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A How-To Guide to Getting Started in Real Estate Photography

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Real estate is one of the world's most competitive industries. Dominated by ambitious agents looking for the next big sale, selling real estate is all about setting yourself apart from the competition. What better way to catch a buyer's eye than the perfect photo of the perfect home? In today's article, we're taking a look at the exciting world of real estate photography.

The need for solid real estate photography is a constant no matter the state of the economy. The downturn in the United States market the last few years has not impacted the demand for photos that showcase properties for sale. When realtors are troubled in selling homes and properties, finely crafted photos can be the difference maker in setting their properties apart.

Because of the constant demand for real estate photography, it can be an attractive career pursuit or a possibility to supplement your income freelancing. However, being successful in real estate photography requires some techniques and consideration that sets it apart from other photographic disciplines. Let's take a look.


Meet Chase Thibodeaux

Chase Thibodeaux is a real estate photographer from western North Carolina. Chase has been successful in forming his own real estate photography business, Xposure Real Estate Photography, and agreed to share his expertise on this article. His business has quickly grown and now keeps him busy shooting amazing properties throughout his area.


Chase Thibodeaux's Xposure Real Estate Photography covers real estate photography in Western North Carolina.

Choosing the Right Gear

With any photographic pursuit, it is important to first consider the tools that will set you up for success. With real estate photography, you may already have the gear needed to get started.

Cameras

Many photographers spend the bulk of their budgets on the camera body. However, real estate photography is possibly less demanding of the camera itself than most other photography niches. You don't need the latest and greatest camera to get solid shots.

You'll always benefit from a camera with good high ISO performance, and the more recent the camera, the better performance you will likely experience. Clients may request night photos in order to showcase their properties as they appear lit up.

If you already own a modern digital SLR, you're unlikely to need to upgrade to get started in real estate photography. Save your budget for the other items discussed below.

Lenses

Lenses are a very important consideration in real estate photography, and a wide angle lens is your best bet. You won't always be shooting in the Taj Mahal, so the bathrooms of the two bedroom Cape Cod style home will certainly demand a wide angle lens to include the entire room.

A wide angle or ultrawide angle lens is key to real estate photography success. The perspective provided by these lenses allows you to put the viewer in the midst of the scene and make them feel as if they are actually in the home.

Chase says: "In order to get stunning images you want to be able to showcase as much of an area as possible. Shooting on angles (from corners) in rooms gives the impression of greater space. You can make a very small room look so much larger just on how you position the camera."

Accessories

The above items are all important, but don't overlook the number one item that can improve your real estate shots: a tripod. Often times, you will be in relatively low lit environments and a tripod can make the difference. You will be stretched to shoot low ISO images for top quality, plus reduced aperture for greater sharpness and increased depth of field. Obviously, a tradeoff must occur, so shutter speed is often the odd man out.

Chase's thoughts: "For anyone looking to explore real estate photography the biggest thing to focus on would be your gear. It doesn't have to be extravagant gear to get excellent photos but a DSLR and ultra wide angle lens is a must. Add in a tripod and you are set to go!"


The Shoot

Now that we've got all of the tools needed to succeed in real estate photography, let's plan out the shoot itself.

When working with your clients, ensure that their needs are covered. If this is your first time shooting real estate photography, ensure that you have a list of shots showcasing the property as the realtor or owner wants it to appear. The client will almost undoubtedly want the main living areas, bedrooms and bathrooms covered.

Planning a real estate shoot means setting expectations for the shoot as early as possible. When working with clients, you have to communicate that the home needs to be in photo condition so that you can properly do your job. This is particularly important when photographing a home with people still living in it.

If the home is currently uninhabited, the real estate agent will likely want to be there during the time you are photographing the home. This arrangement requires communicating to the agent the amount of time he or she will need to be present during the photography process.

Make sure that you are providing your clients with both web based and full resolution photographs. With busy schedules, real estate agents often don't have the time or tools needed to process images, so ensure that what you are exporting is fit to go directly to their listing systems.

Capturing The Scene

So you've got the agreement setup and are ready to venture onto the property to capture the shots that will have the home sold in no time flat. Let's walk through some steps toward getting things perfect.

The first thing to do is to survey the interior. You already have a good idea of the rooms you need to photograph, so dive into the scene. Go ahead and setup the tripod and begin composing the scene in a way that showcases the beauty of the home. This stage requires a certain appreciation for architecture and design.

Chase Thibodeaux on the setup: "Many people want to extend the tripod as high as it can go and have a tendency to shoot from 'eye level'. This is not something I recommend because when you shoot from eye level you naturally point the camera downwards. Doing so creates something called "converging verticals". That's where the straight angle of a wall will look crooked or slanted in comparison with the frame of the photo. The perfect height to have a tripod is about chest height, or around 4.5 - 5 feet high, allowing you to get all walls vertical in the frame."

After composing the scene as you want it, it's a great idea to shoot a series of bracketed images. With bracketed images, we shoot photos from the same spot, but with varying exposures. We'll take photos that range in brightness and darkness in order to merge them later. Software like Photoshop allows us to merge photos and combine the highlighted and shadowed regions in order to capture a huge range of exposure.

Chase Thibodeaux on lighting: "One of the most important things about shooting a house is having good lighting. A common misconception about real estate photography is that you need to have an external flash to get great photos. This is not true! All of my photography is done using natural lighting with HDR techniques.

"Shooting bracketed photos for HDR prevents harsh shadows or hot spots that an external flash would normally give. Colors also appear more vibrant when using HDR. When combining the bracketed shots it is vital in processing that they still look natural. I use exposure fusion instead of the common method of tone mapping because I prefer the results. Fine tuning and further processing is done with Photoshop."

Don't neglect to capture solid exterior shots as well. Sometimes, this means doing some scouting work before the day of the shoot. Find out the hours of the best light falling on the exterior of the home, and take advantage of it. Furthermore, realize that weather should be included in the consideration in photographing the exterior. Even million dollar homes can look drab with stormy skies.

Chase Thibodeaux on exteriors: "For the exterior shots I tend to bring the exposure down one or two stops to balance out the sunlight. Slightly overcast days provide the best conditions by limiting shadows and also making any exterior light closer to the light inside of the home, this helps with minimizing blown out windows. Blown out windows can occur when the light outside is brighter than inside. A camera's sensor is unable to detect such differences that the human eye compensates for."


One More Thought

Chase offers some final thoughts on how to set yourself apart from other photographers, "An extremely popular service that I offer is Pole Aerial Photography for the exterior shots. Mounting the camera on a pole gives a much different perspective of the home and sets it apart from the crowd.

"When prospects browse through home photos it is very easy for them to all start looking the same. Anything you can do to be different will be a great success! It's also important to understand that real estate photography is not about simply marketing properties, it's about marketing individuals, the agents selling the homes. Whether you intend to get into real estate photography for fun or to start a business the journey will be rewarding."


Conclusion

Real estate photography is a field that has constant demand and provides interesting work opportunities. Venturing inside beautiful properties can be an exciting part of the job and allows you to broaden your photography horizons.

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