Real Estate Photography can be Tricky
Photographs of your rental property are an important part of the listing, and you’ll want to have the best images possible in order to attract potential renters. Due to the nature of photographing buildings, with varying lighting conditions and limited space to work in, real estate photography can be tricky even for professionals. It may seem easy enough to walk through your property and snap a few photos with your cell phone, but in the long run having the right photos for your listing can make a substantial difference in the number of responses you receive.
If you are taking photos for your listing, there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to improve your results.
The best way to take photos like a pro? Hire one! It may seem like an unnecessary or easily removed expense, but hiring someone with a solid understanding of interior light vs natural light, with the equipment to capture a large field of view and make the right corrections in editing, who has experience in recognizing the best angles to shoot from, will get you the absolute best results.
Photographing building interiors means you are often contending with bright light and dark shadows in the same shot, and while modern devices often have a setting for HDR (“high dynamic range,” artificially lightening shadows and toning down highlights or bright areas) the effect from a standardized HDR setting can make your photos look unrealistic and cartoonish, and should be used sparingly. There is unfortunately no substitute for professionally bracketing and stitching, the process where a photographer takes multiple exposures of the same photograph and combines them in order to preserve details in what would normally be a too-dark or too-light spot of a single image.
- Clean House
Make sure the property is clean both inside and out, floors vacuumed, and windows clean. Walk through the property and double-check any glass surfaces – these are highly reflective, and smudges will often show up in photos. If you’re taking pictures of a furnished property, check that chairs are aligned to tables and cushions are fluffed nicely. Small items that seen innocuous in a walk-through — more than 1-2 purposeful decorations per surface, coasters, remote controls, etc. — will look like clutter in photos. Unless it is particular spacious or custom, closet interiors are not usually photographed, and make great hiding places for items you need to move. Minimal decor will make it easier for potential renters to envision their furniture in the space. Give yourself plenty of time for this step before you plan shooting.
- Find the Right Light
The most important part of photography is light. “Photo” means “light,” and “graphy” means “writing.” Without light, there is no photo. One of the most complicated aspects of real estate photography is balancing interior light with natural light to capture details without bright areas getting washed out. Consider the space you are photographing at various times of day to determine if and when you can use natural light to illuminate the space in a pleasing way. Unless you are using an exterior flash unit, try not to use flash at all. A flash in real estate photography will create harsh shadows and instantly give your pictures an unprofessional look. Use a tripod (even a cheap one, as long as it is steady) to keep photos from blurring. The “golden hour,” the hour after sunrise or hour before sunset, when light spills in from windows and gives everything a warm feeling in images, is typically the best time to capture images.
- Field of View and Distortion
Your eyes see a lot more than a standard camera will be able to capture in a single shot. Real estate photographers use specialty wide angle lenses to open the field of view and capture more of the space in a single image. You won’t be able to replicate this fully without a special lens, but if your camera has a panorama feature you can use this to still get a wider view in a single image. For the most part, unless you are photographing a particular feature, you will want make sure there is not too much of the ceiling or the floor in the photos. Taking your pictures from chest-height (about 5′ from the floor) will make the room itself the center piece, with just enough floor and ceiling to get a feel for the entire space.
Also pay attention to the vertical lines in your photos and try to keep them straight (like the corners on a wall, and the edges of window and door frames) by holding the camera itself straight. If the camera is pointed even slightly up or slightly down you’ll see the vertical lines pull away from each other at one end of the photo, and push together at the other — this causes distortion in the image, and will give the space a ‘fun house’ look. Most cameras have a grid (or ‘rule of thirds’) setting option that will display lines in your view for framing objects, and can also be used to check the straightness of lines in your photo.
- Go Outside
Many real estate listings will use a photo of the front of the property as the cover image, which makes this an important shot. As always, pay attention to the light available before shooting. It’s a good idea to photograph the front of a property while the sun is shining on it, and the best time of day will depend on the direction the property faces – East-facing properties should be photographed in the morning, and West-facing in the afternoon. Remember to get pictures of common areas, shared spaces, and amenities as well.
The majority of potential renters will look at photos before checking into any other features, making images a crucial tool for standing out while marketing your property. The rental market can be competitive; the right photos for your listing can not only reduce the time your property stays vacant but may even allow you to charge a higher rental rate.