How to Get Into Real Estate Photography in 2021

Do you want to learn how to make money with real estate photography? We’ve got all the answers about what it takes to do professional real estate photography.


So you’re considering a career in real estate photography.

Whether you’re already a working photographer looking to dive into a new niche or you’re brand new to the world of photography, this guide is for you.

You likely have some burning questions you want answered before you take the plunge, like how much do real estate photographers make a year, is real estate photography profitable, and how do you figure out your photography pricing? Should you get into real estate drone photography? And what’s the best lens for real estate photography?

Lucky for you, we have everything you need to know on how to start a real estate photography business right here. Let’s get started!

What Does Real Estate Photography Involve?

Let’s start with the most obvious question, how to do real estate photography in the first place.

Realtor photography involves more than you might think.

You can either venture into the world of house photography or commercial real estate property. When you’re contemplating how to start a real estate photography business, you have to be prepared to wear many hats.

In addition to taking photos, real estate photographers should be prepared to spend additional time and resources on things like house staging, photo editing, marketing, sales, and admin work.

If you’re used to taking your time editing photos (which can often take longer than the photoshoot itself), be aware that you won’t have that luxury with real estate photography.

Realtors usually need a quick turnaround time on the real estate photos, with deadlines of 24 to 48 hours being most common. The main way to work in the real estate photography business is by working alongside real estate agents, photographing homes or commercial real estate for online listings.

However, you may want to consider dipping your toes into real estate stock photos as well.

By making your real estate stock photos available online through resources like Shutterstock, you can add an additional income source that is entirely passive, meaning less work for you in the long run.

How Do Real Estate Photographers Price Their Work?

If you’re thinking about starting a career in realtor pictures, you’ll need to know how much to charge for your services as a professional real estate photographer.

When setting your real estate photography pricing, make sure to consider the work you’ll put in outside of the real estate photography itself, like preparation, travel, and associated fees, and the amount of time it will take you to edit the photos. Of course, suppose you don’t already have all the necessary equipment for real estate photography. In that case, you’ll also need to factor in those expenses (like, say, if your camera doesn’t have the best lens for real estate photography).

Don’t underestimate the amount of time a particular job might take you, either—for more advanced real estate photography. You may be asked to make significant edits that can eat into your time and your profits. You should also consider setting a higher rate for super-fast turnaround times.

At this point, you might think, “is real estate photography a good business?”

The answer will depend on a number of factors, including your working style. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to find new business opportunities and be flexible on your turnaround times.

Real estate photography rates will also vary depending on where you live—unfortunately, a small-town real estate photographer just won’t be able to charge as much as someone doing real estate photography in a big city.

However, always make sure you’re valuing your work by paying yourself a fair wage, regardless of where you’re located, your skills, and the equipment you’re using.

What Kind of Real Estate Photography Pricing Guidelines Should I Follow?

If you’re new to photography, start by researching the basics of pricing your photography.

You can also ask your local photography community (MeetUp, Facebook Groups, etc.,) to ask how much does a real estate photographer earns specific to your area. This can give you a good starting point and give you an idea that real estate photography can be lucrative.

As professional photographers, you have to consider the expenses you have that allow you to edit photos and account for your costs. This may include your camera equipment, insurance for your camera equipment, editing software, your experience, your transportation, and marketing.

Like any creative business, real estate photography rates will differ based on location and experience, but here are some basic tips you can follow.

Set Different Real Estate Photography Rates For Different Sized Homes

The larger the house, the more rooms, and features you’ll need to capture and edit. It only makes sense that you charge based on the property you’re shooting.

You might charge under $200 for homes 3,000 square feet and under and over $200 for 3,000 square feet and up.

Adjust Your Real Estate Photography Pricing Based on Time of Day

Sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate shooting times with the homeowners and the real estate agent, which means you might be given unconventional hours to shoot.

Shooting high-quality real estate photography at sunset or in the dark will involve more equipment and editing than daytime shoots, so get all the details before you provide your client with your final rate.

Higher-End Listings Mean Higher Rates

Suppose you’re photographing a home that will be listed at upwards of $1 million. In that case, your real estate photography pricing should reflect that—your rates could jump from around the $200 mark to closer to $500, depending on the value of the real estate listing.

Some people also set their real estate photography rates based on square footage, using a pricing formula of around nine cents per square foot.

If you do real estate drone photography, you can charge more than regular photos, with one minute of professional video costing anywhere from $200 to $400.

