Photographing property: Tips for vendors and landlords

Most people rent or sell their property via letting or estate agents, and in a competitive market there is great service to be had – some agents using freelance photographers like myself to market their properties. For those preferring to market their own property here are a few guidelines to help you create attractive images of your house or flat.

What Equipment will you need?

Most cameras are suitable for photographing properties; you do not need gazillions of mega pixels for an image that will be displayed on the web. However, if you want to show as much of a room as possible in a photo, a dSLR camera will enable you to attach a wide angle lens (usually purchased separately).

I find a tripod invaluable for interiors. Photographing rooms in naturally light frequently requires fairly slow shutter speeds (around 1/4 or 1/8 second) to ensure the room is nice and bright.

A flashgun can be handy, especially in properties with small windows. More on working with flash later.

For the classic exterior shot with blue sky and fluffy white clouds, try a polarising filter. Be sure to get one that fits the lens you intend to use.

What shots should you aim to get?

At least one of each room – and two or three images of key rooms such as kitchen, lounge and master bedroom.

You may also want to shoot interesting features – a beautiful (lit) fireplace, wooden beams, built-in kitchen appliances, unusual design elements etc. I once nearly put an offer in on a house just because it had a door disguised as a bookcase – so be sure to grab people’s attention with anything out of the ordinary.

At least one shot of each garden is required, and consider attractive views that may be had through windows.

Corridors connecting rooms do not need to be photographed exhaustively, but capturing a hallway or landing that leads through to a lovely bright space can give an extra sense of what it is like to live in the property.

Which camera angles are best for rooms?

Shoot from a low angle – between waist and chest height – so you do not see lots of boring ceiling. An exception is when you want to show chandeliers or other features that are higher up.

Try to keep the camera level with the floor. Tip it up or down and “converging vertical” distortion (the sloping wall look) will increase.

Shooting from corners can create a greater sense of depth than shooting straight down the middle of a room. But don’t be afraid to centre and square beds and other prominent features. For smaller rooms, you may not have much option but to shoot from the doorway to show as much of the space as possible.

Arrange tables, chairs, sofas etc to make rooms homely and inviting, but also to frame your shots. The back of a sofa in the middle of an image will not look inviting; try framing the shot with the back of the sofa in the bottom corner, facing in.

What about lighting?

Shoot exteriors on a sunny day and try to capture front and back gardens in direct sunlight.

For interiors, the aim is usually to make rooms look light and airy. When using natural light, mid morning or mid afternoon are often considered the best times to shoot interiors, but in reality there is no “ideal” time for any given property, as this will depend on when and where your rooms receive sunlight. Perhaps counter-intuitively it can be easier to shoot interiors in overcast weather. Cloud cover diffuses sunlight, reducing harsh shadows and lighting rooms more evenly.

Opinions differ over the use of house lights in photographs. Some people think they should all be on, others think that is indicative of a house that does not receive much natural light. My personal preference is to keep room lights off, except:

  • where the glow from chandeliers, lamps, wall lights, ceiling spots, etc adds charm
  • where a room has no windows, such as some bathrooms or en suites
  • when you turn on lights in adjoining rooms to avoid dark sinister doorways

If a large television is present in the scene, turn it on to avoid a large black space in your photo.

Flash can help you light a room evenly, reducing deep shadowing. Do not use the built-in camera flash unless you really have to. It produces harsh, unflattering light, and may add more harsh shadows. Flash guns (available for many dSLR cameras) are a much better option as they can be diffused and their heads adjusted so light bounces off walls or ceilings – further softening the light. When “bouncing” flash light off surfaces be careful that the chosen surface is not too colourful, otherwise your pictures may take on some of that colour. Generally you use flash to supplement natural light, so try not to fire it on full power. You want it just strong enough to balance and enhance the light coming through the windows.

A final little lighting trick for suitable for rustic kitchens on sunny days: boil some water and waft the steam around so that it catches the sun beaming through the window.

What props should you use to ‘lifestyle’ your images?

Less is more with interior photography; nobody wants to see clutter. Be sure to tidy as well as clean thoroughly before shooting. If things are poking out from under beds or the tops of wardrobes you are sending a signal that there is not enough storage space. Rooms cluttered with too much furniture can also look smaller.

Remove “personal” items such as slippers, spectacles and family portraits – you want your audience to visualise themselves living in the property, so avoid strong personal stamps.

That said, some carefully placed props can make a house feel more homely:

  • glasses of water next to the bed
  • books or vases for coffee tables
  • flower arrangements on tables

Doors are best left wide open when in shot, especially in smaller rooms to avoid the feeling of a cell. Open windows too, where practical, to make the room look inviting and fresh.

Is that everything?

Nearly. I tend to retouch all property images in Photoshop; handy for adjusting light levels and correcting some camera distortions. You may not have time to do this, but do be sure to only upload low resolution images to the web. Any image editing software can reduce high resolution (printable) images to resolutions suitable for fast web browsing. If you do not edit images at all, consider using low resolution jpg settings in your camera. Web images rarely need to be over 1mb in size, and larger images may take ages to load in web browsers, making people skip on to the next property.

To chat about photography or Photoshop tuition for absolute beginners, call me on 07757 259390 or send me a message via email.

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