Tips to home photography

To get the best home photography I would really recommend hiring someone (like myself) with real estate photography experience. That person should have a portfolio for you to see some of their home photography or architectural work. I don’t recommend going with the cheapest bid you get. The cheapest rate can result in bad photos or maybe weeks to get your photos. I’ve seen both of those things happen with cheap photographers.

There are usually two reasons why you need home photography. You are signing up for a vacation rental website like AirBnB or your home is going on the market. I would say the majority of people looking for a real estate photographer on their own would fall into the vacation rental photography category because most realtors have their own home photographer on call. Just know that you have a choice with how to present your home. Make sure it shows well in the photos wherever you are listing your home.

No home photographer?

You don’t want to hire a real estate photographer, no problem. Here’s everything you need to know about taking your own photos. But first, who am I?

I have been taking photos of hotels and homes since 2013. I have photographed 4 and 5 star hotels around the world as well as hundreds of homes in the United States and Canada. I’ve always loved good design and architecture. At one point in my childhood I thought it would be cool to be an architect. Instead I went to school for graphic design and later got more serious about photography, my passion since I was a kid.

Interior real estate photography

Best camera for real estate photography

If you can’t hire someone for your vacation rental photography then the next best thing would be taking photos with your own camera. It is recommended that the camera is a high resolution DSLR with a wide angle lens, preferably a 10, 11 or 12mm. The make of camera is not as important as the lens focal length. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Hasselblad and Olympus all make great cameras.

Best lens for real estate photography

A wide angle lens is going to be best for showing off the size of your rooms. Be careful that it doesn’t distort your images and make them look like a fish eye, even slightly. I think it’s way better to see straight lines than bowed doorways. You want folks to know it’s a well built house and not a fun house at a carnival.

What’s a fisheye lens? It is a lens that looks like a bubble of glass. It’s not flat glass like a 10mm. A fisheye can be good for doing 360 photography as it produces strong visual distortion (a curved look) intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. These two types of images are stitched together using software. If you don’t have the software or don’t intend to do these types of images then please stick to a “flat” glass wide angle lens. As low as you can go to get to 10 mm is best for real estate photography but again, whatever you have can work.

If you don’t want to hire someone for your vacation rental photography and you don’t have a camera, can you borrow one? The last resort for your real estate photography would be to use your smartphone if it has a good resolution. It could even be that you have an external lens for your smartphone. Please make sure that you have the highest resolution selected but the images may need to be cropped to get the right aspect ratio online.

My Real estate photography equipment

I shoot with both a Canon EOS 6D and a Canon EOS Rebel T3i. The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is the newer, more available model but you could also look at the Canon EOS Rebel T6i.

With the the Rebel series you can get away with a cheaper lens or a more expensive one. With the higher end Canon’s you have to go with the more expensive one because the mount is different. The 6D requires an EF lens but the Rebel can use either an EF or an EF-S lens.

You can also look at a Tamron, Tokina or a Sigma lens instead.

Wide angle lenses are not just good for real estate photography but it is also good for night photography like photographing the northern lights.

If you’re ready to buy a new camera or lens now, think about buying it through one of my links here at Amazon.com. It won’t cost you anything extra for doing so but it will be a big help to me as I am an Amazon affiliate marketer. If you aren’t ready quite yet bookmark this page and come back later.

Real estate photography camera settings

ISO 400
10, 11 or 12 mm
f/ 11
3 to 6 brackets

If using flash your settings will be different.

Image sizes

Use only horizontal photos. A minimum size is suggested at 1080 by 683 but I wouldn’t recommend going lower than 1800 wide by 1200 tall. It’s always ok to go bigger but sometimes websites can’t support really big photos. If you aren’t sure what size to use for your photos ask the site or agent. Use a photo editing software to resize the photos before sending.

Why horizontal photos? They show off the home the best and that’s the standard for home photography.

What’s the right aspect ratio?

