Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Prep and Settings

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Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Prep and Settings

Following some basic steps for every real estate photography shoot will go a long way in helping things run smoothly for both you and your clients. Properly preparing for your shoots and having an understanding of what settings you will be using on your camera will set you on the right foot toward success.

Real Estate Photography Tutorial – File Management – Start to Finish
Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Prep and Settings (you are here)
Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Shot List and Guide
Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Software Setup for Post Processing
Real Estate Photography Tutorial – Editing With Lightroom And Enfuse/HDR

Preparation

Photo shoots start before you leave the door to travel to a property. It’s important that you prepare your equipment ahead of time to avoid any setbacks while on-site.

IMG_20131206_094334Charge Your Batteries – and yes that is plural batteries. The last thing you want is to show up to a property to find out you are almost running out of juice, or worse yet, you don’t have a battery at all. I have three extra batteries that I keep fully charged and with me at all times. In the rare case where I leave a battery plugged into a wall charging, I now have three to get me through the day. It’s a sigh of relief knowing you have enough backup battery power to take you through 3-4 shoots that you might have scheduled.

Format Your Memory Card – and not via your computer. Do it from your camera’s menu. I used to just delete all of my photos from my memory card while it was plugged into my computer. It only took one time of going through property photos and finding corrupt images to change that habit quickly! Ever since I have been formatting through my camera’s menu I haven’t had a single issue. Also, keep extra memory cards in your bag just like batteries. Sometimes I’m in a hurry to get to a property and I forget that my memory card is plugged into my computer. Having a couple of memory cards as spares will save the day.

Clean Your Equipment – wipe off your lens. Make sure your lens is free of finger prints, water spots, blemishes, etc. It’s easier to clean it off before taking the shots, versus having to touch every photo to remove a blotchy spot.

Take Your Equipment – of course you’ll take your equipment to a photoshoot! But it doesn’t hurt to get into the habit of going through a mental checklist of things you need. Tripod? Camera? Wide-angle lens? Zoom lens for exterior shots of a larger property?

Camera Settings

If you used your camera for something other than real estate photography, reset everything so you are ready to go once you arrive at the property. Generally, these are the settings I use:

  • Exterior
    • Image Quality (RAW)
    • ISO 320
    • f/8.0
    • White Balance (Auto)
    • Drive (2s Timer)
    • Bracketing (3 frames, -1, 0, +1)
    • Metering (Spot)
    • Focal Length – Varies, but I shoot the longest possible
  • Interior
    • Image Quality (RAW)
    • ISO 320
    • f/8.0
    • White Balance (Auto)
    • Drive (Single Shot)
    • Bracketing (7 frames, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2. 3)
    • Metering (Spot)
    • Focal Length – Longest possible, and never wider than 22mm (35mm equivalent)

(I avoid shooting wider than 22mm because of distortions and perspective issues. Shooting too wide results in photos that don’t accurately represent the space and it sets buyers up for disappointment when they come view the property in person.)

Focal Length / Crop Factor

We’ll talk more about the actual process of taking the shots in another post. I do want to make sure we are aware of focal length and how we’ll be discussing it. Depending on your camera, you will probably have a full frame or cropped sensor dSLR. A full frame dSLR will result in photos with a focal length matching what the lens is set at. If the lens is zoomed out to 20mm, the resulting photo will be 20mm. With a cropped sensor dSLR, the resulting photos will be a magnification of the focal length the lens is set at, based on a pre-determined ratio.

Different manufacturers have varying crop ratios. In my case because I shoot Canon, my cropped 60D has a 1.6x crop factor. So when my lens says I’m shooting at 17mm, the resulting photo is really going to be 27.2mm (17mm x 1.6). To avoid shooting wider than 20mm, I need to make sure I’m shooting no wider than 14mm according to my lens. Nikon’s cropped sensor cameras have a 1.5x crop factor, and you can look up your specific model online to find its crop factor. If you want more information about crop factors, check out this article on Full Frame Sensor vs Crop Sensor.

By | 2017-07-20T01:02:28+00:00 December 10th, 2013|How To|37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Jeff Besgrove September 17, 2014 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Would be nice to actually have the crop factor for Canon or Nikon cameras as to each sensor they use. IE Canon Full, APS-C etc. thanks good article

  2. Candace Cabral March 20, 2015 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Hi! Your info is awesome. Ques… you use ISO 320 for your settings above. I have a Canon Rebel XTI and I only have ISO options of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600. What do I do?

    • Lance Selgo March 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Any is fine, but I wouldn’t go above 400 due to noise. 🙂

  3. Curt March 28, 2015 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for all of your posts. I have been ask by my wife to study up on this type of photography so that I can help her as she is a new Realtor. In another post I think I understand that you use a crop sensor camera for interior shots with 10-22mm lens. So if you don’t shoot wider than 22mm are you saying that you don’t or shouldn’t shoot wider on that zoom lens?

