DIY – Real Estate Photography, The Basics

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REALTORS®, Do it yourself. Very few marketing elements make the impact of great pictures. Buyers are looking at pictures (and not just with you). They are looking online before they ever talk to you, and they will keep looking as long as they are searching for the perfect home. Great pictures sell houses, BAD PICTURES KEEP BUYERS AWAY!

We can’t stand bad real estate photos and we know that we can’t take pictures of every listing. That is why we tell you how to take the best pictures possible. If you follow our guidelines your real estate photography will make a huge jump from amateur (or worse) to very good (and eventually great). Remember, it takes time to learn these skills, but you can do it. If you take your time and think like a home buyer you will be in great shape.

First Things First

Great real estate photography takes time. A typical professional photo shoot takes a few hours. When we shoot a home we light every room, we scan the room for clutter and out-of-place items, we open windows and turn on lights, then we carefully compose every shot and check for proper exposure and focus. That’s just at the house. After we have shot the house, the photos have to be chosen and processed, then delivered to the client. Every step is vitally important so I will go over them in detail in a separate post.

Real Estate Photography Basics

There are a few basics that you can’t get by without. This package will get you started and will yield professional results without breaking the bank. With the basics package there are some compromises and I will tell you when I think you should skip the basic option and step up to a better product. If you buy just the basics, you will be spending around $1,250 to get started, not including a computer, sales tax, or shipping. If you upgrade to the Canon T6i you will spend closer to $1,850, but you will have a camera that you can grow into and will serve you for many years. These prices include a year-long subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

CameraCanon EOS Rebel T5 This is the bare-bones basic option. If you absolutely have to buy a camera and only have $399, buy this one. Otherwise, buy a Canon EOS Rebel T6i with a 18-135 zoom lens. While the T5 is a decent camera, it is lacking some key features (like an articulating screen, and a touch screen) and you will quickly grow out of it. The T6i is a really nice camera that you can use for years and the 18-135mm STM zoom lens is a fantastic kit lens.

Wide-Angle LensCanon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and lens hood. This is a FANTASTIC wide-angle lens, and you simply can’t beat it for the price. BUY THIS ONE! You will also, absolutely need the lens hood for avoiding lens flare while shooting exterior photos.

Tripod and Ball Head64.5-Inch Lightweight Aluminum Camera Tripod With Bag . You will want a light, sturdy tripod with a ball head. The ball head allows you to quickly level your camera without messing around with the tripod legs. You will be moving a lot, so you don’t want a really heavy tripod.

Camera BagAmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras. This is a great bag at a great price. Don’t spend all this money to have your expensive gear rattling around in the trunk of your car. This bag will hold your camera, an extra lens, batteries and charger, cleaning supplies, lens caps and accessories.

Lights20″ x 28″ Light Softbox Reflector with 4 socket Light Bulb Adaptor> You will need two of these. I normally shoot interiors with the soft box off, but the 4 socket fixture is really useful, and I constantly use the soft box for video. These two fixtures put the equivalent of 800 Watts of additional light in the room when the bulbs I recommend below are used.

Light Stands10′ Air-cushioned Light Stand. You will need two of these.

Light Bulbs – Philips 433557 23W 100-watt T2 Twister 6500K CFL Light Bulb, 4-Pack Buy 4 packs of these (16 total bulbs). You will need spares.

Power25 foot, 3 outlet extension cord Buy 2 of these. You will need one for each light. 50′ extension cords are overkill for real estate photography and will just mean carrying more weight and wrapping more cable. Pro tip – wrap your cables every time you move them. Dragging unwrapped cables through a house is a recipe for disaster. It is a tripping hazard and will eventually knock something expensive over.

Spare Batteries – For the T5, or for the T6i. You will need spare batteries.

SD Cards – SanDisk Extreme 32GB Memory Cards – Buy at least two of these. You always need a backup. You can get bigger cards, but they make downloading your photos take a lot longer. I prefer to have several 32GB cards with me, instead of a few larger cards. A 32GB card will hold several hundred pictures, or over an hour of video.

Lens Cleaning Supplies – This may be the most important section of this whole article. Cameras and lenses are expensive and fragile. They also get dirty when you use them. You have to take special care to clean them effectively without damaging them in the process.

BUY THESE THREE ITEMS! Giottos Rocket Air Blaster Air Blower, Large, LensPen Lens Cleaner, and Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes. ONLY BUY THESE THREE ITEMS! Don’t buy generics, don’t buy kits with “extra” or “bonus” items. JUST BUY THESE – EXACT – ITEMS. I only ever use three things to clean my lenses. I have cleaned a ton of gunk off of a ton of lenses and ONLY EVER use these three things.

Use the Giottos Rocket Air Blaster to blow any dust off of your lens. If there are smudges or gunk on your lens, use a Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipe to get rid of it. Then use the lens pen to clean the residue off of your lens. Most of the time you can skip the Zeiss wipes and just use the blower and LensPen.

Why only these three things? The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster will give you a strong puff of clean air to get rid of dust – and it won’t make your camera bag smell like old tires. The Zeiss wipes cut through any gunk without scratching your lens or leaving dust or other particles on your lens. The LensPen cleans off light residue without scratching your lens and leaves your lens perfectly clean. I have tried many other products and none work as well as these, and others that may work ok are unnecessary.

The only other cleaning product I use are Q-Tips to clean my viewfinder (and LensPen even makes a small version for doing this). If you have to clean your sensor get the help of a professional. If you have to clean your mirror use a GENTLE puff of air from your Giottos Rocket Air Blaster and a Q-Tip, while holding your camera body with the lens opening facing down. You don’t want to get dust inside your camera body.

A Decent Computer – I am going to assume that as a REALTOR® you already have a computer. While basic photo processing doesn’t take a supercomputer, It sure helps if you have a reasonably fast processor, at least 8-16GB of RAM, and ample hard drive space. I am not going to tell you what to buy, but this is not an area where you should skimp. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are available for Windows and Apple computers, and you will need a system that can run these reliably. I am a Mac guy and use a very fast 15″ MacBook Pro as my main computer. While editing on a laptop is always a compromise, I have to be portable.

SoftwareApple Photos (free with every new mac), and Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are all you need. If you have a Mac you already have a reasonably powerful photo editor in Photos, Apple’s free photo library application. You will still want to upgrade to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Even if you don’t use these for the majority of your photos, you will find that the lens correction and perspective tools alone will make them worth the price of admission. Adobe sells (rents) Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99 a month. They are available for Mac or PC.

Get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for just $9.99 per month here.

Education – The Best of The Digital Photography Book Series: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’!, by Scott Kelby. There is just no way around this one. You are going to have to spend some time getting educated. This website is just the first step. Owning a camera does not make you a photographer and this is not an area where you can afford to fake it. You have to know the basics of lighting, exposure, composition, and post-processing. Sorry, auto mode on your camera isn’t going to work. This book should just be the start. Dedicate yourself to learning.

That’s it for the basics. Move on to DIY Real Estate Photography, Shoot and Edit for some practical instructions on how to make your shots look like you meant them. If you are ready to improve your game a bit check out DIY Real Estate Photography, The Next Step for more professional equipment recommendations.