A good photo sells. That fact has created many excellent opportunities for photographers—real estate photography is one of those opportunities. Great photos of houses get potential buyers in the door. In a housing market that’s on the rise, real estate photography becomes quite valuable.
Great real estate photos will get people in the door, but how does a photographer get their foot in the door to their own real estate photography business? We’ve outlined a few reasons to get into real estate photography and what you’ll need to get started, as well as tips from shooting to marketing.
Why real estate photography?
According to Redfin, a real estate listing with photos from a professional DSLR sells for an average of $3,400 to $11,200 more than listings without professional photos. The same study showed that listings with high-quality images also sold faster than those with simple snapshots. That makes professional photography a worthwhile investment for both realtors and home owners looking to sell.
Of course, with professional photographs being a worthwhile investment for realtors, a market opens up for professional photographers with the know-how to shoot real estate photos. Like any opportunity though, there’s competition, though many areas are underserved and great opportunities for new photography businesses.
Along with the ample opportunity, real estate photography is well-suited for knowledgeable enthusiasts ready to go pro. The start-up costs are relatively low, and budding pros can take the time to get the shot right without worrying about an impatient model or missing an essential moment.
The gear professional real estate photographers need to get started is relatively low cost, compared to other opportunities like wedding photography. A DSLR, of course, is necessary. A wide angle lens (not a fisheye though) is also a must, but since you’re photographing a still subject and can use long shutter speeds, you don’t need the most expensive f/1.8 lens. Add in a tripod and a remote release and you can get sharp shots even when the listing doesn’t have the greatest lighting. Don’t forget to get a good real estate image editing service or image editing program as well.
Tip #1: Prepare
The key to getting good real estate shots is to prepare. You’ll want to work with the realtor to make sure the house is clean and staged, just like it would be for an open house. It’s also a great idea to talk to the realtor and get a shot list, or a list of features that should be highlighted in your photos. If a property has great outdoor lighting, you’ll want to plan to take a photo at night with the lights on, for example.
While you can snap indoor photos nearly anytime during the day, taking photos of the exterior of the property requires a bit more forethought. You’ll want to plan your shots based on the position of the sun—a backlit house will appear shadowy and the sky will look washed out. The weather also matters too. A stormy sky offers a bleak mood—and that’s not what you want to portray in real estate photography.
Tip #2: Watch Your Lines
Get the lines in your image off, and the walls will appear to be leaning—and that’s definitely not something you want in a real estate photo. To keep lines straight, take the time to perfect the composition. The lines that walls and other infrastructure create will also look straighter if you shoot from chest level, not eye level. You’ll also want to use post processing to be sure your lines are perfectly straight.
Tip #3: Try HDR
In real estate photography, you want to show as much detail as possible. By taking multiple shots at different exposures and then merging them while editing, you’ll be able to capture the detail that’s in the shadows as well as the brighter area of the images.
Tip #4: Make It as Easy For the Real Estate Agent as Possible
Real estate agents are busy managing their own business—make the process simple for them, and you’ll be more likely to hire you again. That means being upfront about what you’ll need and what they’ll receive. The images that you deliver should already be fully edited and perfected in post processing. It’s also a good idea to deliver two different file sizes of each shot, a smaller image for the web, and a full resolution shot for other uses.
Tip #5: Use Real Estate Searches to Determine Who Isn’t Using a Pro Yet
Use the same tools that potential home buyers use to scope out homes to find potential clients. Browse through the listings and look for photos that obviously need improvement. Jot down the names of those real estate agents, and reach out to them. One of the great things about real estate photography is that there’s a small target market, so it’s easy to reach out directly to potential customers.
Tip #6: Offer Something Different
If there are multiple real estate photographers in your area, stand out by offering something different. Maybe it’s virtual 360 tours, or ariel images using a drone (check locally for legal issues before looking into using a drone). Whatever it is, setting yourself apart from the competition is key to building a list of regular clients.
Tip #7: Diversify Your Income
That old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is great advice for photographers looking to start their own business. It’s a great idea to add more services to your business that also caters to a similar audience. You can take head shots of real estate agents, for example, or take photos of local businesses’ locations to use on their website.
As the housing market bounces back, real estate photography is in demand in many areas. Because there’s minimal equipment involved, and a narrow target audience, it’s a good business option for newer photographers. While a great option to get started as a professional photographer, there are a few tips that can help your business grow—like planning well and diversifying your income.