    • Lance Selgo March 28, 2015 at 7:31 am - Reply

      Hi Curt!

      Yes 22mm within a 35mm equivalent. So on my lens when I’m shooting with my cropped sensor, I don’t shoot any wider than “14mm”, which is the equivalent to 22.4mm on my Canon since it has a 1.6x crop factor.

  4. Anthony April 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Hi! Thanks for all this valuable info. Why do you use f/8.0? Doesnt a small aperture focuses a larger depth of field, and hence more detail? Thks

    • Lance Selgo April 20, 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Hi, yes a smaller aperture has more depth of field and more detail, but f/7.1-f/8 are plenty for us real estate folks who are shooting with a wide angle lens.

  5. Daniel May 14, 2015 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Hi, thank you so much for the thorough tutorial! I just had a question reagarding your metering! I use aperture priority at 8.0 but the histogram shows that the image is underexposed. Should I switch to manual, find the perfect exposure and use that exposure first before telling the camera to bracket?
    Thank you again, this tut saved my life!

    • Lance Selgo May 14, 2015 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      I shoot in 100% manual mode. I do some sort of chipping. I take a shot that I think will look good and I examine the result on my LCD. I then brighten or darken the shot (via shutter) in order to get that shot where I need it to be, resulting in the brightest shot of my bracketed set. I use that shutter speed of that shot to set my promote control correctly to get all of the brackets.

      Hope that makes sense I’m glad you found the tutorial useful!

  6. Richard Amores June 18, 2015 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Hi,what if there’s a little space available? For example,a studio-type condominium unit, how can you get a decent photo if you’ll use 14mm focal length? I use a 7D and a Tamron 10-22mm.

    • Lance Selgo June 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      I know space is definitely tight. I always try to stay around that ~23mm (35mm equiv) mark. If you need to stretch it and go wider by all means do so. But especially in a tight space like that, you don’t want to shoot so wide that it looks extremely big in photos. It sets buyers up for disappointment when they come look at it in person. So take a bunch of different angles, and in a small studio type environment, take outdoor/community photos and even some tighter shots of the finish outs of the unit.

  7. Tim Dalgleish July 5, 2015 at 2:24 am - Reply

    Concerning shooting a small space, instead of adjusting your lens really wide (10-15mm), could you turn your camera vertical (portrait) and shoot 2-3 shots and stitch them together later in Photoshop?

    • Lance Selgo July 5, 2015 at 11:06 am - Reply

      You could but it would be pretty time consuming and mag be difficult since the camera is panning to get the different shots.

    • Marco October 2, 2015 at 1:52 am - Reply

      I do this regularly, but you will need a special panorama tripod head (I use Nodal Ninja) that puts your lens at the No-Parallax position to prevent stitching errors because of parallax. Especially in tight spaces parallax can make stitching problematic. As Lance added, it is considerably more time consuming.

  8. Dan October 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I’ve noticed in a lot of your shots you shut the blinds do you do that only because the view isn’t spectacular enough to show or because of the problems in post? Thanks in advance…love the site.

    • Lance Selgo October 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Dan,

      I tend to tilt them up at a 45 degree angle. It shoots the light upwards so it still comes in, but keeps it from shooting into the camera lens and causing potential glare. Additionally it will control where light is hitting in the room, so feel free to make adjustments where necessary!

  9. Jim October 18, 2015 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Hello Lance:

    Thanks for sharing your techniques with us.

    You shoot consistently at ISO 320 instead of ISO 100. Can you explain why you do this?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • Lance Selgo October 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Jim,

      I read through Scott Hargis’ lighting book and video series, and he talks about shooting at ISO320 because you don’t get much noise, but it gives you more light so your flashes don’t have to work as hard. Granted with bracketing that’s not an issue, but it’s just something I’ve done every since reading that.

  10. Jim October 23, 2015 at 8:19 am - Reply

    Thank you on the ISO question. I am having problems following you instruction with regard to your folder structure and also the internal set-up of Enfuse. I’m not getting it correct. My photos are not getting to where they should. It would be helpful if I could communicate with you off line so I can ask you specific questions for clarification. Is that possible?

    Thanks

    • Lance Selgo October 23, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Hi Jim,

      Unfortunately with time constraints from running this blog and doing real estate photography full-time, I can’t offer help offline. That’s one of the reasons I have the blog, is to be a resource for folks at their own leisure. Reply with a comment on what you are having an issue with? I may be able to help for the folder structures, but with Enfuse I just use the settings that I describe so I may not be of assistance there.

  11. Margi Bevan December 5, 2015 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Hi Lance, I believe we met recently at the Realtourvision expo at Orlando Wyndham Resort. (You were great– by the way) I so having trouble setting my Nikon 7100 to shoot inside Raw. I have tried the settings you have listed above but my f. will not change from f.4.5 to f.8.0.. Do you think I did something wrong in the initial set up ? Thanks from ( Bewildered in Florida )

    • Lance Selgo December 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Margi!

