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So you’ve decided you want to specialize your photography services in real estate, but you’re not exactly sure how to get your career started on the right foot. No worries, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find all you need to know about real estate photography to ensure you’re moving towards success as a real estate photographer.
Let’s get started.
If you want to become a real estate photographer, you need to have a clear definition of what exactly a real photographer is. To do this, we’ll look at the definitions of both real estate and photography. So first…
Property consisting of land or buildings
Real estate agents, in particular, work to sell that land or those buildings to potential buyers using sales tactics, marketing, and networking.
We’ll discuss this further down below, but it’s important to note that there are different types of real estate, which all require a slightly different approach.
So how does photography work into this? Let’s first quickly look at the definition of photography.
The art or practice of taking and processing photographs
With that in mind, a photographer is someone who takes photos at a professional level by studying and practicing the art of photography.
And so, bringing real estate and photography together…
A professional who takes favorable photos of commercial and/or residential real estate with the goal of helping to sell those properties
In order to accomplish this goal, real estate photographers need to have skills as a photographer, but they should also have knowledge about real estate (i.e. what helps properties sell, what clients are looking for, and what the real estate market trends are at any given time).
In addition, keep in mind, in 2022, real estate photography has become more important than ever. Thirty years ago, people might have not even seen a photo of a property before going to see it. Today, with the rise of the internet, most people decide to go see a property based mostly on the photos they see online.
Bottom line: If you’re interested in specializing in real estate photography, your role in selling a property has become more important than ever before.
If you've ever watched an episode of the Netflix show Selling Sunset, you know that it takes a skilled team of realtors, designers, and photographers to sell properties and earn commissions.
While its inclination toward flair is undeniable, real estate photography is also a demanding profession. Your success as a photographer depends on being able to blend art and business. Similar to other photography professions, you are not immune to last-minute bookings and tight timelines.
A real estate photographer must consider many factors when approaching a shoot. They include:
Your own creative vision
Staging and preparation
If this sounds like a career path that may interest you, keep reading to learn more about its specifics.
As mentioned above, the most important part of real estate photography is the quality of the images you capture and your degree of skill with post-editing. This means that photography schooling is not mandatory in the industry.
However, completing some form of schooling can give you an advantage in breaking into the industry. Photography school can help you build your credibility by offering clients peace of mind about your qualifications, which is especially important when you are dealing with real estate agents that may have decades of experience under their belt.
If you’re interested in attending a school for photography, many reputable online courses can be completed within a few months. If you’re looking for post-secondary education, there are programs offered with one-year certificates, two-year diplomas, or even four-year degrees majoring in photography.
If everything about real estate photography so far sounds good to you, it’s time to start thinking about building your career.
Just remember: As much as you want to start ASAP, you also want to ensure that you’re being upfront about your skills and experience. If you’re just starting out, ensure that your clients know you’re a beginner and that your prices accurately reflect this. You don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver, especially in these beginning stages where word of mouth, networking, and reviews are so essential to your success.
Let’s get into this step by step.
It should come as no surprise that real estate photographers should be skilled and experienced with photography.
For some, this might mean formal education where you specifically learn the art of photography in a school setting, and then upon graduating, you decide to go into real estate photography.
For others, you might have been treating photography as a hobby for years, and are now realizing your passion project could turn into a career.
Whatever the case, if you’ve decided that you want to become a real estate photographer, you should be intimately familiar with photography, including photography equipment, composition, and lighting. As always, remember, with photography, practice makes perfect.
Speaking of practice, once you’ve studied photography—whether in a school setting or not—it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action.
While most photography schools and programs will provide you with hands-on training, it is important for you to start taking pictures on your own without guidance.
Experiment with different settings, take photos in different lighting, and don’t forget, if you want to become a real estate photographer, it’s important for you to start practicing specifically with indoor spaces.
NOTE: If you’ve already attended photography school, you likely already have photography equipment. However, if you don’t, it might be time to invest. Once you start working with clients, it will be expected that you have your own equipment that is capable of producing professional photos. Consider that you will most commonly need wide angle and ultra-wide angle lenses, and, depending on your specialization, tilt shift lenses. Tilt shift lenses allow you to control and change perspective and the plane of focus to correct lines to minimize distortion in this subject matter that is so commonly defined by straight lines.
After you’ve started gaining some confidence with your camera and shooting real estate, it’s time to learn editing software.
As a real estate photographer, learning how to professionally edit photos is key. Not only because your real estate photos need to look top-notch, but also because real estate agents often expect a quick turn-around time from their photographers.
If you’re not familiar with editing software or take a long time to get the photos to your client, you might have issues building your career.
Always one of the key steps for any photographer, don’t discount the importance of putting together your portfolio.
