Real Estate Photography
November 20, 2020

Best Camera Setup For Real Estate Photography: Understanding the Basics

Rahul Agrawal
About Author

Real estate photography isn't just about making properties look beautiful; it also needs to inspire the buyers to take action. If you are keen on taking photos of your real estate listing, it's important to understand real estate photography camera settings to get beautiful real estate photos that sell.

Why Quality Real Estate Photos Matter?

According to the National Association of Realtors, 95% of buyers searched for their dream home on the internet. So, if your house isn't attractive online, buyers may not be interested in seeing it in person. 

The quality of your photos is also important when you are getting them virtually staged. If a photo of an empty room has poor lighting, is too zoomed in, and taken from a wrong angle, it may become difficult for the virtual stagers to place furniture and present the room attractively and realistically. 

What are the Three Characteristics That Make a Great Real Estate Photo

  1. The lighting: The real estate photo should have plenty of natural light, and the colors should be warm, inviting, and vibrant.
  2. The angle: The photo should be shot with a wide lens at a perfect angle where every little detail can be seen. 
  3. The details: The real estate photo should cleverly capture the details of the house. For example, the view of the window captured in the mirror reflection. 

What You Need for Perfect Real Estate Photos

  • Digital SLR full-frame or cropped sensor camera
  • Sturdy tripod- Set at eye height.
  • Wide-angle lens- full-frame body (16-17mm lens) or cropped sensor body (12-15mm lens)
  • External flash system- Bigger is better; use the lowest flash setting. 

Camera Settings For Real Estate Photography

Shoot in RAW instead of in JPEG. 

This will give you more control over the image's exposure, highlights and shadows, the white balance, contrast, and more. If you are confident of getting the shots right the first time, then shoot in JPEG (less work in post-production).  

Set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO of your camera. 

The aperture controls how much light comes in through the lens; the shutter speed controls how long the camera lets light reach the sensor, and the ISO controls how sensitive the camera is to light.

For rooms that are not dark, set your camera to the following settings: 

  • Aperture - f/8
  • Exposure Mode - Aperture Priority
  • ISO - 400
  • Shutter Speed - Determined by Camera
  • Metering Mode – Matrix
  • Focus Mode - Single-Shot Autofocus

If you find the image too dark with these settings, make the aperture wider by moving it from f/8 to f/7.1. Or boost the ISO by moving it from ISO 400 to ISO 800.

If the image is too bright with the above settings, narrow the aperture to f/11 or reduce the ISO to ISO 200.

For rooms that are dark, the camera settings remain the same as for rooms that are not dark, except the metering mode. Use these camera settings from rooms that are dark:

  • Aperture - f/8
  • Exposure Mode - Aperture Priority
  • ISO - 400
  • Shutter Speed - Determined by Camera
  • Metering Mode – Spot
  • Focus Mode - Single-Shot Autofocus

The Best Time to Shoot to Get the Perfect Lighting in Photos

Generally, the best time for indoor shoots is when the sun is bright and shining. And for outdoor shoots, the best time is at dusk. Do not shoot on rainy, cloudy, and overcast days; they cause uneven white balance and bad lighting. 

If you go into the technicalities, the best time to shoot depends on the way each space/room in the house faces. You should always ensure that the sun is behind the camera for well-illuminated photos. Avoid using artificial lighting in a room unless the house is dark. 

Create the Perfect Composition

Many photographers have different opinions on the best way to create the best composition for each photo. Some photographers vouch for head-on shots, others believe in shots taken from a corner of the room, while some mix both of it to find the most creative angle. 

Every space is different, so you can experiment a bit and try shooting at each of those angles. Take a head-on shot, then take a shot from a corner of the room, and then take a photo from a spot you think will come out well.

Technically, take a shot at a shot at a 1 point perspective and then at a 2 point perspective. The 1 point perspective shot has a central focal point (fireplace or a corner of the room). And the 2 point perspective shot has two points of focus.

Ensure that the vertical lines in your image are perfectly vertical. So, make use of a tripod. 

The optimal camera height should ideally depend on the space and the way you have set it up. Ensure that the height of the camera gets the most of the room possible.

If you are shooting the living room and family room areas, set your camera anywhere between 36" – 48". These areas have furniture of varying heights, hence the large gap. While shooting, don't focus too much on the furniture in the house; rather, highlight the features like built-ins or crown molding. 

In the kitchen, set the camera anywhere between 15" – 20" higher than the kitchen counter.

In bedrooms, set the camera anywhere between 15" – 20" higher than the bed.

ProTip: Capture more floor than the ceiling. Floors are often more interesting and patterned, especially if the flooring has decorative tiles or is made of hardwood.
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