Real Estate Photography Tips for Home Sellers

10 tips for real estate photography

  • Prepare your home by cleaning and staging
  • Invest in professional photos ($150-$200, depending on the market)
  • Shoot on a sunny day
  • Capture the master bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathrooms
  • Include an exterior shot
  • Shoot at chest height in landscape orientation
  • Vary the location of your shots to show the relationship of rooms to each other
  • Watch for distorted vertical lines
  • Use a tripod
  • Include 22-27 photos in your listing

Why bother with real estate photography?

Seventy-nine percent of recent home buyers told Zillow they shopped online to find their home. What’s more, of buyers who purchased in the last 12 months, almost half said that viewing professional photos was extremely or very important to their home-buying experience.

In today’s online world, your home’s photos are your first impression, and they’re the best way to pique a buyer’s interest to have them come see your listing in person.

Your home’s online listing isn’t the only place your photos will come in handy. They’ll make your home look great wherever it’s advertised: in signage, open house flyers, social media posts where friends and family share your listing, and when your agent shares the listing with other agents in their network — all of which are places today’s buyers are looking.   

How many pictures of a house for sale should be on the listing?

Twenty-two to 27 pictures is the ideal range of photos for real estate, according to Zillow research. Homes with fewer than nine photos are about 20 percent less likely to sell within 60 days. And, interestingly, homes with more than 28 photos take longer to sell, too. This is likely because the addition of more photos over a certain threshold doesn’t contribute to a sale, so other factors begin to weigh more heavily — for example, homes with 28 or more photos are 12 percent more expensive, and more photos won’t outweigh an inflated sale price.  

What is real estate photography pricing?

Professional photography for real estate usually costs $150-$200, though prices may vary based on where you live. If you’re working with a listing agent, it’s likely that professional photography for real estate will be covered by your agent as part of the services they offer for their commission. Your agent will often take care of all the scheduling, too.

Finding a professional real estate photographer

If you’re hiring a residential photographer on your own, look for the following signs of a true professional:

  • A strong resume: Look for a photographer who has been working in the industry for a long time — not just in any type of photography, but in real estate specifically.
  • An impressive portfolio: Always ask to review their work ahead of time. They should have a portfolio or online gallery of other homes they’ve photographed.
  • The right equipment: At a minimum, they should have a DSLR camera, a wide-angle lens and a tripod.
  • A good reputation: Great real estate photographers usually work with the same listing agents over and over again. If you have an agent, ask for a recommendation. Or, ask for referrals from friends who have sold recently.
  • A Zillow certification: Zillow recommends high-quality real estate photographers through the Zillow Certified Photographer program. These pros are trained to take photos that get the most page views, and they’re also well versed in video walkthroughs, 3D Home tours and new photo offerings from Zillow.

Prepare the house for real estate photography

Whether you’re hiring a pro or acting as a do-it-yourself real estate photographer, the first step is the same: Get your house photo ready! This is the time to really put the effort into making your house look picture perfect. There’s no point in taking photos if your house isn’t looking its best.

  • Clean the house: Do a deep clean of every room in the house, either by bringing in a professional cleaning service or dedicating a weekend to doing it yourself. Wash the windows (inside and outside), make the beds, dust, vacuum, and get those fingerprints off your stainless steel appliances.
  • Declutter: There’s nothing worse in real estate pictures than clutter. Clear the kitchen counters of small appliances, tuck away bathroom items like toothbrushes and combs, remove any eyesore cords or wires, put your TV remotes in a cabinet, and finally go through that stack of mail. Remember, if you’re going to be photographing your garage or workshop, make sure to clean there too.
  • Depersonalize: You’ll want to ensure buyers can picture themselves living in the home, and they can’t do that with your personal belongings in every picture. Take a few minutes to stash away things like family photos, refrigerator magnets, toys, and pet accessories.
  • Downplay seasonal elements: Consider minimizing any holiday decorations or seasonal elements so that the photos are timeless.
  • Stage each room: Go room by room with a critical eye, making small tweaks that can make a big difference: Open the blinds, turn on the lights, and add small touches that make the space feel welcoming.
  • Remove window screens: Natural light is a big seller, and window screens dim natural light and make windows look dingy in photos. Consider removing your window screens before photos are taken, especially if you plan to capture high-value views.
  • Add color: Make your photos stand out with splashes of color, like fresh flowers, a plush throw pillow, or a cozy blanket.

Living room staged for real estate listing photo

Photo from Shutterstock.

Real estate photography tips and techniques

Because images are so important in advertising your home, it’s crucial that they’re done well. If you’re wondering how to photograph real estate, follow these tips and techniques.