A portfolio is essentially your visual resume for your work. It shows off your style, highlights the clients you’ve worked with (if you’re at the stage of working with clients), and allows potential clients to see your skills as a real estate photographer.
To get started with a portfolio, we highly recommend setting up a photographer website and housing your portfolio online. Having your portfolio accessible online ensures that you can easily share your work with any potential clients.
In addition, if you house your portfolio on your website, you’ll have the ability to utilize more online marketing materials, including blog posts, email newsletters, booking software, and a full biography.
Format makes this easy with our professionally designed portfolio templates and workflow solutions that can help you get your real estate photography website up and running in no time.
If you need some tips and tricks, check out this resource all about putting together a portfolio for real estate photography.
Once your website is up and running, and you feel like you have a portfolio that shows off your best work, it’s time to start looking for clients.
Keep in mind, if you’re wondering how to go from portfolio to clients, start small and work your way up. You likely won’t land your dream client right off the bat, but the more you keep networking and marketing, the closer you will get to building up your portfolio and finding your ideal client.
In addition, don’t be afraid to work at a discounted rate or for free at this beginning stage. We’ll talk more about pricing your services in the next section, but in general, keeping your fees low at this beginning stage can help you with building up a client base, as well as providing your portfolio with professional work.
If you’re looking for more in-depth information to help you get your career started, check out this guide for aspiring real estate photographers
As mentioned, real estate photographers play a big role in the sale of a property. As images have become a more important fixture in the sale of a property, real estate photographers have secured a much more important role in the sales process.
Think of it this way: If you’ve ever spent any time browsing real estate, we’re sure you’ve noticed what a big difference an image can have on your initial reaction to a property. Poor, unprofessional, low resolution photos likely have you scrolling past a property, while professional, bright, staged photos are much more appealing.
With that in mind, let’s go over what it means to be a real estate photographer by highlighting some of the key roles you’ll play in selling a property.
One of the key selling points for real estate photography is lighting. With good lighting, you can make average properties appear much more appealing.
Real estate photographers should know how to work with natural lighting, but they should also know how to work with artificial lighting to light a space to help enhance areas of a property that might otherwise appear dark and dull.
Photography angles and knowing how to manipulate angles with different camera lenses should also be an area of focus for real estate photographers.
Good use of angles can help make spaces look larger, airier, and more inviting. Conversely, if a space is not shot with the right understanding of lenses and angles then the space can appear claustrophobic.
You can certainly go into a home and take the standard images that are expected of you, but if you have knowledge about real estate trends, you’ll have a better idea of what aspects of the property to highlight. This knowledge will help you grow your career.
Perhaps this is not an absolute requirement, but if you want to stand out as a real estate photographer, this isn’t a bad skill to have.
If you’re skilled as a photographer and take images as is, that’s great, but if you can also help to stage a home, that’s even better. You don’t necessarily have to fully stage the space since most agents will hire professional stagers, but if you have experience with design and can move decor items around so your images look better, you’ll be rewarded.
There are several subcategories of real estate photography, but for our purposes, we’ll look at the four major types of real estate photography.
Remember: You don’t necessarily have to specialize your services right off the bat, but by having a niche and getting familiar with one type of real estate photography, you’ll have a better chance of networking with the right agents, building your skills appropriately, and having a better understanding of that type of real estate.
Residential real estate photography includes photos of single-family homes, condos, townhouses, multi-family homes, and even luxury homes if you’re able to build up your career enough to land those clients.
With this style of real estate photography, you’ll shoot both interior and exterior shots. In addition, you might find that agents require ariel, video footage, meaning you want to become familiar with using a drone.
Residential is probably the most popular, in-demand type of real estate photography
Less popular than residential photography, commercial real estate photography can be considered any property that is being sold for commercial purposes (i.e. office space, storefronts, storage areas, hotels, restaurants, malls, etc.).
In general, commercial real estate photography tends to pay better, but there is usually less demand for it, meaning you might not receive as many jobs as you would if you specialized in residential.
Also, keep in mind, agents generally hold commercial real estate photographers to a higher standard (i.e. you should have higher-end equipment and more experience).
If you’re working as an architectural real estate photographer, your clients are most likely civil engineers, architects, contractors, designers, and home builders.
Your goal with your photography is to specifically capture the architecture of a building. This can include both the interior and exterior of a building. In addition, architectural photographers want to highlight things like the flow of the building, the quality of the construction, and the functional design of a space.
As you can probably imagine, architectural photography can apply to both residential and commercial real estate. You can think of it as a more specialized style of both, which means if you want to specialize in architectural photography, a keen sense of attention to detail is extremely important.
Similar to architectural photography, interior photography can fall under both residential and commercial real estate, but it tends to be more specialized.
