I was recently asked to photograph a condo that would soon be on the market in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado.
Below are my 11 tips for residential real estate photography.
1. Walk Through:
A walk around the inside and outside of the home, preferably with the realtor and a notepad, helps you get a game plan for your residential real estate photography job. You need to know what you’re going to shoot and what you’re not going to shoot. You will also need to take note of special features or details that the realtor might want to draw attention to in the listing. For example, in the condo I shot, the guest bathroom had a touch facet. I made sure to get a close-up of the facet with it running. A walk through will also allow you to notice areas that might need extra lighting or a special lens.
Prepare to spend several hours at a home. In the condo I shot recently, I spent a total of 8 to 10 hours. The day I took the inside photos wasn’t a good day to shoot the outside photos, so I had to come back a few times before the weather cooperated with me so I could get some good outside shots.
Allow yourself to spend time in each room to find the best angle or position.
3. Landscape Orientation:
Shoot all your real estate photos in landscape instead of portrait orientation/mode. Landscape orientation allows for a bigger photo when viewing on a computer monitor. When being viewed on tablets or smart phones, the viewer can rotate their device so the images are larger. Also, real estate websites are built to use landscape orientation.
4. Prepare the Room:
Typically, less is more. Get items off the counters. Hide the toothbrush and soap, for example. A toaster and coffee maker on the kitchen counter is fine, but hide the pill minder.
When you’re getting ready to shoot a room, make sure you or the items you’ve relocated, are not being reflected in a mirror.
Wipe-off the counter tops, sinks, cabinet doors, mirrors, etc.
Make sure the toilet seat is down. Actually, we don’t need to see all of the toilet. If you can get the shot with only part of the toilet, that’s just fine.
If there’s a house pet, make sure they don’t slip into your shot while you were focusing, so-to-speak, on something else.
Often, there isn’t enough available light inside buildings to hand-hold a camera. The condo I recently shot was no exception. So, you have two options for dealing with low-light situations: (a.) increase your ISO so your shutter speed is fast enough for hand-holding or (b.) use a tripod. I hand-held my camera and took the ISO up until the shutter speed was fast enough for hand-held operations (about 1/125 of a second). The ISO I ended at was 12,800. At that ISO, I knew there would be way too much noise for a decent photo. Using a tripod, I could take the ISO back down to 100 where there would be no noise. Granted, the shutter would be open for 5 seconds.
6. Full-frame Camera
Given the inevitable small spaces, I was glad I had a full-frame camera. Crop frame cameras crop the image, which is effectively increasing the focal length, which is a problem in tight or small spaces such as closets or bathrooms. Increased focal lengths means that you have to back-up to get far enough away to get everything into your shot. Versus full frame cameras do not crop the image so you can stay in close.
7. Wide-angle lens
Similar to having a full frame camera, it’s nice, maybe crucial, to have a wide angle lens such as Nikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8 or 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. For most of the photos in the condo I recently shot, most of the time I was at 24mm. Sometimes even wider when I wanted to get all of the bedroom in one shot.
There might be times when you need to add some light to a room or, in this case, to the inside of a wine refrigerator. The Sub-Zero wine refrigerator in this condo is a nice perk and the realtor wanted to highlight it. The problem was, the light inside the refrigerator only came on when the door was open. The realtor suggested leaving the door open so the light would be on when I took the photo. I had a better idea: put a flash inside the refrigerator and close the door.
9. Remote Flash Triggers
Off-camera-flash is a must in most situations. To accomplish this, you have two options: corded or cordless flash. Most flash units have wireless capability built-in, either with infrared or radio. My Nikon SB-910 flash uses infrared, but sometimes that doesn’t work because the flash doesn’t receive the light coming from the camera. To get around this, I used the Phottix Odin Wireless Transmitter and Receiver to trigger my flash inside the wine refrigerator.
I didn’t use lightstands while shooting this condo, but I had them with me. Sometimes you want to add light a room and you might need your flash held by a lightstand.
11. Connecting Elements
By ‘connecting elements’, I mean fixtures or furniture that’s in two or more photos that connect one room to the next and help guide the viewer through the house. For example, the chandelier over the dining room table is in the entry photo, the kitchen photo, the dining room photo, and the living room photo. The viewer uses connecting elements as a reference point to virtually walk through the condo.