Tips for shooting great real estate photos

  • Portray an honest representation of the home: This is the most important point. Don’t focus on the artistry of the image to the point that you sacrifice accuracy. Make sure every photo gives an accurate feel of the room and flow of the layout.
  • Take tons of photos: While you’ll only need to post 22-27 photos with your listing, you’ll want to take many more than that, so you can pick the very best images in editing.
  • Capture photos at chest height: Great real estate photos make the viewer feel like they’re in the home, so chest-height photos give the most accurate perspective.
  • Use a wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens helps capture the full feel of a room, while still making it appear true to its size.
  • Use landscape orientation: Horizontal orientation makes it easier to capture the full room, and it’s also the orientation used on the MLS and other real estate sites.
  • Take photos that highlight the layout: Buyers are interested in the layout of the home, and great photos can showcase both the flow of the room and the relationship of one room to the next.
  • Leave doors open between rooms: Another way to give viewers insight into the layout is to leave doors open between rooms, so they can see how they all connect.
  • Avoid large objects in the foreground: An otherwise successful photo can be ruined by something big in the foreground, such as a bookshelf,  couch, or other big piece of furniture. Keep spaces wide open for the most appealing images.
  • Take exterior photos at an angle: When taking a photo of the outside of the home, a photographer should be positioned at an angle, showcasing both the front façade of the house and the depth. An angled image gives a better feel for the size of a home.
  • Watch the position of the sun: When taking exterior photos, capture images when the sun is behind the camera but illuminating the front of the property. You’ll avoid shadows and the house will be perfectly lit.
  • Shoot interior photos when it’s brightest: To showcase your home’s natural light, schedule photos for mid-day.

Luxury kitchen interior with green walls and stone floor and bright windows.

Photo from Shutterstock.

Tips for real estate photo editing

If you have the know-how (and the subscription!) Photoshop is a great tool for editing your real estate photos. But, even if you’re not Photoshop-savvy, there are a few online tools that make editing photos a breeze, like Photoshop Express, Pixlr, or GIMP. Use them to make a few simple enhancements. 

  • Use HDR: HDR is a method of shooting multiple images at once, then combining them in editing for better lighting and corrected vertical lines (more on that later).
  • Swap a gray sky for a blue sky: Did your exterior shots on a cloudy day? No problem. You can easily swap the sky for blue.
  • General editing: Crop, brighten, and fix blemishes to make your home look its best.  

Include these shots: Photographing real estate 101

Consider this your listing photography checklist, and don’t stop shooting until you have a great real estate photo for each of these spaces.

Must-have photographs

Master bedroom
Living room

Nice-to-have photographs

Patio or deck
Pool or hot tub

Real estate shots that sell

Popular local features: If you’re working with an agent, ask for their opinion on which features to highlight for your own local market (according to an analysis of listing keywords on Zillow, you’ll find mudrooms in Vermont, southern exposure in Alaska, and storm cellars in Oklahoma).
Features that justify higher prices: Certain home features highlighted on Zillow have helped sellers earn more than their asking prices or shorten the length of time homes sit on the market. A few examples include steam showers, professional appliances, and solar panels.
Views: Highlight any notable views from the home. Water, mountain, or cityscape vistas from windows are always popular.
Architectural details: If your home is of a particular style, showcase its notable details, such as wainscoting, exposed beams, or intricate tile work.
Recently updated spaces: If you’ve recently done renovation work on the home, show it off!

Bonus shots

An exterior shot from the curb, showing off the curb appeal
An exterior shot at night, with lights glowing from the interior
A dusk shot on a clear night
An exterior shot with the front door open, for a welcoming scene
Drone footage or aerial views
3D Home tours and video walkthroughs — adding a video walkthrough can double both the number of shopping views and frequency that the home is saved on Zillow

Avoid real estate photography mistakes

Now that we’ve talked about what to do for great real estate photos, let’s cover the pitfalls you should avoid.

Common real estate photography errors

  • The photographer’s reflection in a mirror or window
  • Pets in the shot
  • Ceiling fans running
  • Television on
  • Fingerprints on surfaces
  • Raised toilet seat lids
  • Cars or other distractions captured through windows
  • Unsightly items in exterior shots, like electrical wires, dumpsters, or parked cars
  • Including images of tiny rooms — leave out closets, laundry rooms, and powder rooms unless they have a unique selling point
  • Including images of structural issues or unfinished rooms — if it’s mid-remodel, don’t include it in the photos
  • Vertical line distortion — this common mistake happens when you shoot images with your camera tilted up or down, making vertical lines bow in or diverge, and should be fixed in post-shoot editing
  • Using a cell phone to take pictures
  • Using a fish-eye lens, which can portray an unrealistic sense of size

What equipment is needed to become a real estate photographer?

Whether you’re just taking photos of your own house to sell it, or if you’re interested in dabbling in the field of professional real estate photography, here is the equipment you need to produce high-quality, high-resolution real estate images.

  • A professional camera: You’ll need a full frame digital SLR camera, with a large sensor for a wider field of view and highest quality.
  • A wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens lets you capture more of each room, with full detail and depth.
  • A tilt-shift lens: A professional tilt-shift lens can help you avoid the vertical line distortion that’s an easy giveaway that photos were done by an amateur.
  • A tripod: When your camera is secured on a tripod, you can capture crisp images with a slower shutter speed, which allows for more natural light.
  • More than one flash: You’ll want to be equipped with supplemental lighting for larger rooms.
  • Light stand: A professional light stand allows you to light a room effectively.
Top image from Shutterstock.

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