Best Settings for Real Estate Photography 2022
Real estate photography requires a real estate agent, home seller, and real estate photographer to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. The techniques, equipment, and even camera settings needed to achieve high quality photos can vary greatly between properties. In fact, they can also shift when shooting one property alone, depending on the time of day and weather conditions at hand.
It takes a seasoned professional to truly understand how to maneuver the challenges and think efficiently on their feet during a photo shoot. With enough practice and experience under your belt, adjusting your photography settings to variables best suited for your specific scene will eventually come naturally to you.
It is important to keep your listing images fresh and vivid in order to make your property more attractive from the rest of the options and sell fast. Some of the best ways to achieve that are through experimenting with different techniques and settings such as our recommended methods below.
Make photos interactive through current technologies
In this digital age, real estate listings are far more advanced than the traditional images we had back in the day. While those should still be a staple in your marketing efforts, it is imperative that you mix them up with the current trends and technologies.
These include the following interactive and highly engaging tactics:
Real Estate Videos.
While videos are certainly not new technology, incorporating clips into your strategy can help garner your potential buyer’s attention, pique their interest, and invite them to engage with your listing.
A virtual tour is a digitally enhanced way to have potential buyers visit your listing without actually having to be there in the flesh. These allow your viewers to feel as if they were walking through your listing and have a more holistic experience compared to clicking through still images.
These can take form in 3D tours, 2D floor plans, and also panoramic images.
Drone Photography and Videography.
Drones have been around for quite a while but they are still relatively new in the world of professional real estate. These gadgets give you the power to display your listing in perspectives that are as captivating as they are informative.
Through drone technology, your viewers can get a bird’s eye view of the entire property and its surrounding neighborhood, which is an important factor in their purchasing decision process.
Moreover, drones can create stunning imagery and footage that can highlight features that would have otherwise gone unnoticed or under-appreciated.
Live videos are one way to showcase your property and engage with your viewers on the spot. It also helps in building your social presence, strengthening your ties with potential buyers, and offers a fresh perspective of the property itself.
Use Landscape Orientation
Understandably, it can be quite hard to stand out amongst a crowd nowadays, especially since everyone is leveling up their real estate photos! One small detail that you can incorporate in your listings is switching up the orientation and utilizing more of landscape – or at least, where it applies well.
The science behind this is that the human eye naturally sees that world in a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the most common aspect ratio on most smartphones is an elongated 16:9. Moreover, the bulk of traffic that visits your website and social media platforms are doing so via mobile devices. It is far more convenient and widely used by a range of demographics compared to a desktop.
With wide-angled photos being the standard of real estate photography, it only makes sense to present it as so in your communications. Showcasing your images in landscape orientation can emphasize the wide angle, which features more of the home details, can better balance the lighting, and makes for a more pleasing composition.
Overcoming challenging lighting in real estate interiors
Capturing interior photos will have more lighting challenges for you compared to exterior shots. This is because floor plans can differ drastically, with ambient lighting switching up in every room, and not to mention the differences in how the light seeps through the spaces at different times of day.
Taking real estate images indoors will take some patience, flexibility, and a lot of planning – not necessarily to make things go as you intended, but to at least minimize the risk of unfavorable results.
Rooms that have ample natural light coming through its windows are often the easiest spaces to photograph because of how much illumination you have to work with. It is also very helpful in making dim corners come to life, instead of turning into dark shadows with lack of detail.
On the other hand, you are bound to encounter more challenging spaces as well, such as dark rooms with little to no natural light coming through and a mixture of artificial lighting that can easily cause discoloration. This can be remedied by dialing in a smaller f-number or slightly increasing the ISO while shooting in aperture priority mode.
Lastly, perhaps the most difficult interior setting to shoot is when you have a wide dynamic range within a given space, such as a generally dark room with overly bright windows. The best way to create a more balanced exposure is by bracketing your images or creating an HDR photo.
How to properly bracket your exposures for real estate interiors with wide dynamic range
Bracketing your exposures, also known as HDR photography, is very common in interior photography and is widely used among professionals.
This method entails taking at least 3 photos of the exact same scene with consistent aperture and ISO settings. Each of your images will then have varying shutter speeds to produce different exposure levels.
Once you have achieved all three images, merge them together to produce one final HDR photo that is properly exposed in all areas of the frame.
This technique has proven time and time again to result in high quality images that express vivid colors, sharp details, rich contrasts, and proper exposure levels.
To create an HDR image, here is a 4-step guide:
Step 1: Set the correct ISO and Aperture for your photo
The first and highly important step in creating an HDR image is to have a constant aperture and ISO setting throughout all your exposure layers.
To set this up accordingly, have your camera settings remain in Manual mode and set your aperture to F/8.
Next up, have your ISO range around 100 to 400. This variable depends on the amount of ambient light available in your interior so feel free to experiment. Just make sure not to set it up too high past 400 since this creates grain and initiates the loss of detail.
Step 2: Determine the necessary shutter speed settings for each layer
While all layers have the same aperture and ISO levels, their shutter speeds should each differ. It is not about choosing a random shutter speed either, you will need to determine what level to use via your camera’s built-in analyzer.
To enable this, first secure your aperture and ISO settings by turning on Aperture Priority mode then selecting Spot Metering Mode.