While architectural photography focuses primarily on the structural elements of a building, interior photography is more so about the design of a space (i.e. colors, furnishing, mood, amenities, how does the space make a viewer feel?).
Clients can vary widely if you specialize in interior photography, but some clients that you might specifically come across with this style include professional stagers, magazines, and even luxury homeowners who want a photographer who can really bring their home to life.
In addition, homes and/or buildings that have a unique history or historical details might be ideally suited for interior real estate photographers.
As mentioned, you don’t need to start your career off specializing in one type of real estate. Instead, you should try getting any job possible so that you can start building your portfolio ASAP.
Having said that, if you’re looking for the most popular path to success as a real estate photographer, most aspiring real estate photographers start off working with residential real estate agents since there are more jobs to choose from here.
From here, as you gain experience, you might decide that you want to start shooting commercial properties since there is more income potential.
Next, if you really want to get niche with your services, architectural and interior photography might be worth getting into.
In general, though, we suggest starting with residential, seeing what you like, and working your way up.
Listening to the client’s needs is one of the most important parts of the job. There are three primary types of clients who hire real estate photographers to help sell their properties, each with a unique vantage point on the role of photography in their needs.
Real estate agents: Real estate agents hire photographers to help them attract potential buyers and sell listings faster. Because they are likely to have industry experience, you may need to adapt to their preferences and timelines. Every real estate agent may have their own expectations, but all of them appreciate efficiency and professionalism when working with real estate photographers.
Developers: Developers hire real estate photographers to document the progress of building new developments and large-scale renovations.
Individual home sellers: Individual home sellers hire real estate photographers for property listings to help them attract potential buyers. Because selling a home is likely to happen a handful of times in a person’s lifetime, working with individual home sellers may require more guidance around topics like photography fees and what you’re delivering to them at the end of the contract.
No matter the client, each one wants to showcase their property in the best light. They are looking for a photographer’s expertise, efficiency and direction in getting there.
The best way to attract real estate photography clients is by creating a real estate portfolio website and begin building a digital presence. Once your online portfolio is set up, you can create a marketing strategy to attract new clients. This can involve cold calling, digital marketing, and sharing your website with your existing network.
Another way to attract clients is by including recommendations from previous clients once you have a few positive reviews. In addition, consider including an online presence on platforms like Instagram and TikTok in your marketing strategy, as this can help bring traffic to your portfolio. Social media platforms are designed for sharing and co-creation, which means that you can collaborate on content with your clients for a fresh way to promote your photography skills.
In addition, there may also be local opportunities to get in contact with potential clients through platforms like Airbnb and other short-term rental sites. Although you won't get the full commission from these types of projects the way a freelance photographer would, it can lay the groundwork for your reputation and provide additional income during work lulls. For example, you could contact AirBnB listing owners in your area who look like they could use a more inviting set of photos. Happy customers may refer you to other Airbnb owners, creating an additional client stream.
From networking on social media platforms like Linkedin to freelance websites, there are a number of ways to find real estate photography clients.
Land a real estate photography contract isn’t easy. As a result, your portfolio needs to stand out from the competition. That’s where having the right camera comes in.
To compete in this field, considering buying or renting a DSLR camera with a wide-angle lens. This type of hardware gives you more options when it comes to post-editing, which is paramount to the quality of your final product. Both Nikon and Canon cameras are popular DSLR options that are reputable in the industry.
If you’re interested in offering drone photography in your suite of services, keep in mind tha
t this type of photography requires a large upfront investment. In addition, operating a drone requires the successful completion of an aeronautical knowledge exam. While a quality drone will run you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, aerial shots are highly sought after for properties with large land coverage or outdoor amenities, and can greatly boost your income.
After deciding on your go-to camera, selecting the right lens is essential. This is because capturing large surface areas is often required. To get the job done, a wide-angle lens is a perfect tool for the job.
This feature is especially useful when your client needs to capture a large great room or expansive property area. To accomplish this, an ultra-wide lens in the range of 10 to 24 millimeters is highly beneficial.
In addition, consider purchasing a tripod to give you an advantage in lower lighting conditions or corners of the property.
Being a real estate photographer means having to make the best of the lighting in the property you are capturing.
To accomplish this, a basic wireless flash should be included with your startup costs. To brighten interior shots like a basement living room or bathroom without windows, you can use a diffuser to produce soft lighting that makes the space look welcoming.
After you’re done shooting a property, you’ll need to have the right software to finesse your images. Investing in the right editing software is important for being to deliver high-quality images that show off a property in its best light for prospective buyers.
While photo-editing software can be costly, membership options include annual and monthly subscriptions. Both novice or freelance photographers who don’t use the software regularly may find the monthly subscription service provides more flexibility. In addition, discounts a
re available for students and alumni of various academic institutions where photography courses are offered.
