Photography and the real estate business have been connected for over thirty-five years. One of the first real estate brochures featuring black and white photos of houses for sale appeared in 1984 in the Seattle market. The creation of this brochure gave birth to real estate photography. Since then, the tools available to photographers have become more sophisticated, including 3-D environment capturing and drone photography.
Photographers bring value to real estate by capturing high-quality photos of prospective homes is a key part of the real estate selling process. This article focuses on answering commonly asked questions for those looking to enter the real estate photography business capturing static 2-D images and building an online portfolio of your own.
Table of Contents
Real estate photography is used to sell residential, commercial or industrial properties. Photographers may be tasked with capturing:
primary places of residence (apartments, houses)
secondary places of residence (cottages and summer homes)
hospitality businesses and resorts
While some real estate photographers span across all types of buildings, some prefer to specialize in residential, commercial or luxury.
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.
The most important part of getting into real estate photography is being able to photograph images of the properties you’re commissioned to shoot and consistently meet client demands. But that alone won’t be enough to land you in the business.
To get your foot in the door, you need to have the right equipment, demonstrate skilled use of photography, and post-editing. In addition, personal communication skills are key to happy clients.
The last hurdle to cross is gaining visibility in the industry. One way to accomplish this is with the help of a real estate portfolio that showcases your body of work. Your portfolio can be leveraged to attract clients and in networking circles, such as real estate trade shows.
For those just starting out, freelance real estate photographers can enlist family and friends to open their homes to experiment with taking real estate photographs.
As with most specialized areas of photography, this is a highly competitive field.
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.
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.
Setting the right price for your work is important. However, prices charged for real estate photography are dependent on a variety of factors, including:
Your experience level
Travel distance to the property
In addition, whether you work in an urban center or a suburban area can greatly affect how much you can charge for your work. This is why getting an idea of local rates by checking out calling real estate listings near you is the only way to gain an accurate picture of what the range is in your area.
Generally speaking, the higher the size and the value of the property, the more you are able to charge per photo. Shooting a single property usually involves the delivery of 25-50 photos for the client, with the minimal driving distance involved. Consider setting a kilometer driving range outside of which to include gas mileage expenses as part of your invoices.
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