Taking the shot is relatively easy, but for real estate photography there are some key tips to keep in mind that will allow you to deliver the best product possible to your Realtor clients. Before we look at exterior and interior photo tips, let’s come up with an appropriate shot list.

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

Shot List

Going into a property shoot you should already know how many photos you need to fulfill your client’s request. In my area, real estate agents can post a maximum of 25 photos to the local multiple listing service (MLS). I base my products/services off that number, so I only deliver 25 photos. Realtors have the option of posting more than 25 photos to sites like Realtor.com, and if an agent requests additional photos I am more than happy to quote them for the extra services. I find the majority expect 25, so I haven’t run into any issues.

It’s important to know how many photos you are going to deliver because that will guide you while you are in the property. For my 25-photo deliverable, here is a general list of what I expect to shoot to reach my deliverable:

  • (3) Front Exterior – One head on, one from an angle, and one closeup to show more detail
  • (5) Family – Showcasing the family room itself, and also how it may connect to other spaces like the kitchen
  • (5) Kitchen
  • (1) Eat-In Kitchen Area
  • (2) Master Bedroom
  • (2) Master Bathroom
  • (2-3) Guest Bedrooms
  • (1) Guest Bathroom
  • (3) Back Exterior – One closeup to show detail an patio/porch, and two at different angles to show the backyard and back side of the home itself

If the home isn’t very big, you may get stuck with the above shot list and have a lot of photos that seem redundant. Shooting 5 photos of the family room and kitchen can seem very boring. But there’s not much you can do when there is little to work with. Some other spaces that may exist in a home can be used for photos to take some of the weight off the ones above:

  • (1) Formal Dining
  • (2) Formal Living
  • (1) Media
  • (1) Game
  • (2-3) Subdivision Amenities

Shooting Exteriors

If possible, schedule your real estate photography shoots at a time when the sun will be hitting the front of the property. You’ll have a much easier time editing the photo and you’ll end up with a nicer image. Some properties never have sun hitting the front, and sometimes your schedule won’t allow you to be picky so we just have to do our best.

I generally set up my camera up to the following settings:

  • 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
  • Focus Point – The front surface of the home – a window, front door, eave, etc.

For the majority of the time, I don’t blend my exterior photos with HDR or Exposure Fusion. I don’t like how blurry the trees get when wind is present and you try to blend frames together, so I prefer to use a single frame. While on Spot Metering, I point my camera to a location that appears to be average in terms of overall brightness/light, and I half-press my shutter so I can make shutter adjustments where necessary. I set my 0 exposure of the bracket to be the exposure that the camera is telling me is best. Then I snap a full bracket (3 frames).

I look at the resulting photos and I make sure one of them has enough detail in the darkest portions and brightest portions of the frame. If the front of the home is in shadow, I want it to be bright enough so it’s not black – where I know I can adjust it during post-processing. At the same time I want to be sure items on top of the home like the chimney are not blown out to the point that I can’t recover them. When in shadow, the sky will blow out and be white – we’ll fix that during post-processing. I’ll make a minor shutter adjustment and retake the frames if necessary. Here are two examples of what the shot looked like from the camera, and what I delivered to the client.

The same holds true for all exterior shots, including the backyard. Make sure you get a single frame that’s average light for the features you want to be visible, and then use that frame during post-processing for the final product.

I always use a tripod for exterior shots, but sometimes I “cheat” and point the camera up. If so, the resulting photo will have converging verticals that must be fixed during post-processing! The second home in the above slideshow is a perfect example of this. (Need more info about verticals? Check out my Number One Real Estate Photography Tip!)

Shooting Interiors

For interior shots, there are basics that we’ll follow for the majority of spaces, but some spaces will require some adjusting depending on how you think a photo looks and if you can make some minor adjustments to improve it. Here are our settings:

  • 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)
  • Focus Point – Something that’s half the distance between your camera and the furthest wall

We are going to end up blending our frames together with the exposure fusion process. Specifically, we’ll be using a plugin called Enfuse for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Exposure fusion is similar to HDR in that we blend multiple exposures of a frame together to produce a single image that pulls the best from each frame. The algorithm however that exposure fusion uses differs from HDR and the process results in a more realistic photo.

My goal when shooting an interior space is to get 5 frames, from dark to light. I listed 7 above because while on-site I take 7 brackets, and then when I pull the images up on the computer I am able to remove two if I think they are either too dark or too bright for the fusion process. (Note: You may only be able to bracket 3 or 5 photos at a time on your camera. You’ll either have to adjust your shutter speed manually and take two sets of brackets to cover the range successfully, or you can get a remote like the Promote Control to help manage the brackets for you.)

Scroll through the example below of an interior shot showing the frames I took, and the resulting edited image:

In the above photo, I set my focus point to the centerpiece of the table. The dining area is the main focal point of this image so I wanted to be sure that was in focus.

Now that we have all of our frames captured for all of the shots for the property, it’s time to do some post-processing! We’ll look at the tools required and how to go about post-processing in the next post.