The huge revolution in photography equipment has led the average consumer to attempt more ambitious photographic projects than ever before. Most people with a good visual eye will take the occasional amazing shot, but this isn't a sure way to approach something as important as photographing your home for rental or sale purposes. People are visual and great photos are the most powerful tools you have to attract consumers. A sharp and well-exposed photo will show off the features of your home in a way that will really lure people in.
But interiors are tricky to photograph. A common reaction is to start looking for the latest and greatest equipment. But as every professional photographer loves to say, cameras don't make photos, people do. While the various technical challenges of real estate photography have been largely simplified and automated, a lot can be done with a basic consumer model camera or even a smartphone. Simple, readily accessible tips and tricks such as how to approach the preparation of your home, lighting and composition can make a huge difference.
So come with us to explore a few essential tricks of the trade and take your real estate photography to the next level.
The average consumer model digital camera or smartphone has the capability of producing photos at a large enough resolution for almost every purpose. Despite this, the most common problem you will often find is that the average lens is not wide enough to take in all of a room. Wide-angle lenses can get very expensive, so one alternative is to use the panoramic options on your camera or photograph your room in parts and patch it together or crop the panoramic using a photo editing software. There are a few free applications you can find online. A simpler solution is to find a wide-angle lens for your smartphone. These can be found online for almost nothing and are very effective. I would not recommend using the panoramic option on a smartphone.
As every budding photographer knows, lighting and stability are other important considerations. Cheap lighting can easily be provided with household lamps, overhead lights and of course natural sunlight. For stability, there are multiple, cheap small attachments available. But you can also simply rest your camera on a stationary object like a high table or ladder. If this isn't possible, prop yourself flat against a wall, hold the camera close with your arms against your chest and hold your breath while pressing the shutter release.
Tip: if you feel like getting technical, it's safe to say that you'll need something like a 17-55mm lens.
People are generally attracted to spaces that they can adapt to their own personal taste. This means that it's best to remove personal items and keep the decor as simple as possible. Clutter is also extremely distracting in a visual sense and these are the kinds of details that really detract from the composition of a photo.
Think of the simplicity of a hotel room. Remove stray cords and tea towels etc. It's also good to move furniture and plants around so that there are no distracting elements at the edge of the frame. Look at this photo and note how the pot-plants and flowers have been arranged. The room is almost bare of clutter, but it still has a warm and engaging atmosphere. It's just waiting for guests or a new owner to make their own.
If you skim through professional real estate photographs, you'll notice that they all look extremely bright, light and airy. While much of this is due to powerful flash-lights and lots of post-production editing, you can do a lot without professional equipment.
The natural instinct is to open all the windows and flood the room with light. Ideally you'll have a perfect natural even light that fills all corners of the home, but this is extremely rare. A common problem occurs when the contrast between the light inside and outside the room is too strong and there's no detail in your interior. It's best to partially open the blinds and move lamps around to fill in the shadow areas of the room. Look at this well lit interior for inspiration. The natural window light floods in from the left hand side of the frame while the floor lamp and task lamp light up the right hand side of the room.
It's safe to say that almost everyone wants a home that looks spacious. To create this impression, you'll need to include as much of the room as possible in your frame. This is where your wide-angle really comes in handy. But even this may not be enough when you're shooting from a tricky angle or trying to shoot a pokey bathroom. To combat this, position your camera as high as possible and tilt it downwards. See how this open plan kitchen has been shot at a slightly elevated level to avoid cutting off the edge of the kitchen bench.
Another primary consideration is your white balance. The various lights you used to illuminate the shadows of the room are likely to have different colour temperatures. This is such a huge topic, that it's safe to keep to the auto-white balance settings of your camera. A warm, golden light is not necessarily a bad thing. But if the colour cast looks too strong, experiment with the different settings until you are happy with the results.
It's easy to get obsessed with the tricky interior shots and forget the exterior. If you live in an apartment building, a rooftop, pool or even a view from the street are important to shoot. A shot from the street will often show an extreme angle up towards the sky. Move as far from the building as possible to avoid this.
It's also good to get a few detail shots of interesting features. Perhaps the building has a nice entrance area, bike rack, doorman or grassy area close by. To really amp up the effect of natural greenery, stand close to a plant and try and get a little in the foreground while framing the building. Lastly, choose the right time of day for your shot. To avoid harsh shadows, shoot early in the morning or at dusk time. See this lovely rooftop shot by Mexican photographer Oscar Hernandez. He has used the gentle light of an evening sky that's beautiful balanced with the golden interior light from the building.
If you are not happy with your efforts or have come to appreciate just how great your home will look with professional input, there are multiple forums online where you can post photos and ask for advice. If you're really stuck, you could even hire a professional. There's a reason people pay for a professional real estate photographer and that's because years of artistic and technical training are required to produce really great shots.
If you are interested in preparing your home for visitors, you'll love this Ideabook 7 great tips on how to declutter your home.