Next, determine the longest and shortest shutter speeds by pointing your camera to the dimmest area of your scene and taking down the exposure level displayed on the screen. Do the same with the lightest area of your scene, but be careful not to aim directly at the sun, its reflection, or at a lighting fixture.
The darkest photo will be utilized to showcase the details within your highlighted areas, and the brightest photo will be utilized to showcase the details within your shadows.
The third layer to capture is known as the base photo, which is the neutral exposure level of the scene and is meant to bring out every detail in all other areas of your image.
Step 3: Take the photos
Now that your aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds are all set how they should be, the next step is to actually take the photos. There are two main methods you can use:
The Semi-Automated Method
The semi-automated method uses your camera’s built-in tools, such as the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) system and HDR exposure calculator, which is designed to analyze the shutter speeds and the number of bracketed images needed for your specific image. Most DSLR models of any brand have this capability.
If you are going with this method, activate the AEB function while your camera is in Manual mode, and then assign your shutter speed to the first number given by the HDR exposure calculator.
Specify just how many images you want the camera to take and then click on the shutter or remote trigger to process the images. The next few steps is where the “automated” comes into play wherein you can sit back and wait for your camera to finish producing your bracketed exposures.
The Full Manual Method
If you either prefer having full control over the bracketing process, or your camera does not have an Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) system in place, the full manual method is just as efficient to utilize.
First, find the Single-Shot mode under your manual settings and choose the shortest shutter speed determined in Step 2 earlier. Capture the image to produce your first layer.
Afterwards, decrease your shutter speed level by one stop or 1 EV before taking another image. Continue to repeat this process until you reach the slowest speed determined earlier in Step 2. This process is suited for those using more than 3 bracketed layers.
If you opt to work with only 3 bracketed images simply take the first photo with the slowest shutter speed, the next photo with the faster shutter speed, and the last photo with the shutter speed set in between those two variables, or rather at the neutral exposure.
Step 4: Merge Your HDR Images
e last and possibly easiest step is to merge your HDR images. Select the relevant photos for your scene and import them to your preferred editing software. Then use the program’s automated HDR merging tool.
There are many software options that support HDR photography and can easily merge the layers for you, namely:
- Adobe Photoshop.
- Adobe Lightroom
- Photomatix Pro
- Aurora HDR
- Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
- Luminance HDR
- Affinity Photo Tone Mapping Persona
- and more!
For the manual mode lovers, you can also merge your images from scratch utilizing Adobe Photoshop.
Understanding Exposure Controls
Understanding exposure controls can truly help you maximize your camera settings and learn the best ways to overcome challenges on the spot.
Exposure controls consist of 3 variables, also known as the exposure triangle. These are your camera’s ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. We have discussed these variables in detail throughout the HDR tutorial above, and if you are not yet well versed in their roles, here is a quick overview:
ISO is your camera sensor’s sensitivity level to light. The higher your ISO number, the more sensitive the sensor gets, which often results in grainy images.
Aperture is considered the pupil of your camera’s system and refers to the opening of your lens. It is used to control the amount of light that your camera sensor will be exposed to at a given time and it also controls the depth of field in your image. The higher your aperture is, the less light you allow entering your camera, and at the same time the more of your image is in focus.
Shutter speed refers to the length of time the shutter is open, which in turn enables exposure. It is usually measured in seconds or fractions of a second. The faster your shutter speed is, the less light can hit your camera’s sensor.
By adjusting these three variables for each scene, you allow your camera to reach its full potential by maximizing the amount of natural or ambient light available in the scene and producing a vivid, sharp, and properly illuminated image.
Examples of camera settings for real estate photography
Depending on the lighting conditions of your property, your camera settings (read: exposure controls) will need to be adjusted according to the given scene. However, there are a few standard ranges you can try out for your ISO, aperture and shutter speed in your next photo shoot. Use the below examples and tweak as needed.
Before getting into the details, the very first setting we need to highlight is shoot in RAW format. Shooting in RAW format allows your camera to process as much information from the image as possible, which not only makes for sharper images but it also helps make the editing process easier.
Secondly, always set your exposure mode to Aperture Priority. By doing so, you stand a chance at getting the best exposure level for your scene, which is not always the case when relying on Shutter Priority mode. A fixed aperture ensures that the amount of light your camera sensor is exposed to is sufficient enough to illuminate your entire image.
For Interiors That Are Not Dark
- Aperture – f/8
- Exposure Mode – Aperture Priority
- ISO – 400
- Shutter Speed – Determined by Camera
- Metering Mode – Matrix
- Focus Mode – Single-Shot Autofocus
You can make the aperture wider at f/7.1 if your image turns out a bit too underexposed with these settings. As much as possible, we do not recommend boosting the ISO too much since this can cause grain.
In case the image turns out to be a little overexposed, narrow down the aperture to f/11 or reduce your ISO level.
For Interiors 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
If you notice, the camera settings are almost exactly the same as for interiors that are properly illuminated. The only difference here is the metering mode.
By utilizing spot metering mode, your camera can accurately measure the small amount of light present within the scene and the exposure is set based on that.
In this situation, you will also want to bracket your exposures to produce a well-illuminated image.
You’re all set!
With the amount of detail we learned today, you can image just how important lighting truly is in the world real estate photography. While it may seem like a lot to take in right now, we suggest practicing the basic camera settings of the exposure triangle and taking it from there. Soon enough, you will be a master at overcoming lighting challenges and producing impeccably exposed images in no time!