Real Estate Photography Basics, Things I Wish I knew From The Beginning, by Alex Serrao

In his video, Alex Serrao provides an informative guide on real estate photography, covering 17 essential tips for beginners. He emphasizes the importance of timing, recommending high noon for the best lighting to minimize shadows. He also advises photographers on choosing the right lens for their camera type, highlighting the need for a wide-angle lens to capture expansive views. Camera settings are another key point, with Alex suggesting an aperture of f8 for a balance between light intake and sharpness, while keeping ISO low and adjusting shutter speed as needed.

Alex stresses the need for a level camera, especially when using a tripod, to avoid unnecessary editing work and maintain photo quality. He also discusses the ideal camera height, noting that it should not be too high or too low to prevent awkward angles. Turning on all lights in the home, opening blinds and shades, and decluttering are recommended for setting up a shoot, ensuring the space appears welcoming and tidy.

He then discusses the importance of capturing multiple angles of the home’s exterior and interior, suggesting at least three different perspectives to provide a comprehensive view. Centering fans or lights in a room during composition is advised for aesthetic appeal. Alex also advocates shooting in RAW format for more data and editing flexibility. Consistency in editing style is crucial for brand representation, as is focusing on the geometry of shots to ensure verticals and horizontals are aligned.

Furthermore, Alex highlights the importance of quick turnaround times in real estate photography, often facilitated by using an editor. He discusses the benefits of using efficient photo delivery methods, like the Show and Tour platform, over more cumbersome options like Google Drive. Lastly, he emphasizes the importance of a professional website to showcase one’s portfolio, suggesting tools like WordPress, Astra, and Elementor for website building.

Alex concludes by encouraging viewers to subscribe to his channel and expressing hope that his tips on real estate photography basics will be beneficial to beginners in the field.


What is going on, guys? My name is Alex. Welcome to the channel. We talk about real estate photography here, and today is no different. But today, we’re going to be talking about the real estate photography basics that you need to know. I have 17 things written down that I feel are the most important things you guys should know if you’re just starting out. These are going to be very important for you to fully grasp and will really help you just go into a house with confidence and know what you’re doing. And things I just wish I knew when I first started out. So that’s why I’m doing this video, trying to share the knowledge. Alright, so 17 things. You ready? I’m ready. Let’s go.

Number one is going to be time of day. You guys are going to have so many realtors asking you when you think is the very best time of day to shoot this home to make it look the best possible. And the answer to that is just simply high noon. Really, that’s going to be the standard answer to where the sun is facing straight down. You’re not going to have all these big shadows, and that’s really the main reason you’re avoiding shadows. Now, if you have a choice between morning and afternoon, maybe you can’t do it at noon or something like that. The simple rule is that if the house is facing east, the front door that is, then you’re going to want to do it in the morning so the sun is shining onto the front door. If you’re doing a west-facing home, that’s going to be the opposite of that. It’s going to be an afternoon shoot with the sun again facing towards the front door. It’s going to get rid of a lot of the shadows that you would have otherwise. Now, if it’s facing north or south, obviously that’s not going to be quite the same. And in those cases, I would still try to stick to noon or, you know, just whenever you’re available is honestly the best time to do it. But you’re going to get that question a lot for sure, so just be prepared to be able to answer that.

Number two is going to be to make sure you have a wide-angle lens. If you are using an APS-C camera, like 18 and M50 or Sony AE 6300 something like that, you’re going to want to have a 10 or 11-millimeter lens. That’s going to give you a really nice wide angle. If you’re using a full frame like me, I’m using a Canon 6D Mark II, maybe changing to Sony later on, maybe, I don’t know, but I’m kind of thinking it. But if you are with a full frame, if you’re using a full-frame camera, you will want to use a 15 or 16-millimeter, 17 you can kind of get away with, but I really like to be as wide as possible. I use a 16 to 35.

Number three is basic camera settings, and this is a question I get so much. People are asking, you know, what settings do I use? What settings should I be using? I’ve done a few different walk-through videos, but really, the basic answer is that you have your ISO, your aperture, and your shutter speed. For my aperture, I pretty much always keep it at f8. That’s not a set rule, you know, you can do whatever you want, really, but I keep it at f8 because I want it to be a big enough aperture to where I’m letting in a good amount of light, and I don’t have to bump up my ISO too high or do too long of a shutter speed. But I also want it to be really sharp and have a lot of different things in focus. You know, I have a wide focal plane at that point. My ISO, I try to keep it 100 if possible, you know, the lowest that my camera will allow. Sometimes I bump that up. I really don’t make you go over like 800 or so. I really just count on my shutter speed at that point. So just let the camera do the work and let all of the light in through the shutter speed. But really, you’re going to have your set aperture, your set ISO, and then just adjust your shutter speed accordingly.

Number four is make sure your camera is level. This is something that I actually didn’t really pay attention to in the very beginning, which sounds silly because it’s like, it sounds pretty obvious that your camera should be level. But for me, it wasn’t really that obvious in the beginning because I was so used to like taking landscapes and things where, you know, it’s just quick shooting and I wasn’t using a tripod. So when you’re using a tripod, you want to make sure, you know, look at the little bubble on your tripod and make sure that it’s actually level. You’re going to have a lot of uneven floors, maybe one leg will have to be on a rug while the other two legs are on the tile, something like that. Really just make sure that you’re paying attention to the levelness of the camera. It really matters in your editing process. You won’t have to do as much geometry changing, and it just makes for a better photo. Keep that camera level.

