Best Camera Settings For Real Estate Photography – Real estate photography can seem difficult and even high pressure, but with a little know-how, you can start creating great images right away.
I’ve spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of real estate and home photography, and today I want to pass that knowledge on to you. So if you’re ready to learn how to photograph houses like a pro, let’s dive in, starting with:
Best Camera Settings For Real Estate Photography
Your camera should allow you to add a cable release, a flash, different lenses and wireless triggers. For cropped sensor cameras a lens around 10-22mm or 12-24mm is perfect and for full frame sensor cameras a lens around 16-35mm will do the job.
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Tilt-shift lenses help avoid converging vertical lines such as wall edges and door frames. There are a handful of tilt-shift lenses available, but while these lenses are wonderful to use, they have a fixed focal length. So if you need more flexibility, a 16-35mm zoom lens is a good alternative (or companion) to a tilt-shift lens.
This image shows diverging vertical lines from using a 16-35mm lens tilted down to add foreground and minimize the ceiling.
Now real estate shooting techniques can get quite complex, from exposure blending and HDR to wireless flash and multi-exposure light painting. Regardless of your shooting style, the camera should not be moved (to guarantee image adjustment for multiple exposures), and the self-timer, a cable release or a wireless trigger will help ensure zero camera movement. Some apps will also trigger the camera and preview the image on your smartphone or tablet.
The first image a potential buyer (usually) sees when reviewing properties online is an exterior photo, so you
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Take a beautiful outdoor photo. A big part of this is lighting, so you need to choose your time of day and lighting quality carefully.
Most outdoor house photography benefits from lighting early and late in the day when the light is soft and golden. The direction of the sun is also important, so you’ll want to use an app like PhotoPills to determine the sun’s position before the photo session. Generally, aim to shoot with light hitting the front of the home, like this:
In winter, some south-facing homes never have the sun on the front of the house. In such situations, I highly recommend keeping the sun at your back, even if it means shooting the home from an angle.
If you don’t like the results you get with morning or afternoon light, consider shooting on an overcast day. Cloudy skies can eliminate sun position issues, but discuss this with your client first, as white skies can diminish the impact of an otherwise stunning exterior image.
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Also, if you struggle to find a good time to shoot during the day, you have one more option:
Simply go to the house around sunset and choose the best angle to showcase the home, ignoring the ambient light. Turn on all the lights or even add lights to the rooms; then wait until after sunset when the sky exposure balances the room’s light exposure. That’s when you can create a beautiful image at the pro level!
Once you’ve taken some great exterior photos, you’ll need to move on to the interior property photos. This can be tedious, but it is important that you approach the task with care.
Houses come in all shapes, sizes, styles and conditions. You want the house to look as good as possible, so I recommend sending your clients a home prep to-do list prior to the photo shoot.
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Once you arrive, photograph the main rooms: the living room, kitchen, dining area, bedroom and master bath, all of which are “must-shoot” rooms. There could also be a library, office, large walk-in closet and much more. The customer can often tell you what they consider important; don’t be afraid to ask.
Once you’ve entered a room and are preparing to take a photo, look for the best perspective. I like to use indoor elements – furniture, windows and room decor – to create visual flow. I generally try to avoid including a large element in the foreground that prevents the eye from flowing through the space.
By turning the chair and lowering the camera height slightly, the eye flows more easily through the room. (This image also has its vertical lines corrected.)
In home photography, there is broad agreement among customers and photographers: Vertical must be correct! Most interiors have lots of verticals, including edges and corners of walls, door frames and windows, and these edges must
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. Wide-angle lenses that are not level (eg tilted slightly up towards the ceiling or down towards the floor) will cause vertical edges to converge or diverge
If you use a tilt-shift lens, the problem is solved immediately, but not everyone likes TS lenses. So what are you doing? How do you prevent converging and diverging verticals from ruining your images?
A common approach is to level the camera—that is, make sure it doesn’t tilt up or down—because a perfectly level camera records straight vertical points. Although this is a simple solution, it does not always produce the best compositions; a level camera at chest height can cut off foreground subjects like furniture at the bottom and leave too much ceiling at the top. Lowering the camera height will improve this problem, but how low can you go and still have an effective image?
This photo of one of my online students, Simone Brogini, illustrates this point. His camera is chest high and is leveled to avoid diverging verticals. But the foreground furniture is cut off and there is too much ceiling that lacks interest.
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Simone also shot this bedroom shot the same way. It looks pretty good, but I advised him again that the camera height might just be a little too high, since the bed and furniture only get about 1/3 of the frame, and the wall and windows take up 2/3 of the frame.
So what is the perfect camera height? There are many opinions. Some suggest chest height, while others suggest doorknob height or even lower. I prefer chest height or close, and I also correct vertical lines using other methods, such as a tilt-shift lens or the lens correction tool in Photoshop (or Lightroom).
This image shows the power of the lens correction tool. The bed and furniture cover 2/3 of the frame and give a better view of the room, plus the verticals are straight!
You can handle this contrast in many ways; one is to shoot when outdoor light levels are lower, such as during or after sunset, or on an overcast day. Turning on every light inside increases the interior brightness, and if the outdoor brightness is lower, a RAW file can often capture the scene in one frame. Alternatively, you can capture a series of images in brackets and then blend them together in post-processing.
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On a bright, sunny day, the room has a dark ceiling, a dark floor, window glare, and hot spots with too much contrast for one shot.
Even in low-contrast lighting situations, I’d recommend taking a few extra shots to make sure you have all the necessary exposures for a good shot. First, determine your base exposure, the image that has the most data centered in the histogram. Then bracket in one-stop increments of different exposures. You may not need these extra shots, but if the dynamic range of the scene turns out to be too large, they can really save the day (ie you can blend them into a great final shot!).
While some real estate photographers stick to ambient lighting, like a finely lit portrait, interiors can benefit greatly from carefully crafted external lighting. Bracketing and blending can control scene contrast, but can’t create highlights and shadows in areas that have no directional light – and if you have a dark cabinet against a dark wall, for example, adding supplemental lighting can bring out much-needed detail.
Most interiors have two light sources: window light and interior light. You can add continuous lights or use strobe/flash. Personally, I recommend flash or flash, which gives flexibility when lighting interiors.
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Before I dive into the basics of interior lighting, I want to emphasize the purpose: to bring out the details, balance the overall lighting effect, prevent distracting dark spots, and emphasize the most important parts of the scene. Always think about what the ambient lighting hides and what your studio lighting will reveal.
Now, photographers shooting for architects or magazines often have plenty of time to photograph a property with finely crafted lighting techniques, but a real estate photographer’s time is usually limited, making flash the perfect tool. You can master the balancing act by using direct on-camera flash to fill a scene, or you can bounce flash on-camera for stunning results.
Feel free to take a test shot without the flash, then review the image on your LCD and determine which areas require fill light. This is what I did for the scene below:
Here the only light came from a window to the left and the ceiling fixtures leaving
Best Camera Settings For Real Estate Photography — Emma Highfill
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