Are you an estate agent looking to improve your house photography, but don’t quite have the budget to stretch to paying a professional photographer?

Well never fear, the following guide will help you gain a basic understanding of where to begin with your real estate images and how to improve your existing photography to help convert more sales.

How to learn interior photography

The chances are you won’t want to be heading to university to learn how to take a nice picture, you don’t have the time or want to invest the spare capital in something which is only a small part of your job.

That’s where sites like Youtube, blogs such as this or even the good old traditional book can really come in handy.

Let’s start with the first one, Youtube.

Youtube is a huge potential learning platform and there are a number of Youtubers posting regular content to help you improve your real estate photography.

They are often in bitesize chunks which you can easily watch while taking a break or leave them on in the background while you’re doing another activity.

Some of the best are:

Nathan Cool

Blogs are also great if you have the time to sit down and read through a good post.  They are usually equipped with plenty of pictures to help you get a good understanding of what they are discussing and help you get a good grasp of the basics of interior photography for estate agents before you go and practise it yourself.

Here are a few I would recommend to take a look at.

  1. Best Real Estate Photographers
  2. Jordan Photography
  3. Terrible Estate Agent Photos (This one is a little tongue in cheek)

If you are a big lover of books then check out my post on five of the best books for interior photography.

There are some real gems in there which will help you learn how to take amazing real estate photographs.

Equipment for real estate photography

When starting out in photography, it can be tempting to want to purchase everything right away, but this will quickly add up and you may end up realising in the future that you didn’t need a certain bit of kit as much as you thought you did.

So I would advise starting with the bare minimum equipment that you need – a camera, a wide angle lens and a tripod – and then build your kit from there.

Best camera for estate agents

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options out there for budding photographers and if the internet is to be believed, you’ll only be a good photographer with the latest gear.

In all honesty you probably won’t notice much difference in camera quality if you’re just starting out, and if your photographs are only going to be used on the internet you don’t need the latest and greatest camera as it will just be wasted on a computer screen.

Here are a couple I would recommend as great starter cameras – you don’t have to spend this much, though, so don’t be put off by the price.

Canon 80D

The 80D is the hero of the current prosumer Canon lineup and is a very capable camera if you’re looking for something which can do a bit of everything, as well as being great for interior or a backup camera for a full frame camera.

It features a 24MP CMOS sensor paired with a Digic 6 processor, which gives you loads of pixels to play with. This improved sensor also offers a colour bit depth of 23.6 bits and a dynamic ranger of 13.2 Evs on DxOMark’s tests.

If you’re purchasing new photography equipment through your business as an expense and you’re claiming your VAT back, then your budget may stretch a little further than the above.  If so and you want a little bit more of a professional setup, take a look at my best camera for interior photography post.

Nikon D7500

The sensor for the D7500 is the same 20.9MP sensor and Expeed 4 sensor, which Nikon fits in its D500 pro level body so you can be sure you’re getting great image quality. 

What this gives you is a camera capable of great low light performance with a colour depth of 24.8 bits and a dynamic range of 14.5 Evs, which put it above the performance of some of the full frame cameras on offer above.

The major differences between the two come in the design of the body.

The D500 features a magnesium body, whereas the D7500 is a “carbon fibre reinforced monocoque construction”, which is, in effect, a very durable plastic. It’s used in F1 cockpits to protect the driver, so it should be more than capable of holding onto whatever you can throw at it.

Best camera lens for estate agents

The most used lens for an estate agent is definitely going to be your wide angle lens.

You want to make the rooms look as big and open as possible and a wide angle lens will let you do just that. 

If you’ve gone for one of the cropped sensor camera options above then there are a few options available for choosing the best lens for your real estate photography.

First, it’s important to understand what a wide angle lens is and what it is used for.

What is a wide angle lens?

A wide angle lens is generally considered to be any focal length equal or wider than 35mm on a full frame camera and anything wider than 24mm is considered ultra-wide.

Wide angle lenses are used predominantly to include more of the scene in your photograph. 

This is especially great for real estate photography, as you are physically limited to how far you can move your camera back and what you can fit in your scene by the walls of the building you are photographing.

Another benefit of a wide angle lens if you’re an estate agent is that it exaggerates the size of a room and can be used to distort the scene by making items seem further away.

Obviously you need to be quite careful with using this technique too much as you don’t want your potential buyers turning up expecting a castle when they’re actually getting a bedsit.

Now we know what it is and how to use our wide angle lens, here are three of the best lenses for estate agents.

Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5

The Nikon 10-24mm offers a 35mm equivalent of 15-36mm (this means its equivalent focal length on a full frame camera).

This is a really useful focal length, as it allows you to go really wide as well as capturing a more “normal” field of view, which is great for capturing small details in rooms as well as a full image.

It also features an aperture f3.5-4.5 so at the widest your lens will go the limit will be f3.5 and at the other end the aperture will be f4.5. 

Usually you would be looking for the lens with the lowest aperture value, but as you will be mounted on a tripod for most of your real estate photography, aperture is largely irrelevant in terms of a buying choice.

This lens is relatively compact and light compared to some of the more professional lens options, weighing just 460g, so it isn’t going to replace your need to go to the gym if you’re carrying it round all day. 

It does feel a little on the plastic side, which is the price you pay for the rescued weight and cost, but if you look after it well it will still last you a very long time.

As would be expected from a lens so wide, it does show quite a large amount of distortion at the extreme wide end of the lens but this can be easily fixed in post production, which we will go into a little later on.

Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS

Canon’s offering is a great cheap Canon side angle lens.

It offers a focal range of 10-18mm (equivalent to 15-28mm on a full frame camera), which does leave you wanting a little bit on the longer end and also features an aperture which is nearly a stop darker at f4.5-5.6, meaning it lets less light in.

