Let’s face it, using your own DIY real estate photos in your MLS listings is risky. Chances are you’re not a professional photographer, you don’t have amazing gear, and well—real estate photography is not as easy as it looks.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided to learn how to take real estate photos the right way—yielding pro-level results that will impress agents and buyers on both your local MLS and on Zillow. We curated this list of the best real estate photography tips from experts across our industry to help you level up your skills.
Real Estate Photography: Preparation & Planning
1. Schedule Adequate Time for Your Shoot
“One of the biggest mistakes agents make in real estate photography is to only schedule a few minutes and rush through the shoot. This is almost always a bad idea. First, because framing your shots properly can take time, and second, because you never really know what state the listing is in before you show up. There might be issues that will take time to fix. Also, schedule time when the weather is cooperating and at a time of day when the light is advantageous (and not waning swiftly). Giving yourself a very short window limits your chances of success on both fronts.
“The same goes for photo editing. Don’t scramble at the last minute to find a professional image editor, if that’s not in your skill set. And don’t rush this process. Plan ahead by pinpointing a skilled photo editor to polish your images on sites like Fiverr, where talented freelancers look for work.”
2. Neutralize & Declutter Before You Start Shooting
“We explain to our sellers that some design features and elements that look great in person may not photograph well. For example, bold accent wall colors, or collections, or a photo collage. We advise to clear everything off counters and leave minimal decor for the professional photos. It may look plain to the sellers, but it will really make the home shine in the photos. For over 93% of homebuyers, the first showing is online and the photos are what make them decide whether or not to schedule a time to view it in person.”
3. Always Stage a Home, Even if It Means Simply Rearranging Current Furniture
“Staging your home for listing photos is absolutely crucial. If you are currently living in your home, rearrange furniture in a way that lets potential buyers see the potential. Buyers won’t be able to envision themselves living there if they can’t see past crowded furniture or dated decor. For a quick fix without breaking the bank, try adding trendy rugs or pillows to your existing furniture. If the house is vacant, consider hiring a professional stager. They know what is in style and proper placement. Contemporary furniture and decor will bring your house to life and help buyers visualize the space.”
[Related article: The Best Virtual Staging Software & Tips for 2022]
4. Ask the Homeowner to Keep Pets Out of the Home
“Even if your homeowner client has an incredibly photogenic pet, avoid the temptation to take listing pictures with them in the shot. Sure, buyers with pet owners may love it, but what about all the other buyers who check out your listing? Some people see a cute dog or cat and immediately think of allergies and bad smells. So that snuggly picture of your homeowner’s Dalmatian by the fire just might alienate a significant percentage of your buyers.
“Of course, if your listing is well priced in a seller’s market, this might not keep them from touring the home, but why risk it? After all, it might keep them from being excited about the home, which could very well hurt your bottom line when they’re crafting an offer.”
5. Pay Attention to the Smallest Details
“Pay attention to the details! There is nothing worse than a fabulous home photo with a crumpled, crooked bedspread or an open, dirty toilet! Put away toiletries, straighten bedclothes, and always look over the photos for small details that will turn off a potential buyer.”
6. Shoot Your Virtual Tour on the Same Day as Your Listing Pictures
“If your schedule allows for it, always have your virtual tours shot on the same day, and preferably in the same lighting as your real estate photography. Consistency is important, but also, your virtual tour needs to look just as good as your real estate listing photos.
“Speaking of quality, the image quality of some virtual tours might not look as good as pictures taken with your high-quality camera. This makes lighting even more crucial.
“If you’re on a DIY budget, Asteroom is an excellent way to make DIY virtual tours with your phone. Asteroom means you can offer virtual tours for even your cheapest listings.”
7. Always Notify the Neighbors Before Drone or Exterior Photography Sessions
“As a rule of thumb, I always inform the neighbors that a drone will be flying in the area to capture real estate photos as it can ease unnecessary anxiety for both the neighborhood and the pilot.”
Real Estate Photography: Choosing the Best Equipment
8. Invest in a Wide-angle Lens
“A wide-angle lens is a must-have for shooting interiors, but most of the ultra-wide range zoom lenses run well over $1,000. Unless you are shooting the Taj Mahal, this isn’t necessary. I would recommend a 24mm wide-angle to help ‘open up’ rooms, and they won’t break the bank at only around $130.”
9. Keep It Steady With a Tripod
“Today’s cameras are so impressive you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. However, I recommend that you invest in a good tripod in addition to a wide-angle lens. Real estate photography is all about precision. A tripod will keep your camera steady and your photos clear.”
Real Estate Photography: Lighting, View Planes & Framing
10. Keep Your Verticals Straight (by Holding the Camera Level)
“If you decide not to hire a professional photographer, make sure your verticals are straight. If your camera isn’t level, the vertical lines like walls and cabinet edges will appear to be slanted and the entire room will start to look like a fun house. Sometimes you’ll have to raise the camera higher or hold it a bit lower to capture your intended subject, and that’s OK … just make sure to level out the camera instead of tilting it up or down. Most cameras (even smartphones) have an option to turn on grid lines that will help guide you.”
11. Get Your Lighting Right
“Make sure the sun is on the front of the house. Your cell phone camera is good, but you lose the details when homes are backlit. I also love high-contrast homes. Bright colors photograph better than neutral ones—almost the opposite of interior photography rules. You may not like the fake grass and clouds, but blue skies and green grass make compelling thumbnails!”
