Updated: Dec 15, 2020
If you're new to taking pictures of homes there are a few things you need to know about doing this. I think a lot of people take this for granted because I've seen some truly AWFUL real estate photography out there on some sites. All I can think to myself is, "How on earth do you think you're going to sell with that?!!" It's important to take pride in this and not just click off a few random shots. A little bit of planning and attention to detail can go a long way and I'm here to help. All you need is a camera or cell phone. So let's take the time to capture the best images you possibly can. Okay? My top 5 basic tips start now.
TIP 1. USE A WIDE ANGLE LENS
You need to be able to capture the entire home in your shots, inside and out. For that you need a wide angle lens. I use different lenses for this, but they range from 16mm up to 28mm. I wouldn't go with a focal length higher than that for a shoot like this. Wide angle lenses are actually my favorite to use generally speaking because they give the image such depth and dimension, almost like it's reaching out towards you. The other great thing about wide angle lenses, they make everything look larger than life. Homes look more grand and rooms look very spacious. The main reason to use them though is to be able to get everything you need to see inside the shot.
If you're shooting with your smartphone, most have a lens wide enough to capture what you need, in my opinion. If you need something wider, then you can always buy lens adapters that can give you that wider shot. They have them on amazon and elsewhere.
TIP 2. MAKE SURE EVERYTHING LOOKS SYMMETRICAL
I used this picture to demonstrate what I mean by everything looking symmetrical. See how all the lines look straight, neat, clean, and harmonious? Yes, this is what you want. The human eye is trained to be more attracted to symmetry and we need to remember that when taking photos and video. Sometimes this takes hard work positioning yourself the right way when shooting because surfaces and things are often not as smooth or even as we originally thought. There may be some discrepancies and you'll have to work with that and just do your best.
This rule also applies to things like runners, rugs, place mats, lamp shades, and chairs as well. So, please make sure everything looks nice and straight. You may not think these little details stand out when quickly glancing at a photo, but subconsciously people will notice it.
TIP 3. USE YOUR ENVIRONMENT'S NATURAL LINES TO GUIDE YOU
This tip is an extension of tip #2. See how this picture looks crooked? Now look at the pic below.
Same picture, but now everything looks symmetrical. You see the difference? Much better now.
The are so many things inside and outside the home that you can use to help determine whether your picture is well composed and looks symmetrical. Just follow those natural lines. When shooting outside you can use the horizon, or sidewalks, curbs, or the edges of the home. Use your imagination. When shooting inside you can use things like tables, sinks, doors, and other straight edges to really help keep things looking harmonious to the eye.
And yes, you can fix these things in post production. It's an easy fix in editing, but you always want to shoot things correctly in camera and not rely too much on fixing things after they've been shot, because that takes extra time. If you need help with keeping things straight most cameras have grid lines you can pull up in settings as well to assist you.
TIP 4. MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS IN FOCUS
I know this sounds like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised by how things look like they're in focus, only to go home, edit, and find out they're not. Make sure your aperture is set to at least f/8 so you're getting enough depth of field to have sharp images. You do not want shallow depth of field during this kind of shoot and in case you don't know what that is, it's when you get that beautiful, blurry background while your subject is sharp. Looks great right? Well, not usually in real state photos. You want everything in the room to be sharp and in focus, at least the best you can. People need to clearly see the home, the rooms, and the space inside.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule. Take a look at the pic above. If you want to capture a specific feature/detail on the home that's close up like a fan or a faucet, or like these beautiful floor tiles, it usually does look prettier with shallow DOF (blurry background). Just use your best judgement. If you're new to shooting homes, I suggest you stick to the basics at first. Remember, the goal is to have people really see the home and get a good feel for it. To do that, things must be in focus.
TIP 5. HUG THE WALLS
In order to capture the entirety of the room you're going to really need to stick close to the walls. This way you're sure to capture everything people need to see to make a good first impression of the home. Shooting in the corners are even better. This way you're sure to maximize that space. Just stand as close as you can to the walls/corners and work your way around the room.
BONUS TIP: HAVE EMPTY CLOSETS AND PANTRIES
Take a look at the above pic. This is a still shot from a video shoot we did on a home. While it's very colorful and well organized, I would have definitely preferred to have this large closet empty. It really would have showcased the space much better and made it look so much nicer visually.
You see this pics above of a closet and pantry? They look much nicer right? Yeah, because you can actually see how much space there is. And I know this can be a tough one to pull off, but if possible, try to clear out closets and pantry areas before taking photos and video. It just looks a lot cleaner.
I've been to homes where closets were full and people would ask for those areas to not be shot. Well, I personally think that's a big mistake. Home buyers usually want to see what closets look like. That is a feature. People want to see the space and I think omitting them is not a good idea if you're really trying to sell. You don't have to shoot all of the closets, just major ones like walk-ins and large sized pantries.
My advice, just take items out and stuff them in another smaller closet temporarily. Of course, you can decide not to do that and can shoot those areas filled to the brim, but let me tell you, it does not look pretty on camera. I think it's fine to have a few tasteful items inside, just to give an idea and some perspective. But, as you can see from the first pic, there's a better way to do this. It is a little extra work, but in my opinion it's worth the time and extra effort do do this right.
If you're new to shooting homes these are some great basic tips to get you started. I know it may be a lot to remember but just keep these things in mind, keep at it, and it will become second nature to you. Then, before you know it you'll be shooting just like a professional and you'll be pumping out superior photos and videos that are guaranteed to grab everyone's attention. Happy shooting!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aja Vickers is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and visual artist.
Aja has spent over 15 years creating compelling visual content for network television, businesses, non-profits, and artists. She started shooting, editing, writing, and producing back in 2006 when she got her first job as an on-air reporter working for TV 30 News near the San Francisco Bay Area. Aja then moved on to become the Bureau Chief for the NBC affiliate KSNG out in Garden City, Kansas. After that she moved on to Tulsa, Oklahoma and worked for the NBC affiliate KJRH. From politics to crime, sports to tornadoes… you name it, she's shot it!
After experiencing all aspects of broadcast news Aja decided she wanted to start her own production company and began the journey to make that a reality. Aja Vickers Global Media was founded in 2017. She now works with businesses and entrepreneurs to help get their message out through video and digital marketing. She's also produced and directed a couple of award-winning short films. Aja has honed her skills throughout the years by producing countless videos in every type of genre and is now looking forward to sharing her knowledge with those looking to create their own videos.