Again, not an issue if you’re on a tripod, but if you’re using it for other types of photography it’s worth considering.

The redeeming feature of this lens is that it features Image Stabilisation.

This allows you to handhold your camera at a much slower shutter speed than would otherwise be possible, which is great for such a cheap Canon lens.

Obviously with this lens featuring IS and coming so cheap, some corners had to be cut and it is a full plastic construction. Putting a positive spin on this, it does make it incredibly light, coming in at just over 300g.

Again, it does suffer fairly heavily from barrel distortion when used at 10mm, but this can be removed in post production with minimal effort.

Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 EX DC HSM

If you’re not brand loyal and don’t mind using a third party lens, then the Sigma 10-20mm is a great option which could save you a little bit of cash too.

It is a little bit weightier than the Canon and Nikon equivalents, coming in at 465g, but does feel a lot sturdier and features a better build quality, giving you a bit more confidence that it’s going to get the job done.

The Sigma features a focal length of 10-20mm, which is equivalent to 15-30mm, offering you a good useable range and an aperture of f4 to f5.6.

Best tripod for estate agents

A tripod should definitely be one of the first purchases you make, as it will ensure that your camera stays still and allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could if you were trying to hand hold your camera.

Here are some reasons why getting a good tripod is a great idea:

1. Keep your camera position constant

Mounting your camera on a tripod allows you to keep your camera in the same place while you go and make changes to the scene.

2. Image quality

Using a tripod gives you the option of using a lower iso to achieve better image quality, as well as slowing your shutter speed to use a higher aperture and get a sharper image.

Having a tripod allows you to eliminate any camera shake when using a longer shutter speed by removing all element of human contact. Using a remote and setting your camera on a timer will ensure your camera is perfectly still when the shutter fires.

3. HDR for interior photography

Having your camera position set is also great for trying out techniques like photo stacking or HDR (High Dynamic Range), whereby you take multiple images and then use the correct exposure from each to produce the final image.

For a more in-depth discussion on HDR and similar techniques please see my lighting for interior photography post.

4. Using your tripod for low light scenes

We’re not always in control of the lighting in a given situation. So, having a tripod there which allows you to dramatically slow your shutter speed – while still keeping an aperture which allows you to keep all of the scene sharp – is imperative to interior photography.

There are many cheap tripods out there which will get you by, but I would recommend investing a little bit more if you are looking to get really good real estate imagery.

Here are a couple of options to get you off the ground and keep you rock steady:

Manfrotto Compact Advanced

This is a great starter tripod which won’t break the bank.  It’s suitable for all beginner DSLRs and can carry up to 3kg of gear, so you can be confident it will keep your camera steady while you get that house selling shot.

It’s capable of going from a height of 44.5cm to 165cm, so it’s going to be capable of getting almost every kind of shot you will need for your real estate images.

It folds down to just 44cm and comes in a carry bag, so will be easy to carry to and from your jobs.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100

The Vanguard Alta pro is a little bit more expensive but is capable of holding up to 7kg of camera equipment and has a centre column which is capable of being positioned in multiple angles for if you really get stuck in a tight place.

It does weigh a little more and doesn’t fold down as much as the Manfrotto, going to only 71.5cm, but does extend to 173cm – so it’s a toss up between whether you think the extra weight is worth those extra 8cm.

Editing your real estate images

There is a good chance that your images are going to need a little bit of retouching. This could be anything from just lightening them up a little, to correcting all the vertical lines to make sure that everything looks straight.

The best (and cheapest) way for you to achieve this is with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

You have probably already heard of Photoshop, but Lightroom may be new to you. 

In basic terms, it’s a slimmed down version of Photoshop that also has the ability to catalogue all of your images, making them easier to find if you need to refer back to them in the future.

It does also feature most of the basic editing tools you will need too, so you may find yourself never having to use Photoshop – but as they come in a bundled package from Adobe, you always have the option to use Photoshop if you want it or, if in the future you want to get a bit more advanced.

To learn a bit more about them both and the other options available have a look a my software for interior photography post.

Professional photography for estate agents

If, of course, after reading all that you’re still a little dubious that you can achieve the level of  photography which you want to convert your customers to sales, then you can always go down the professional route. 

It may not be as expensive as you initially think.

Especially if you can give the photographer a large amount of work and don’t put pressure on them to turn everything around within minutes of finishing the shoot, you should be able to work out a good deal to keep them busy during any quiet spells they may have.

It’s important that you get a photographer who at least has a portfolio of interior and exterior images and isn’t just a friend of a friend who has a camera.

If you go for the latter, you may soon be back to square one and your wallet will be a little lighter too. 

Be wary of using a photographer who doesn’t specialise in interior photography, as it’s such a niche genre that it is a completely different skillset from, for example, portraits. And just because a photographer can take a good picture of a baby, it doesn’t mean they will be able to replicate that with a building.

One of the best ways to find a photographer is asking other businesses who they have used in the past.

Professional social networks such as LinkedIn and Houzz are great for this, as you will get genuine recommendations from people who have used them in professional capacity and you should be able to see examples of their work online. 

If you don’t have any luck that way, a quick online search should be your second port of call. Be careful to read any reviews they may have and check their portfolio out. 

If they seem like a good fit, then give them a call and arrange to meet them to have a chat through your needs.

If a photographer isn’t willing to meet you and have a chat, then this should throw up some warning signs.

Be sure to meet a couple of different photographers just to get an idea how they work and their past clients.

It may be that one photographer has a lot more availability at the time you need them, so you can work out a budget and a time frame which works out better for you.

Hopefully this post has given you a better idea on photography for real estate agents, if you need anymore info then please pop a comment below and let’s get a conversation going.

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