12. Be Mindful of What’s in Your Line of Sight Through Windows
“Photographers and agents sometimes neglect to consider what is in the line of sight through windows when shooting interior spaces. If one is not careful, the shot may inadvertently include scruffy landscaping across the street, an old van in someone’s driveway, or a patch of weeds in the sidewalk area. Worse yet, it may be a shot that includes a window with a large bush blocking most of the outlook, making the room feel closed in.”
13. Never Fake Views Through Windows
“Although it may be tempting to Photoshop in a pastoral green meadow or weeping willow to cover up a drab backyard visible through the windows, don’t!
“First and foremost, you will likely be flirting with violating National Association of Realtor (NAR) rules, but more importantly, you’ll be starting your relationship with a potential buyer with a lie. A white lie to be clear, but a lie nonetheless.”
14. Make Sure the Windows Are Clean
“I think one of the little details that a lot of people miss is to remove the window screens and clean the windows inside and out. This just makes rooms look so much bigger in photos and in person with the right light.”
15. Open All Curtains & Blinds
“As a professional drone photographer in the real estate business, I always recommend opening all of the interior window blinds. While these may be outdoor photos, opening the blinds makes the house look more inviting and bigger from the outside by allowing potential buyers to see the exterior and interior of the home in one picture. From a photographer point of view, opening the blinds dramatically reduces any glare that may shine back at the drone camera when capturing pictures and videos.”
Real Estate Photography: Marketing Your Listing
16. Include Images of the Lifestyle Your Listing Exemplifies
“Include community images to give a feeling of the neighborhood,” says AJ Canaria, Creative Producer at MoxiWorks. “People don’t only want to envision their life in that home, but also want to envision the life they can live around the community. This is especially important for homes with great walk scores and for consumers who aren’t as familiar with the community.
“As a photographer for the industry, it’s always important to give a sense of the location, especially when I travel for real estate events. If a listing is near a notable landmark and the community photos present it appropriately, it can help increase the value and help the consumer envision a life in that community. Also, showcasing nearby recreational areas, amenities, gyms, pools, and schools can influence the homebuyer’s decision to purchase that home.”
17. Avoid Using Stock Photos Provided by Developers
“The vast majority of the time, interior stock photos are terrible. When someone has been looking long enough, they’ll associate these irrelevant pictures with a low-quality listing. The same can be said for stock photos of the building’s amenities—you’re diverting attention from what the viewer actually cares about—which looks suspicious.”
18. Ask the Homeowner if They Have Shots of the Home in Different Seasons
“Ask the sellers for any photos they may have showing the home in different seasons. Show off that beautiful winter wonderland scene in the winter or the gorgeous red maple in the fall. Our job is to tell your home’s story, and those seasonal photos can be used in creative ways.”
19. Sometimes Less Is More
“Sometimes less is more. Don’t show too much. For instance, if the floor plan isn’t ideal, show individual spaces. The goal is to get buyers into the home. Let them decide when they get there whether they want to make any compromises the property may entail.”
20. Post Just the Right Number of Photos
“There is a quantity sweet spot. Too few photos may leave buyers wondering what isn’t being shown, or confuse them on the layout and features. Too many photos may cause buyers to lose interest.
“Around 20 pictures will give a pretty accurate depiction of most homes without being too overwhelming. However, a lot of it depends on the size and square footage. For instance, 10 would be far too few on a 10,000-square-foot house, but could be just fine for a one-bedroom condo.”
21. Take Photos of Your Photos
“Documenting the real estate photography process is a great way to build excitement about a new listing. Use your social media platforms to let everyone know that there is something new on the horizon, and give just a little glimpse of the work behind the scenes.”
Real Estate Photography: When to Hire a Pro
22. Hire a Pro to Edit Your Photos for Just $5
“The gig economy is flourishing, and experts who are ready to take your photos to the next level are just a click away. That means prices are lower than ever, making it possible to have all your listing pictures edited by a professional.
“At last check, there are 960 freelance editors on Fiverr (and that’s just in the United States) who will take your DIY real estate listing photos and give them the polish your listings deserve. With prices starting at just $5, how can you afford not to?”
23. Whenever Possible, Hire a Professional Listing Photographer
“Professional photographers understand the importance of light and how to capture a space at the right time for the highest visual impact. Based on the position of the property, they know if it’s best to shoot at sunrise, sunset, or anywhere in between. They also have the ability to blend the same photo taken with different exposures to create the perfect image.
“In our digital, mobile world, professional photographs have the ability to stop the consumer from scrolling through listings. Beautiful images capture attention and get people to click through. Being able to get and keep the consumer’s attention is highly valuable in our instant-gratification world.”
“Believe it or not, one of the keys to real estate photography or any photography, for that matter, is to leave the stress from your day in the office. When you’re stressed out and rushed, everything you need to do to take great listing photos becomes harder. Choose angles to shoot from, keep a steady hand to keep pictures sharp, and especially coordinate with homeowners about dogs, cats, clutter, and all the other annoying things that will get in between your camera and the beautiful pictures of your listing on Zillow.
“So relax. Schedule your shoot on a day when you’re not frantically rushing from showing to showing, and take a few deep breaths before you walk into the house, camera in hand. You already got the listing, so the hard part is over, right?”
Over to You
What do you think: Is real estate photography something that amateur agents should try on their own? If so, what are some great real estate photography tips our experts missed?
[Related article: 33 Cringe-worthy Bad Real Estate Photos Agents Actually Posted]