Video tours of home interiors and individual rooms should cost upwards of $1,000. When you set your real estate photography pricing, base them on deliverables (i.e., 25 high-quality images, one minute of drone video) rather than an hourly wage, and work the time your efforts will take you into your pricing formula.

What Makes a Good Real Estate Image?

Your photos are selling homes, which means they have an important role in highlighting the property’s best features. When it comes to home photography, certain beginner’s mistakes can easily be avoided using these tips.

When it comes to home photography, there are certain beginner’s mistakes that can easily be avoided using these tips.

Always Use a Wide-Angle Lens

Have you ever noticed that quality real estate photography can make even the tiniest of spaces look spacious? Well, the trick to that is a wide-angle lens. Wide-angle lenses have a small focal length and allow for more background to be in the frame, enhancing the perspective.

We’ll talk in more detail about the best lens for real estate photography below.

Emphasize the Room’s Best Features

Every room will have one key feature you can focus on, whether it’s a beautiful picture window or a rustic fireplace. What separates professional real estate photography from “amateur hour” is to hone in on what makes each room special and emphasizes that to the viewer.

Avoid Bad Weather and Lighting

Yes, it can be inconvenient working around mother nature’s unpredictable schedule, but if it’s super-foggy or muddy out, your real estate photography may not end up looking as great as you hoped.

If you’re skilled in photo editing, you may be able to account for unforeseen weather forecasts, and you can turn cloudy skies into beautiful sunsets. As a skilled editor, this should also reflect in your real estate photographer pricing.

Take Advantage of New Technology

If you want your real estate photography to stand out, or if you’d like to make a bit more money, real estate drone photography can be a great option for you. Keep reading for more information on using camera drones to bring your real estate photography to a whole other level.

What is the Best Lens for Real Estate Photography?

If you’re new to photography, read up on the basics before buying your real estate photography equipment. You’re probably wondering: what is the best lens for real estate photography? For starters, it’s all about that wide-angle lens. To get those super-wide real estate images that we’re so used to seeing, your lens should be in the range of 10-24mm.

While wide-angle is great for capturing the extent of the space and making a room look bigger than it is, you want to stay away from fisheye lenses as it adds too much distortion and looks unnatural.

You should also remember that you will probably be shooting indoor and outdoor real estate photography, so choose a camera setup that works with both. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some options for the best lens for real estate photography.

This Nikon lens can shoot at 16mm for interiors and go up to 35mm for exterior real estate photography.

The ultra-wide-angle lens and range of focal length from 17-40mm makes this one of the best lenses for real estate photography.

This lens is made for Canon cameras, and with zero distortion and fast focusing, it’s an ideal lens for real estate photography.

This is an ultra-wide tilt-shift lens, which allows for unique real estate photos that stand out.

What Does Real Estate Drone Photography Entail?

In addition to real estate pictures, video can be an extremely lucrative option when pursuing a career in real estate photography.

Dramatic, eye-catching visuals can be created using real estate drone photography, which can help a property stand out from the pack online. Camera drones can be great for creating a virtual tour, moving through each room of a property so an online viewer can experience the space.

Drones can also create sweeping landscape shots and showcase a large property, but they won’t take the place of your trusty DSLR camera—when it comes to interior shots, your best bet is still traditional real estate photography.

If you’re interested in adding real estate drone photography to your repertoire, be aware that drones can be pricey, generally starting at about $1000 and going up from there.

There are other barriers to becoming a drone operator, too. In the US, you’ll need to get an operator’s certificate to operate a drone for real estate photography, even before you start charging for your services. It will also take time to learn to operate the drone, so it’s a good idea to connect with a real estate drone photography professional when you’re first starting.

Drone photography will also be more time-consuming and expensive than regular real estate photography. Be prepared to film long video segments and cut it down to more easily digested shots in post-production. To create high-quality video, you’ll need a 3-axis gimbal to hold your camera in place as your drone flies around. This allows more control over your real estate drone photography, like zooming and panning your shot.

Since real estate drone photography is more weather-dependent, make sure to get multiple shots of the perspectives you need most, just if the first one doesn’t turn out. You should aim to shoot your real estate drone photography on a windless day and stay close to the ground to avoid wind gusts.

Your drone should come with flight control software, which you can use to map out your flight plan in advance rather than to make those decisions as you go. Be careful around things like wires and trees, which could destroy your drone and end up costing you a lot of money.

Along with a general property photography contract, you’ll need a specific drone-operating contract since there are additional legal requirements for drone operators.

Real Estate Photography Tips

If you’re wondering how to take real estate pictures that impress, we’ve got you covered in that department too. Here’s a comprehensive list of tips to make your first few sessions go smoothly as a real estate photographer.