      Glad you enjoyed your time at RTV Convention! You may need to set your camera to Manual mode. Perhaps it is on Shutter Priority, thus not allowing you to change the Aperture? I am a Canon shooter so I’m not familiar with Nikon, but my guess is you aren’t in Manual mode which you need to be in order to control all of the settings yourself.

  12. Mark January 15, 2016 at 1:00 am - Reply

    Hi Lance! Thanks a looooot for your website! It is amazing! I have a question here: I use Nikon D800 which is a Full Frame DSLR. According to your info above, should I use 35mm as the widest angel, or 22mm? Sorry my english is not good. I thought what you meant is 35mm but in your reply to Curt you said 22mm. Just try to confirm. Thank you again.

    • Lance Selgo January 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      22-23mm on a full frame Mark. Glad you like the site!

  13. Kati Bertrand March 22, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    I’ve just bought Canon D60 to be allowed to take 7 frames (bracketing), but for some reason it takes only 3 frames. Do you have any idea why?

    • Lance Selgo March 22, 2016 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Kati,

      I just looked up the manual for the Canon D60 and it states:

      When using autoexposure bracketing, the camera automatically changes the exposure level within the set range (up to +/-2 stops in 1/2-stop increments) for three successive frames.

      So it appears the Canon D60 only brackets up to 3 frames at a time.

  14. Kati Bertrand March 22, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance,

    Thank you for your reply.
    How do you get 7 frames with 60D then? I’m just starting my business and I really like your photos and your style.

    What do you think about 70D? I’ve checked I today and it has 7 brackets option. Do you think there’s a big difference between those two cameras?

    Thanks,
    Kati

    • Lance Selgo March 22, 2016 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Kati,

      With the 60D I used the Promote Control. You can find it on the Equipment page under Misc Equipment.

      Now I use a 5DMKIII that has 7 brackets built-in so I don’t need the Promote Control any longer. Because I end up blending bracketed shots together, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the camera bodies. But I’m also not one to be a “pixel peeper” and really concentrate on the quality. So you would need to do a little research to see if the quality is a step up enough to make it a worthwhile upgrade.

  15. Franco Figg May 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Lance, this is not a question but just mere statement-THANK YOU SO MUCH for this outstanding site. You are indeed an inspiration and a great resource for those delving into this challenging field of real estate photography. You’re thorough and knowledgeable about various topics. I’m sure I’ll have many questions as I dive into using Enfuse, but for now, I just wanted to give you much deserved props.

    • Lance Selgo June 1, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Franco!

  16. Emily June 19, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Hi this was info i have been looking for…im just starting and by that i mean practice. ..im saving for a wide angle lens…are there maybe some different settings i could practice on with the kit lens while im waiting…of course i know the wide is best…thanks

  17. Lauren Bogart July 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance – I have a question, I have been doing real estate photography on the side and have used your site to help me get started. I think my pictures look ok and of course I get props from my family on the photos but I think they may be biased. The company I do my photos for is a flip operation and as long as they look decent dont complain. I want to get better and I’m wondering if you know of a site for us amateurs to get some critiquing and help to make what we do better. I have a Nikon D5100 and I use a Tamron 10-24mm lens. I do have a small portfolio going and I’d love to be able to make it better in case I could start my own business some day. Any ideas would be well received (I know you are too busy with business and blog but if you know of any reputable sites to get help would be great). Thank you!!

    • Lance Selgo July 22, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Lauren,

      I’m not sure of any sites specifically, but there are Real Estate Photography Facebook groups. I would join one of those and ask for feedback. You could also check out the Flickr group for PhotographyForRealEstate.net – they may be able to offer feedback as well. 🙂

      Good luck, glad you found the site!

  18. Luke Yancey August 22, 2016 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Thank you for the great tips about how to set up your camera settings to shoot inside. I have found that indoor photography is one of the most difficult tasks in photography. I recommend making sure you have an abundant source of natural light and using a wide angle lens to increase space in your photographs!

  19. Kim September 25, 2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Hi Mr. Lance

    Thank your for your awesome tips. Just one question what setting youll recommend f im using Manual and not hdr photography. To be honest im new to this craft . I just took photos of 2 bed rooms in burj khalifa.. i used manual ( Iso 6400 , shutter spd 125 and aperture f8) i used high iso because i dont have flash that time and the light inside is not good . And the photos look bad . Im using 16-35 canon and 60d. Any suggestions?Thank u so much sir!

    • Lance Selgo September 25, 2017 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Kim,

      You need to be ISO 400 or less, which means you need to have a slow shutter. It’ll require you to use a tripod so the camera doesn’t move, in order for the photo to remain sharp.

      Good luck!

      • Kim October 3, 2017 at 12:34 am - Reply

        Thank you so much Mr. Lance ! your website is a blessing! stay awesome sir . God bless u

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