How to Shoot Photos of Your Home for the Real Estate Market

Remove the clutter, use a wide lens if possible, and whatever you do, get yourself a tripod,advises Kathryn Learie

If you’ve shopped for a home and browsed the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), you may have noticed that often the photos fall short in showing off a place.

If you want to avoid that happening to you and have the time to take the photos yourself, here are some tips that may help:

MLS does not properly support vertically captured pictures. Only take horizontal photos.

You must have a tripod and a wide angle lens – 28mm or wider. If you don’t have either of these and are unable to borrow from someone, find a camera store that rents equipment and rent what you need for a day. Cost for both a lens and tripod rental should not be more than $50 a day. Most rental places will only charge you for one day if you take the equipment on a Friday afternoon and return it on the following Monday. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, you may be able to get away with keeping it on your widest angle setting, but you definitely need a tripod.

Remove any clutter from your rooms including any distracting items such as brightly coloured blankets or stereo wires.

Avoid shooting in a room when direct sunlight is pouring in through the windows. This tends to create dark shadows and really bright highlights, making it challenging to expose your photo properly. Subdued lighting conditions are optimal, where you have more of an even blanket of light filling your room. Try photographing at dusk and turn your lamps on as this will help create a warm and inviting feel to each room. Avoid turning on any harsh overhead lighting.

In small or odd shaped rooms, try setting up your shot just outside the room and include a small portion of the door frame, or alternatively, shoot from a corner inside the room and photograph looking out toward the entrance.

When composing your photographs, it is very important to line up the edges of your photo with a vertical line from a wall or window frame. Use your tripod to raise or lower your camera so you can find the spot where your photo appears straight and not crooked. This tip might seem really fiddly, but it will separate your photos from the majority of others.

For the exterior photos of your home, early morning or early evening often brings dramatic lighting, so pick the time of day that best shows off your home and landscaping, if any. Clear away any distracting coloured objects or clutter and be sure to turn your flash off and use your tripod. If you have a ladder, consider shooting your home from higher up off the ground as this may correct any crookedness to the lines in your composition.

Check to make sure you don’t have any burned out light bulbs.

The tripod is essential in photographing interiors as you are shooting with only ambient and often low-light conditions, forcing you to have slower shutter speeds. It also brings precision to your composition when you are trying to eliminate any crooked lines in both interior and exterior shots.

If you are using a DSLR camera, make sure your:

  • ISO setting is at its lowest number
  • aperture is around F8 or higher
  • white balance is either on AUTO or try the different presets to achieve the most realistic colour match for your scene

If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, make sure your:

  • flash is turned off
  • ISO setting is at its lowest number
  • white balance is set correctly by having the camera on the proper scene mode, or have it on AUTO white balance if your camera performs better that way

5 Tips for Better Property Photos
Photos of a home on the Multiple Listing Service can do a lot to show off a place, but a bad photo can quickly turn buyers off. Kathryn Learie, professional photographer of Owen Imaging in Kamloops, B.C.,  offers several pointers to taking better property photos:

1. Take horizontal photos. The MLS  may not properly support vertically captured photos, so you’re better off shooting horizontal.

2. Have the right equipment. Use a wide angle lens–28mm or wider–and a tripod.

3. Remove clutter before you shoot. Take note of anything that has the potential to distract in the photo and remove it before you take the photo, such as brightly colored blankets or stereo wires.

4. Take photos in the early morning or early evening of the exterior. The timing of day when you shoot the exterior can make a big difference with lighting. Early morning or evening hours can create the most dramatic lighting for your photos. Turn off your flash and use a tripod, and to capture the best image, use a ladder to shoot the home from higher ground.

5. Watch your interior lighting too. Don’t shoot in a room when direct sunlight is pouring into it through the windows or you’ll get dark shadows and really bright highlights. Subdued lighting conditions are optimal, Learie says, adding you should avoid turning on any harsh overhead lighting. Try photographing the interior at dusk and turn the lamps on to create a warm, inviting feel.