4:3 or 3:2 are what sites request.

Rule of thirds

Consider the rule of thirds when taking your photos. Try to shoot into the corner rather than straight onto a room. You could line up one of the corners on one of the third lines. This will add a lot more visual interest to your photo and make it more dramatic.

When taking or cropping the photos make sure that the majority of the photo is not ceiling or floor. You’re wanting to show off the living spaces. Ceilings are just not that interesting unless it’s vaulted or has architectural elements.

Optional home photography

Also popular in architectural photography is a 3D tour of your home, video or drone real estate photography. These are great additional items to add to any real estate listing but not a requirement. It’s also great to have drone photography because it makes a great framed print for the home.

What’s a 3D home tour? It’s like Google street view but for your home. You get to walk through the home like you are standing inside it.

Some sites might support video or it could be nice for your advertising but only if it’s done well. The better quality you can show on any of your photos or videos will only benefit your AirBnB listing or your Booking.com listing.

Time of day to shoot

Try not to shoot in stormy, windy or rainy weather. If the exterior could be shot at golden hour, blue hour or a brilliant sunrise or sunset that would be amazing for the listing. You can do one of these dusk shots and one in everyday light. Do not shoot the home at twilight. The darkest shoots should be at blue hour and no darker to make sure you are capturing all the details of the home.

Blue hour is about 30 minutes prior to sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset when everything can have a slight blue glow. Golden hour is about 30 minutes after sunrise and right before sunset when the light is very golden red and soft. It’s a lot less harsh than midday light.

Wind, especially if it is strong can make your tripod less secure. It could also knock it down if you aren’t careful. It can also make items move in the photo which doesn’t make for a very good bracketing (we’ll get to that next).

Rain is another terrible condition for shooting because it can make the house look so dreary. It’s also harder to protect the lens from water. You can shoot with an umbrella over the camera but it doesn’t always work and the umbrella could get in the photos. It’s just more frustrating to shoot in inclimate weather so I would avoid it if at all possible wait for a cloudy or sunny day.

Snow can also be really tricky for outdoor home photos. You don’t want any of the flakes to streak or show up like a blob in the photos.

Use a tripod

Photos will look best if you have taken them on a tripod so they can be as crisp and focused as possible. Photos will also look best if they are well lit with lights or using different brackets to brighten the shadows and make the photos have more depth. With 3-6 brackets you can get a really nice HDR photo. It shouldn’t look too fantastical in colors but have some really great color and light. I don’t know about you but photos that aren’t edited at all seem a bit dull and those that are over the top just seem fake.

What’s a good tripod to use? A sturdy one that won’t move at all when you take the photos. A cheap one isn’t always the best choice because they seem to fail faster than a better made one. I know because this happened to me. I had a very expensive camera break because the locks on the tripod legs failed in the middle of a photo and the camera fell on a tile floor. Don’t make the same mistake I did especially if you borrowed a camera. That would be awful if something happened.

A good brand of tripod is Manfrotto but not the only one that’s good. You’ll be looking at over $100 if you are investing in a good one. It could be even closer to $200 with the ball head.

Manfrotto tripod for real estate photography

Editing your vacation rental photos

We’ve already touched on the fact that you should make your images pop but stay looking real. These are the things that I do when I edit my home photos:

  • I stack all my brackets together and HDR or enfuse them.
  • Next I begin at the bottom of the lightroom editing palette under camera calibration. I change it to “landscape” or “faithful”
  • Enable profile corrections and remove chromatic aberration
  • Use auto upright. If you still have any bowing of doorways then you can adjust the “distortion” under the “manual” tab till it looks good. For me that’s usually 14 or less. If there’s a slight tilt to the image on top or bottom I can also change the vertical a bit to make sure all the vertical lines are straight up and down.
  • Finally I play with all the sliders to get the exposure, white balance, tone, contrast, highlights and shadows looking good. This is where presets can come in handy. You might be able to buy some or make some.
  • Once you edit one photo and the lighting is similar in the entire house you can just copy the edits from one photo and paste them to another. Then if it’s just slightly off you don’t have to start from ground zero, you just have to do more minor tweaks or none at all.
Real estate photography editing

