Photographing A Home For Sale

Ok, now that you've completely gone through the home and done on the prep work, it's time to begin the job you were hired to do, creating a great set of photos of the home.

Where to start?  That's pretty much your own decision.  I've seen colleagues of mine start from the inside and finish with the outside or start from the outside and finish with the inside. I personally started from the front of the house and finished with the backyard.  Just my own preference if being kinda orderly.  No matter which way you start, its up to you, the process should be pretty much the same.

What makes the best photos?  This again is your own preference, but I don't recommend using a single shot with flash format.  Most new cameras now have an HDR function and since they only take 2 or 3 different exposures (brackets) I also don't recommend using this either. My personal recommendation is to shoot at least 5 different exposures (brackets) of the same shot.  Seven is better and if you can shoot more, perfect.  My Nikon would shoot nine exposures so this is what I always used.  As a word of advice, the more brackets you can shoot, the better the photo of the particular shot will end up. Why is this? It ends up capturing most of all the different lighting aspects of the room or in the case of an outside photo, the shot. I even use this same nine bracket format to shoot most landscape photos, provided there is little wind or movement in the scene.

Now you may be wondering on how to set your camera up to shoot these brackets. Each brand of has a way of setting it up to shoot multiple exposures. Consult your owners manual or find a You Tube video to help you set the camera up.  As I have said, the more brackets you shoot, the better the photo.  When shooting real estate/architecture style photos, its best to use a wide angle lens.  I preferred the 10 - 20mm or 10 - 24mm zoom lenses over the wider angle fisheye lenses simply because of less distortion on the outer edges to correct during the editing processes. Sometimes even using fill flash can help the process, but be extra careful about shooting towards windows or mirrors, or any other objects that will reflect the flash back into the lens. Sometimes using a remote off camera fill flash is best. It all depends on the situation you're in. In nearly all cases, you don't want your fill flash to be a full flash. Fifty percent maximum is quite acceptable. Twenty five percent is even better.

Do I shoot in RAW or in JPEG?  This again is preference and editing processing ability.  RAW will definitely give you more processing abilities, but also remember these files are huge (2 to 3 times larger than JPEG) and that the files must be converted back to JPEG before publishing.  Another thing about RAW photos, even after they have been converted to JPEG, is the file sizes must be further reduced to fit and be accepted on most MLS listing services.  Also large files are not recommended for the internet because of their inability to open quickly.  Basically, unless you are going to publish your work on billboards, large banners, in high quality magazines, or shooting landscapes to be converted and printed into large framed photographs, shooting in RAW is not always necessary for real estate or architectural photos. Shooting in JPEG.  JPEG files are much smaller than RAW and do not allow for the extra "fine tuning" that RAW does. However, this "fine tuning" will only be noticeable, maybe, by those who use and shoot in RAW, and not your general public. I generally shoot in JPEG formats at an image size of 4000 x 6000 pixels per inch.  This has been enough to suffice for high quality photos for MLS and for publication in several magazines around the world. Your final edit processes will actually determine how good your photo really is, over the camera itself. Remember, internet photos must not be slow to open as this will lose the intended audience, especially in the real estate industry.

How do I shoot the home?  This question is always a tricky one.  In many standard subdivision homes, the second, third, or fourth bedrooms, secondary baths, or the study, can be quite small.  It's always good to have at least 2 photos of each room but in these small rooms, this is not always possible. The best position for these rooms is from the entry doorway, or maybe from slightly inside the closet to get a shot that will offer the largest view of theses small rooms. For the rest of the house with larger areas, shooting from the corners are a lot easier. In the foyer, you want to take at least 2, coming and going and if possible a third birdseye view from the top of stairs as this will include the chandelier if the home has one. The family/living room generally needs at least 3 from the corners and if possible a birdseye view from above as well, especially if the home has high ceilings with windows that extend to the ceiling. If the home has a fireplace, make sure you include this in one of your shots as well as a close up if it is unique and not your standard garden variety fireplace. In the kitchen, make sure you shoot the best angles possible to show the largest view that you can.  If there are any unique appliances, include these in your photos as well as taking a close up of each, such as a bun/bread warmer, built in wine rack/cooler, or unique exhaust fan over the stove.  I've seen these items in the more customized style homes. Don't forget to shoot the breakfast nook as a separate shot and don't overlook including anything unique in this area. Now on to the master bedroom, master bath, and master closet.  The same principals of shooting the family/living room apply here.  Get at least two photos of the master bedroom, one from the entry door and one from a corner showing how the master bath is arranged in the room. Sometimes you might even be able to get a birdseye view. The master bath needs photos of the bath itself, the shower if separate, and the vanity.  Again, if there is anything unique to both of these rooms then get a photo of it. The only time I ever shot a master closet was if it was one of these huge unique, custom built style of closets, or if the agent requested it.  Other than those two factors, I felt this was an invasion of privacy of the homeowner and it kept out the possibility of being accused of stealing something, since in many homes, the closets were used to hide things the owners or agents didn't want in photos. Finally, in the backyard, if there is a pool, make sure it is included in the photos and make sure you capture the patio if there is one.

If the home was in a rural setting or on acreage, don't forget to shoot the outbuildings both inside and out unless the inside does not need photos. If there is a horse barn, make sure to capture it and show how the stalls are built, as well as the feed and tack rooms. Rural properties and those on acreage, plus some of your standard subdivision homes would also be best shown if you can get aerial shots with a drone.  However, the US has rules on whether you can do this or not.  Basically, if you are flying a drone for recreational purposes, there is no need to be licensed or certified by the FAA.  If you are flying your drone for commercial purposes and making money doing so, then the FAA requires you to be licensed/certified to do so. This is up to you.  After some close calls, I stopped flying my drone in areas where I might have questions asked, but continued to fly it on rural locations. There were other ways to get my aerial shots in the city.

In summary, when shooting a home, choose your best angles to get the best shots available.  Make sure you get extra shots of the unique items so your agent can decide whether to use them or not and its strictly your decision to shoot in RAW or large format JPEG. When shooting brackets as we called it in the dark ages or HDR as it is called now, make sure you can shoot a minimum of 5 exposures.  The more you shoot, the better. I would always shoot nine exposures, set my EV to a -1 and shoot a 1 f-stop differential between exposures. How you set your EV and f-stop differential is your prerogative and preference. And now finally to those who have several packages which also include less than the maximum number of photos allowed by your local MLS board, it would behoove you to contact your client/agent if you feel the home will not show well with a small number of photos before you begin shooting it. Many times I was able to upsell to better and more expensive packages based on my initial walk through and prep of the home. Don't be bashful about doing this.  It's your business and trying to upsell is a common practice.   Have fun shooting.  In the next blog, I will cover some interesting facts and personal experience in the edit room.


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