Photography for Real Estate : Important Tips

a brightly lit natural chalet interior with vaulted ceilings and a full wall of windows on a sunny winter day.
bright and natural interior view for interior staging and real estate
Real estate photography and video tours is something I've been working with for a long time and I really enjoy it. I thought I should pass on some knowledge about how to shoot real estate photography, how to shoot real estate virtual tours, video tours also known as video walkthroughs, 360 degree panoramas, measuring floorplans and layouts, and more.

Real Estate Photography 

  • If you're slow to deliver photos to your current clients in another field, don't even start in RE photography. There are many people waiting on your work to keep the process moving. More than two days delivery after shooting is too slow. Even if I have three or more shoots for photos that day - they're all getting their images within 12 hours. 
  • Accuracy is everything. Your photos need to show the house as it is. No artsy filters or anything here. Just make it look as close as you can to what you saw in person.
  • Watch your verticals, and your horizons. Side to side and front to back levelling of your camera is important until you get a very good understanding for either tilt-shift lenses or software correction of perspective distortion. I wrote a blog on that a couple years back. check it out.
  • You can succeed in real estate and property photography using only only free open source software, a wide angle lens, a camera, and a tripod.  This is one of the most accessible forms of professional photography there is, however it can also be quite demanding.

real estate photography view of a stand alone bath tub with two bright windows onto forest
Great real estate photographs generally capture a window and something to explain a room's purpose.

Shooting Video Walkthrough Tours

  • Real estate video length is hotly debated. On one side, with all the mass-consumed video media - attention spans run short these days and some will tell you shorter the better.  I believe you should take as much time in your video as is needed to show the property - bigger properties = longer videos. You don't want the viewer to feel like your dawdling but you don't want to fly through it without your viewer taking in any real information either.  When someone is spending $600K on a house, they definitely will watch a 5 minute long video to decide if they want to see it in person. That is who you're really making the video for.
  • Short videos are more engaging. There are some places where you want the full tour - lets say attached to the MLS, but with facebook and instagram so important to a realtor's routine marketing approach this is where the short and engaging edit really shines. Your short video should show the house's best features only. It should also represent the agent's brand. Get some face time in there as a real estate agent.  As the videographer - make sure they look and sound good. Help them get the words out in a flowing manner which will make your job editing easier, and your work will look better than your competition's. 
  • Support is everything. With photos you may be able to get away with hand holding some shots of different things here and there - video - never. You don't want the viewer to see jarring camera motions to distract from the property features they're supposed to look at.  

Doing Floorplans 

  • Off the hop - get a laser measure. Like a tape measure but without the need for a second person, or a strip of tape, use a laser measure instead. 
  • It helps to have a little understanding of schematics/floorplans, etc. I had no formal training, but a few years of high school tech class was all the prep I needed.
  • Proper CAD software as you'd regularly use for a schematic floorplan is a couple hundred dollars per month on a subscription - a little steep for these purposes.  Blender3D on the other hand is totally free and open source and it has all the functionality you need.
  • I have a video on my youtube all about doing floor plans and am expecting to release some more going into greater detail and more thorough walk through of the software.
a bright white winter scene of a house front for real estate sales in Collingwood
photography in winter can be beautiful. Expose the snow to be very pure white exposure value.

Shooting 360 Panoramas

  • These are significantly easier now than they were when I first started making them.  You could get a dedicated 360 camera like the Ricoh Theta S, or you could get a dedicated head for a tripod designed for making panoramas.  The panorama head may be cheaper initially, but you'll spend longer on your post production so how highly do you value your time? Go with a dedicated 360 camera and it will keep you fast and efficient in the house too, and less prone to error.

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