3 Important Real Estate Photography Tips for Beginners

3 Technical Tips To Help Realtors Photograph Their Own Listings

If you're a Realtor, and you ask for real estate photography tips, you'll typically get one response: "Hire a professional!"

There is some logic to this response, but it's also misleading. Technology is becoming less intimidating to many people. Adding photography to a Realtor's arsenal of skillsets can be extremely valuable.

If you have been toying with the idea of shooting your own listings, don't be afraid to try it. If you stick to some basic rules, you might pull it off all by yourself. If you have natural technical aptitude, you can do it.

I've been shooting my own real estate listings for over ten years now. When I first started, I wasted a lot of time trying things that didn't work. With years of practice, I learned many of the tricks, and now I love photography and videography.

I decided to cover three things that I did not realize until years after I started shooting real estate photography. These tips will help you get professional results much quicker. You can save time by adding this info to your photography base of knowledge.


The lens is more important than the camera body. It took me years to finally come to terms with this. I changed camera bodies many times before I finally decided to upgrade my lens. I wish I would have done it sooner.

Camera Body Versus Camera LensWhat makes a lens "great"?

One of the significant factors is the aperture of the lens. You can find this on the outer body of the lens casing, which will display as f/3.5 or something similar. On some zoom lenses, you'll notice the aperture shown as f/3.5-f/5.6. This label means that the aperture changes as you zoom in and out.

Aperture can be a complicated topic, but it doesn't have to be. Here's a simplification: The lower the aperture, the more light is allowed into the camera. So, f/1.5 would let in plenty of light, while f/22 would let in much less light.

Aperture also affects your depth-of-field, but that becomes more of a topic for non-wide angle photos. Sometimes aperture rating is described as the "speed" of the lens.

When shooting interior shots, you want the aperture to be as low as possible: The smaller the opening, the better the image.

My first lens upgrade was to a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. This lens is a great starter lens for real estate, especially for crop sensor cameras. I worked with this lens for about five years.

I recently upgraded to a Tamaron 11-20mm f/2.8 lens. I instantly noticed a big difference. My lighting was significantly more balanced, and darker rooms became more natural to shoot. The drop from f/3.5 to f/2.8 was noticeable on all of my interior shots.

Do your research and find a lens with the lowest aperture that works well with your camera body. This info will help your interior photography efforts tremendously. Also, look on eBay. I've bought relatively new lenses on there for half of what they were selling for new on Amazon.

Learn to Shoot in Manual ModeLEARN TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE

Manual mode is intimidating for beginners, which is why I avoided it for the first few years. Once you understand the three basic settings and how they work, it's straightforward.

Learn To Shoot In Manual ModeThe three primary settings for Manual Mode:

Aperture: As we discussed above, aperture tells your lens how much light to let in. For interior real estate photos, you'll want your aperture to be as low as possible. If your glass goes down to f/3.5, then that's where you will leave your setting for the entirety of your interior shoot.

Outside where there is plenty of light, you may want to set it to f/5.6 or higher to keep your depth of field balanced. Play around with the aperture and notice how it affects your shots.

ISO: Remembering that your lens determines your aperture range, but your camera body decides the ISO. The lowest ISO setting is known as your "native setting." This setting is where you will want to set your camera whenever possible because it will give you the cleanest image. As you start raising your ISO, you'll notice some "noise" in the picture, so be careful with it.

On rare occasions, you may be in a dark environment, and your lens won't let in enough light for a good exposure. This scenario is when you can raise your ISO to make the scene brighter. This moment is the only time that you will want to increase the ISO for real estate photography.

Shutter Speed: This is the setting that you will toggle the most in manual mode. Typically, you will set your ISO and Aperture and leave them alone until you move inside or outside. Once you have your aperture and ISO dialed in, adjust your shutter speed to get the image that you desire. This process is basically how manual mode works.

Manual mode gives you more control of your images, which can save you lots of editing hours later on. It will also help you learn the basics of what makes a photo work. The more you use it, the more it becomes second nature. This knowledge will also transfer over to video equipment later on.


You have probably heard the term "HDR." It stands for "high dynamic range." It is the process of taking different exposures of the same image. The software then combines the pictures into one perfectly balanced image.

HDR Image ProcessThe benefit of HDR is that is balances all of the light. The darker parts of the room are light. The lighter parts of the room are dark. The final result is one image with a perfect light balance.

Most DSLR cameras have a setting for "bracketing." You can Google your camera body setting for bracketing to learn how to do this. Once your camera is set up, it will automatically change the exposure for each image.

The vast majority of professional real estate photos are using HDR. Once you experiment with it, you'll notice the effect in many other images.

HDR is most useful for interior shots. Before HDR, photographers would have to be great at adding additional lights to balance the image. This process made each photo much more time-consuming. With HDR, you can go from room to room without a lighting kit.

Final Thoughts

There are many more tips that could be covered here, such as proper framing, white balance, post-editing, and preparing the room. As you learn the tips above, the rest will start to come naturally.

The three tips above will help you maneuver your way around a camera with more confidence. Once you have practiced them, you can then move on to editing, which is a whole other topic that requires different expertise but is of equal importance.

Be patient with your learning process. It takes time and experience to get good at real estate photography. Just keep moving forward in your pursuits, and before you know it, you'll have a valuable skill set that will set you apart from others.

3 Technical Tips To Help Realtors Photograph Their Own Listings

Andrew Fortune

Hi! I'm Andrew Fortune, the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of much of the content on this website. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to share this article with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time here on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers.

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