Here’s a sample of the edits I made to a bracketed set

Top home staging tips for home photography

  • Make sure your home is clean. You could even add some finishing touches just for the shoot like fresh flowers or a wine and cheese spread. You want to make the home look inviting.
  • Consider setting the kitchen table or bar surface adding a pop of color.
  • Clean up the clutter. Hide kitchen magnets, posted notes, signs, sponges, cleaning supplies, bathroom toiletries etc. Not just for the photos but for when your home is rented guests will want it to appear baggage free. They’ll also want to use those surfaces for their things not for your doll collection on the dresser.
  • Close all the toilet lids. There’s no reason for anyone to see inside your toilet in a photo. There also shouldn’t be any toiletries or products unless they are new and for your guests to use.
  • Make the beds with throw pillows. Don’t let your mattress show. It should always be covered with bed frames, dust ruffles or sheets.
  • Put out hand towels on the rack or in a stack with the rest of the towels on a shelf or counter.
  • Never have nails or brackets in a wall with no art. If you don’t want the art in the home or in the photo you’ll need to remove the nails and patch the wall, complete with paint.
  • Make the home as light and bright as possible. Open all the blinds and turn on all the lights. If you don’t think a room is bright enough add a lamp, even if it’s just for the photo shoot. Change out light bulbs if you have to. You don’t want your home to appear dark and dreary unless you are trying to rent to vampires.
  • Never show yourself or your camera gear in any photo. That can be really tricky in a bathroom where there’s usually a mirror by the entrance. It may require some photoshop. I don’t know about you but I think shower heads are more important to me than a shower curtain design so show it to me. Pull back that curtain. If it’s glass maybe you’ll need to open the door to avoid a reflection.
  • Don’t have parked cars in the driveway or in front of the house. You don’t need these cars to show in any of your photos either. Try parking your car so that it is hidden or away from the house.

Vacation rental listing tips

  • Use a minimum of 24 photos. From what I’ve heard this is a good number to help get your home seen and ranked.
  • Make sure the first 5-10 photos in the listing are the most impressive features of the home. Maybe that’s the mountain view or the pool. It could be your designer kitchen or your bedroom suite. The first photo should be the showcase of the house.
  • No need to photograph the closets unless they are really amazing. Most people aren’t in a vacation home long enough to really take advantage of all the storage a home usually offers.
  • If there are amenities hiding behind closet/armoire doors make sure to show them in separate photos. Show off those TVs, game shelves and washer/dryers.
  • If your home is in an area that is more popular to tourists in the winter then you should definitely have some exterior winter photos. You can have all season photos if your area is popular year round.
  • Make sure you show off the inside and outside of the home.
  • I recommend showing at least two or three angles on a room. Make sure your photos are taken from the corners if at all possible to show the size of the room.
  • Show off any area attractions that could be a big draw to your home. Maybe you live near a giant waterfall or a theme park. What would people want to see that are renting your home? Is it a family friendly area? A romantic retreat? A ski getaway? Think of all the reasons someone might want to rent your place over another. Showcase those attractions.

If your home is for sale and you already moved out then you won’t have too much to photograph. It does look better if your home is staged for photos. My home staging tips above don’t really work without furniture. It’s much easier for someone to see the scale of the room if there is furniture in it. Some folks cannot picture what a room is or could be used for if there’s nothing in it, especially if the room is not labeled on a website.

Another thing to note for real estate listings is that you can get away with far fewer photos especially if the rooms have no furniture. However that doesn’t mean you can’t fill it to the max limit of 32.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on everything real estate photography! Stay tuned on the blog for more photography tips.

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