The two programs most favored by professional photographers are:
While both programs offer a similar range of editing capabilities, Photoshop’s ability to give the user complete control over its tools makes it better suited to more advanced users. Also, Photoshop supports Apple and third-party plugins. When you're deciding between Lightroom vs. Photoshop, you can think about how you want to treat your images.
No matter how good your camera and photography equipment, every real estate photographer needs editing software in their toolkit to compete in the industry.
After your actual skillset as a photographer, pricing is one of the most important aspects of your business.
Price too high and you’ll struggle to get clients who are willing to work with you or recommend you. Price too low and you’ll struggle to grow a sustainable business that is able to support you (and you may pigeonhole yourself in a low price market).
To help you with your pricing, you’ll want to consider the following -
The bigger the space, the more you should charge. For example, shooting a small apartment versus a large single-family home should be priced very differently. The only time this might not be true is if you’re shooting a luxury condo versus a standard residential space.
In general, though, you should always ask about square footage, as well as how many rooms are being shot. The more experience you acquire, the more accurately you’ll be able to determine how long a shoot will take based on square footage.
As with any service-based pricing, you’ll almost always be able to charge more based on your experience simply because more experience generally means higher-quality work. If you’re just starting out, work your way up to premium pricing.
Remember, unless you happen to be shooting your neighbor’s house, real estate photography will always require some level of travel which is an expense that should be factored into your pricing.
As mentioned in a previous section, video footage is becoming more popular with real estate photography. Whether it be a full video house tour or drone footage of the exterior space, there are many real estate agents who want this from their photographers.
Just be sure that you work this into the pricing. Not only does video footage take more of your time, but it also will likely be an added expense for equipment, plus more time editing.
Not to mention, not every real estate photographer has this skill, so raising your prices to account for this skill is appropriate.
Most real estate agents will require at least 20-25 photos for an average shoot. If an agent wants significantly more photos with multiple angles of each room, this will take you more time. Be sure to work this into your pricing.
You’ll usually be expected to deliver photos within 48 hours. For an extra fast turnaround, you might consider charging a premium rate.
Pricing for real estate photography can vary greatly depending on where you live in the country. For example, real estate photography pricing in New York City will be much higher than a small town in Texas.
Do some market research and see what other real estate photographers with similar skill sets are charging. This will give you a good sense of what clients are willing to pay, which will help you with settling on a price that is not too high but also not too low.
As you can likely see, starting a career in real estate photography takes time and effort. With that in mind, if there was one place where we could urge you to spend a good deal of your time, it would be on your portfolio.
Your portfolio essentially acts as the gatekeeper to helping you land clients. In most cases, without a professional portfolio that shows off your work, you’ll struggle to find clients.
To get your portfolio set up ASAP, check out the professional portfolio templates that Format has to offer.
With these templates at your disposal, we’ll be able to have your real estate photography business up and running in no time.
As a photographer, you will develop your own style and approach over time. However, there are some real estate photography tips that you can keep in mind as you enter the industry. When you're taking photos for real estate, make sure you consider the following things:
DSLR Camera with a wide-angle lens to ensure you can capture the entirety of the property.
Invest in flash and lighting equipment to ensure you're not stuck in low light settings.
Take a tour of the property before you shoot.
Ensure you turn on the light and avoid yellow lights.
Armed with this knowledge, you can save yourself some time in having to figure every aspect of being a real estate photographer out from scratch.
While it’s not considered to be a glamorous part of creative industries like photography, contracts are an important part of your professional relationship with your client. Contracts help both parties keep a line of sight on the final deliverables, timelines, and associated fees. Most importantly, contracts can protect photographers in the case of disagreements or delinquent accounts that fail to deliver payments.
A contract helps to protect your rights to images and ensure you get paid. Whether you're a freelancer or running your own business, make sure you write a contract.
Generally speaking, the person who takes the image owns it. However, there are many intricacies to copyright laws. As such, photographers can specify the applications, frequency of use, and a time frame in which images can be used in their contract with the client.
Because this is a convoluted topic, it’s a good idea to include information about image ownership and usage in your contract with your client. The contract ensures that the photographer can remain the owner of the images. In this case, the client holds a license for specified uses, such as property listing. If the client wants to use the images outside of this context, the client will need to seek approval. This means you qualify to receive royalties or additional fees if your images are used in future promotional materials, such as realtor or developer brochures.
If you’ve ever dreamt of getting an intimate glimpse of houses and quaint cottages for a living, real estate photography may be for you. Get started with an online portfolio website to host your captured shots of residential, commercial, or luxury properties.
Create your own portfolio website with Format today.
Plus, get FREE access to our exclusive Photography Business Masterclass Course