Create A Standard Shot List

Establishing a list of the photographs you’ll need for the home will save time when you’re on location and help you cover all your assets you’ll deliver to your client.

Here’s an example of the shots that you may include in your shot list:

  • Front exterior (at multiple angles and distances)
  • Wide-angle shots of the bedrooms, family room, kitchen, and den
  • Shots of feature rooms (laundry, pantry, garage, basement)
  • Backyard/deck photos

Of course, every home will have its unique features, so ironing the required shots ahead of time with your clients will help speed your working process when it comes time to shoot and provides a seamless client experience working with you.

Walk Through The Home

When you arrive on site, get a feel for the space you’re working with before picking up your camera to shoot. You can take mental notes of the lighting, angles, and stand-out features of the homes you’d like to feature in your photographs.

If the homeowners are there, you can also ask if they can move objects, furniture, or declutter areas that may become a distraction in the image. The less editing work to remove clutter or other imperfections in the image, the better for your overall workflow.

Flash Photography in Real Estate

Often, you don’t have control over when you arrive at the shoot, and there’s no telling what kind of natural lighting the home has.

Flash photography may be required to get the rooms in the house looking their best. The problem is those flash units on a camera can create harsh lighting and shadows, which means you’ll have a lot of work post-production to even out the vignetting (dark edges of the photo and a bright center).

We recommend you use a flashgun rather than your camera’s standard pop-up flash so that you can move around its position. Try turning the flash on the camera so that it’s facing a wall to reflect light. Having the light bounce off the walls will create softer light for a more even look.

Correct Distortion

Lens distortion is an important factor to account for when doing any type of photography. When it comes to real estate photography, where your subjects are rooms with very crisp, angular lines, you may want to correct the lens distortion to fix bent or unnatural lines and curves.

Luckily, programs like Adobe Lightroom make it easy to correct lens distortion in a matter of clicks. To minimize how many adjustments you need to make when editing, make sure you’re shooting your rooms straight on—use a tripod and your camera’s leveling meter if you have to.

The Client Review Process

Being a good real estate photographer is more than capturing images of beautiful spaces. You’ve got to manage your clients’ expectations too.

Once you’ve got the shots, it’s a good idea to review the photos with the real estate agent while you’re on-site to avoid any unhappy clients and having to revisit the property for missed shots.

You can count out the images from your setlist to ensure you’ve gotten the complete list of promised shots and that all looks good in the viewfinder before leaving the property.

As the hired creative professional, you can’t assume that everyone understands your process or the photos you’ve taken. Make this time the opportunity to explain why you like the particular shots and what they can expect them to look like after you’re done editing them.

Where Can You Learn Real Estate Photography?

If you’re wondering “how do I become a real estate photographer?”

There’s no one place to get started.

There are plenty of real estate photography courses available online through platforms like Udemy or Coursera that help you understand the basics of technique and business aspects.

Additionally, seeking out online photography groups to learn from colleagues and get practice is an excellent way to get real-life experience and practice with your camera and equipment. Look for Facebook or Meetup groups to connect with and learn from other photographers in your area.

What Kind of Background Do You Need to Run a Professional Real Estate Photography Business?

You don’t need to come from a particular background to become a successful real estate photographer, but having experience as a photographer and freelancer helps.

Running a real estate photography business is much more than just taking professional real estate photos. You’re solving a problem for real estate agents, and they’re going to you for professional expertise as well as your deliverable photographs.

You’ll also need to set up an invoicing system, photography contracts and spend time and effort looking for new freelance clients. A big part of working as a real estate photographer is also developing a social media strategy to get your work seen.

How Do I Promote My Real Estate Photography Business?

The #1 way to promote your real estate photography business is to set up an amazing online photography portfolio. This way, prospective clients can see all your real estate photos and real estate drone photography in one place—along with your real estate photography pricing page.

A portfolio website as a photographer is a valuable tool for demonstrating your credibility and professionalism.

On top of this, a well-built website can also serve as a marketing tool that finds you new clients. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key component in helping to increase your web page’s visibility when users conduct searches for local real estate photography services.

Don’t have one yet? No worries—just use a website builder to create one in minutes.

Make sure to pick an online portfolio website that offers beautiful templates so your real estate photography website will make a strong, stylish impression. Another great feature to keep an eye out for? A built-in online store, so clients can purchase your real estate photography packages immediately.

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Congratulations—you now have all the information you need to start your very own real estate photography business! Soon, you’ll be right at home in the real estate photography world and landing your dream clients.

Want more tips on making money with photography?
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