Have you ever picked up a real estate magazine and just flipped through the pages? From depictions of a grand foyer framed by an elegant staircase to a modest loft atop a residential skyrise, the images in these publications can truly take your breath away.

If you’ve ever tried to replicate some of those pictures in your own home, you’ve probably realized very quickly that it’s not quite as simple as it seems. In fact, plenty of people have made an entire career out of taking magazine quality photos of real homes. That being said, there are plenty of tips you can use to elevate your real estate photography skills all on your own.

Start with “Why?”

Before you go out and place an order for the best camera money can buy, ask yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. If you’re hoping to start a business as a real estate photographer, then it would probably be a good idea to invest in the right equipment to get the job done. On the flip side, maybe you just renovated your kitchen or living room and want to show it off to your friends on social media. In this case, it won’t be necessary to break the bank to get the results you’re looking for.

If you’re planning to list your home in the near future and want to save some money by taking the pictures yourself, let us issue a small warning. Taking listing-quality photos is not easy. It takes a lot of preparation and work before and after the shoot itself, not to mention the equipment you’ll need to take professional quality photos. This is not an area to cut corners, as high quality photos are the modern equivalent of curb appeal.

Learn More: Listing Your Property for Sale, with a Valuable Online Presence

Think about it: most buyers today conduct their home search online before they ever bother to jump in the car and visit a property in person. You may have the most beautiful home on the block, yet it will stay on the market longer and sell for less when you have less-than-stellar pictures representing your home to the world.

In most areas, professional real estate photography will cost you less than $500. Realistically, they pay for themselves when you consider all of the increased traffic your home will receive. More traffic leads to more interested buyers, more offers, and ultimately more money in your pocket at closing.

With all of that said, if you are willing to commit the care and attention required to take this project on yourself, it can be a fun, positive experience. You might even jump start a new hobby in real estate photography!

Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

If you’re taking these pictures for purposes other than listing your home for sale, such as posting on social media or updating your property card on Tellus to use in your loan application or rental listings, there’s no need to go overboard with equipment. Do your best with what you’ve got and you should still be able to take some great photos.

However, if you happen to have a nice DSLR lying around, you’ll make great use of it with this project. A tripod and wide angle lens will also go a long way for taking great photos. Remember, if you don’t already have any of this equipment, you could always rent them locally or borrow them from someone you know.

Begin with the end in mind

Before you ever pull out the camera, you should plan out the entire shoot. I recommend writing out your entire plan, including every room and angle you intend to capture. Don’t forget about the exterior of the property! Lay out your entire home so you have a solid plan in place. This will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

Read More: 10 Improvements That Make Buyers Say “Wow!”

Once you have a clear plan of action, you’ll want to roll those sleeves up and start doing some cleaning. You need to declutter every room you intend to photograph. All those knick-knacks and counter top items may have faded into the background of your life, but to someone who doesn’t live in your home, each one will stand out and clutter the space.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

You’ll have the most energy and motivation when you’re starting, so it’s a good idea to begin with the problem areas. The kitchen and bathrooms are usually a great place to start because there’s a clear path forward. This way you won’t get stuck wondering where to start and overwhelm yourself early on.

Start by clearing off all the countertops, including any appliances like microwaves, blenders, toasters, etc. If you have the cabinet space, you can store it all neatly in there. Any place that’s tucked away and not immediately visible will do. You’ll want to scrub down every visible surface, with a focus on major appliances that tend to draw the eye. The fridge, stove, and hood may have accumulated some rust or caked on dirt and grime over time.

Related: 7 Tips to Make Your New Apartment Feel Like Home

I recommend moving to the living room next and repeating the process. You’re aiming to move out everything except fixtures, furniture, and light sources. Pay attention to the floors as well, and be sure there’s no visible markings, dirt, or debris. Repeat this process for every other room in your home.

Tips for taking good photos

The single most important thing you’ll need to take photos of your home that are worthy of a magazine spread will be a wide angle lens. Many newer phones come equipped with a wide angle lens that is togglable on and off. Alternatively, you could find a lens kit that is compatible with your current phone. This could be the perfect middle ground between amateur and professional real estate photographers when it comes to the required equipment.

The angle of your photo is the next crucial piece to consider and deserves some serious thought. Consider tools like a tripod to ensure your photos are level and at a consistent height. You want to take your photos from about eye level, between five and six feet above the ground. The goal when photographing your home should really be to emulate that feeling a buyer gets when they step in to their dream home for the first time.

Consider the many features of each room that should be highlighted. In the bathroom, highlight the vanity and include as many windows per photo as possible. Depending on the layout, you may be able to show the view from several windows at once by utilizing any mirrors in the room. When photographing windows, be mindful of the view that’s being highlighted. You would be surprised how easy it is to neglect what's actually outside the window itself, so be sure to capture the best view that vantage has to offer.

Let in as much natural light as you can by opening all curtains and blinds for every window. You should also remove the screens from each window to improve the view and let in as much natural light as possible. Consider the time of day and weather conditions when preparing for your shoot. You’ll want to pick a clear, sunny day if possible.

The exterior of your home is even more reliant on conditions, so you’ll want to prioritize these when the weather is cooperating. As a rule of thumb, you want the sun to come from behind the camera. In other words, if you’re photographing the front of your home, you want that side to receive direct sunlight. If it’s backlit, the colors will get washed out and you’ll lose a lot of the details.

If you live in an area that experiences major differences from season to season, like snow or autumn leaves that are visible on your property, it could be a good idea to also get photos of the exterior of your home during these conditions. This isn’t entirely crucial by any means, but having these photos on hand can certainly be useful down the line.

Editing

To take your photos to the next level, you’ll want to apply some level of editing to them. Editing your photos can be a difficult process, especially for someone who isn’t particularly tech savvy. In that case, it’s strongly recommended that you use a service like Fiverr to find great, inexpensive photo editing services. By searching for ‘real estate photography editing’, you can get your photos edited for as little as 5 dollars.

If you’re up for the challenge, you can attempt to pick up some editing skills as well. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but with some time invested, you’ll get the hang of the tools made available to you through software like Adobe Lightroom. Although there are multiple options for photo editing, Lightroom is the industry standard. Your photo needs may vary and the process is rather intricate, so rather than attempting to explain everything here, you can learn all the Lightroom specific skills you’ll need from the tutorial below.

Basic Lightroom Tutorial for Real Estate Photography by Rich Baum

After all is said and done, you should finally have high quality photos of your home! Whether you’ve done all this for social media, listing your home for sale/rent, or updating your property card while applying for a Tellus loan, you now have a beautiful portfolio of photos that are all the more special because you took them on your own. You can keep them to use for any number of purposes in the future. If you enjoyed this process, you can continue taking pictures of your home throughout the years as you upgrade or even purchase new property to document throughout your life. You may even decide to start a real estate photography business of your own!