Real estate photography is an essential marketing tool for any successful realtor and yet, professional real estate photography hasn't been around for as long as you might think. Professional photographic services have become a staple of the real estate industry only in the last 15 years of so, since the liberalization of information and availability offered by the advent of accessible internet. It’s enough to just look over a catalogue of the MLS from the early 2000s and see that each property listing had only 1(!) low-resolution photo, which was usually a B&W image taken in a drive-by style. Today, it’s a whole different game out there - each property listing has multiple, high-quality photos, showcasing its unique points and benefits, the most attractive angles and on the whole, telling the story of what life potential customers could enjoy if they owned/leased it. Professional photography has now become an essential tool which every successful realtor must use to the fullest if they want to crush those sales goals!
But what makes a real estate photo shoot be a great success and what key points should you look after to achieve such a level of result? Well, it all starts with what we have already mentioned above - a great photo shoot must tell a story, a story that will captivate the minds and hearts of potential buyers. It must offer clients a glimpse into a life they could have and showcase it in such a way to make them want it. Think about a really beautiful shot of a terrace, overlooking a gorgeous marina bay. What does that photo say to potential customers? Does it aim to objectively describe the terrace, it’s real size, the construction materials that went into building it? No, it tells this story - imagine waking up and drinking your coffee here, listening to the waves of the sea while the morning sun caresses your skin (at least to romantic coffee drinkers it does…). So this is what you should aim for. Do every shot thinking about the story you are telling, thinking about the emotional connection you wish to inspire and create.
Planning for meaning is, although essential, not enough. So, in order to do a highly successful real estate photo shoot here are some very important things you also need to take care of every time.
Start by accurately planning the shoot, and listing out what shots you will take for the property. It is important to convey not only the beauty and potential of the property, but to actually offer real valuable information to customers as well. Ideally you should plan for at least a couple of wide-angle shots of every bedroom, the living-room and the kitchen, at least 1 shot of the bathroom (more if it has special features that you want to promote), a couple of shots of the back yard and similarly of the front of the house, to give a good overall feeling of the exterior. Then, depending on the property, you should have at least one shot of individual features the property may have like a garage, a pond in the backyard, maybe a foyer or a laundry room/pantry. Following this list of shots will give you the minimum amount of materials to create a compelling presentation of the property.
The next important thing you need to focus on is staging each of these shots. Staging each of the shots ensures that you shine the best light possible on the property. Staging the shots is akin to an art in itself, and one that makes photographing properties much easier. To make it easier, here are some concepts you should take advantage of:
● De-clutter all surface tops and make sure everything is clean and tidy. While in our own homes we are used to a little clutter, all this extra detail will pop up in an unpleasant way in your photos.
● While de-cluttering be sure to not go all Bauhaus and minimalist. Leave a few decorative items and even add splashes of color here and there in the form of flowers and fruits
● Make the beds; ideally with linens that match and neatly fold the towels in the kitchens and bathrooms that you shoot
● Make sure you remove any personalized items from the rooms; thus you’ll leave space for the potential clients to imagine their own lives and stuff in the property
Again, the key concept to go for here is to showcase the property in the best possible way, while leaving enough room for the buyers imagination to fill in the blanks of the story ‘How would it be if I lived here’.
After staging, before you start shooting, check your gear once more. As a rule of thumb you should prepare your gear the night before a shoot, make sure everything is working properly, all batteries are fully charged and you’ve got all the cards, lenses, flashes and maybe modifiers that you need. Prepare and set out your gear so that everything is within easy access to you as you move from shot to shot. Before starting to actually take the photos, take a final tour of the house, ideally accompanied by the realtor. Soak in the ambience of each room and of the exterior, go over the list of shots you have agreed upon, and picture the final results that you are trying to achieve in your mind. Mentally note the best angles for each room. This also gives you the opportunity to ask the homeowner or realtor to move items. Additionally, it lets you know which spaces are ready for you. And which spaces may need a few more minutes of tidying up. Knowing this will let you know in what order you’ll want to start taking real estate photos.
With all the preparations done, you are now ready to start the photo-shoot. For each room, carefully take into account the camera position and lens to get the results you are shooting for. Take multiple shots and multiple exposures that you can then blend together in post processing to create the desired effects. It’s always best to diffuse the light so as to create the impression of beautiful natural light coming in and of airy spaces. Depending on how much time you have assigned for your job, you could use multiple off-camera flashes or, if you need to move quicker through the photo-shoot, an on-camera flash unit, setting it to manual mode and with a position so that it bounces the light and not fire straight at the photographed objects.
Post-processing is extremely important for any real-estate photo shoot aiming to deliver outstanding results. Sure, this means bending the truth a little, but it’s best to approach post-processing with the mentality of showing reality in the best possible way. To prepare for post-processing during the shoot itself, always make sure to take multiple shots, that you can blend or from which you can pick out details in post processing. Take notes of the lenses you used so that you can correct specific distortions in your post-processing software. Decide with the realtor and home-owners the level of processing that you will apply. It can go from doing mild touch-ups to heavy processing like replacing trees, the sky, changing and correcting defects of various objects, etc. In most cases , if there is a cloudy day, it would be best to replace the sky and flat lighting, with a more flattering and expressive one. Also if a shot of a room contains a large window overlooking a beautiful scene note that it is generally impossible to get both the outside scene and the interior of the room correctly exposed in the same shot. So you’ll need to have multiple exposures, some calibrated for the outside, some for the actual window plane and some for the inside of the room that you’ll later blend together in processing.
Since good post-processing is essential to delivering great results, if you do not have the skills or the time required, you may think about outsourcing the editing to a proficient freelancer or a company that specializes in this service. Even though you may be hesitant at first to consider the option of outsourcing, think about the necessary investment of time. Would that time be better spent shooting other properties, would that be more profitable to your business? If so, then seriously consider this option. One important thing to keep in mind if you do choose to go this route is to stay true to a certain style in all your images. If you do all the post-processing yourself this will come out naturally. But if you outsource this part of the process, make sure to communicate this clearly and effectively so that your style of imaging is respected and accurately followed by whomever you choose to work with.
In this post, we merely aimed to give some basic pointers. There are many more key factors that go into delivering great results from a real-estate photo shoot. But if you follow some of the pointers outlined above you will be well on your way towards success. Keep in mind the crucial importance of your work and how great images are actually those which get potential customer’s attention and can ultimately sell or hurt a property