, so take the time to learn the basics, and then begin to experiment.
The goal is to use your real estate photos to sell as many properties as possible. Learn about your audience so that you can incorporate their needs into your strategy. The better you know your audience, the stronger your real estate photos will be, because they speak to a specific need.