Number five is camera height. So when you are adjusting that tripod, you know, getting it on level, make sure that the camera height is also at a good, optimal level for real estate photography. So I know, you know, with other kinds of photography, you can be as creative as you want to be, and there’s no camera height restrictions. We’ll call it. I mean, really, I mean, there’s technically not a rule here. You don’t have to make it, you know, 47.5 inches or anything. You want to make sure that it doesn’t look awkward. If it’s too high, it’s like, why am I looking down at this room? Or if it’s too low, you’re just kind of seeing too much of the cabinet or something like that. So I try to keep it a little bit below my chest. And I pretty much always have my tripod at the exact same setting. I just know, you know, pull the legs out one, pull the head up just a little bit, and I’m ready to go.

Number six is turn on all of the lights. I know there’s some high-end photography that I have seen in like Architectural Digest where they don’t put on the kitchen lights or something like that. And that’s totally fine. You don’t necessarily have to, but as a general rule, turn all the lights on in the home. You want to be nice and bright, really welcoming and inviting, and it just makes for a better picture.

Alright, number seven, this kind of goes along with the last one. It’s going to go along with the next one as well. It’s just kind of your setting up process when you go into a home. You don’t just immediately start clicking away, taking your photos. You got to get things ready. So number seven is going to be open up the blinds and shades.

Make sure that those blinds are perfectly horizontal if it’s that kind of blind. You want them nice and bright and open. If it’s curtains, you want to make sure that they’re opened up or at least partway opened up. If you can kind of tie them on one end, that’s also good. But just make sure they look good and you’re letting in a lot of light. Go through the whole home before you even start taking your first photo. Just get it all ready so that it’s a quick process. The home is ready to go and boom, now you’re taking photos. And like I said, the next one, number eight, kind of goes along with the last two of turning on the lights and opening up the blinds. It’s going to be to declutter. Now, this is not the most glamorous part of the job, per se, but you are going to have to do it without a doubt. I am basically a full-time mover as well as a photographer, I feel like, because I go into homes. Sometimes people are moving, and I’m like helping them move boxes around. I move furniture. Earlier today, I actually moved a dresser to center up with a bed because it was just in this very awkward spot that didn’t look good in the photo, and I was like, let me just move this dresser over a little bit. So decluttering, you just want to make sure that there’s not magazines left all over the place. Make sure the mail isn’t on the countertop and so on. Just make sure that it’s nice and clutter-free.

Number nine is always try to get three angles of the front of the house. So instead of just getting your one straight-on elevation angle, try to get, I always go like boom, boom, boom, try to get the three different angles of the front of the home. You know, over the driveway from the side of the yard and then straight on. And honestly, I normally take like seven or eight photos of the front of the home, just kind of like moving over little by little. And I will pick the best ones when I’m editing and pretty much always give just three of them, maybe four if I’m doing like a close-up one and then a further away one. But yeah, three different angles. I feel like it’s just kind of a staple of what you should be doing.

Number 10 to go along with our three angles, we also are going to do three walls. So when you’re taking a photo of a room, you want to make sure that you’re showing three walls. Like this room right here, you can see this wall, you can see the back wall, and you can see that wall right there. And that gives you perspective of how big this room is, not very, but it gives you perspective of it. If I were to show you guys just two here, if I were to show you just that, you have no clue how big this room is because you can’t see where this wall ends right here. So you always want to have three if possible. I’ve messed up my frame for you guys, you’re welcome. Three walls if possible.

Alright, number 11 is to try to get the fan or the light centered in the room. And I don’t mean like physically moving the fan or the light. I mean when you are composing your shot and you’re about to take it, and you’re trying to make the room look as big as possible, focus on where that fan is in the photo. Without where that light is in the photo and try to keep it in the center if you can. It just is the most aesthetically pleasing to have it that way. You don’t really want a fan or a light just way off on the side because you angled so far onto one wall. If you can help it, if it’s possible, then try to get that light or that fan in the middle of the photo.

Number 12 is going to be to shoot photos in raw. Now, I’ve seen some YouTubers recently that have said that they don’t shoot in raw, they just shoot JPEG, which is fine to each their own, but I do suggest, from my point of view, to shoot in raw. And the reason is that there’s just so much more data in a raw image than there is a JPEG. If I want to bring up the shadows a lot in the corner or if I want to adjust some lighting, there’s just no better way to do it than to have all of the information there, stored within that file. So if your camera is capable of it, I definitely suggest doing it.

Number 13 is going to be to keep your editing consistent. And I feel like this is just extremely important. Your customers and clients, they’re going to be perusing your website, looking through your portfolio, looking on your Instagram page, your Facebook page. And if they hire you, they’re hiring you based on those photos. If you’re constantly changing your style, if you’re more saturated one day, or you’re, you know, a nice bright photo the next day, I feel like that’s not a good way to represent your brand. Now, of course, over time, a lot of things change. We grow, we adapt, we figure out different styles that we like, we find new ways to edit, and it’s not necessarily that your photos are going to stay exactly the same over time. But I feel like the more consistent they are, the better. And if you decide that you are going to start to change your style a little bit, I would also update your portfolio, update your Instagram page, and make sure what you are doing is reflecting the brand that you’re trying to show people.

Number 14 is going to be to make sure you’re focusing on the geometry of the shot. Now, I brought this up earlier with number four, I think it was, about the levelness of the camera, but you want to make sure that you’re also just focusing on the overall geometry of the room or of the front of the house. Make sure that your verticals are vertical, make sure your horizontals are level. It’s really important, and it minimizes a lot of time when you’re in the editing process.

Number 15 is to have quick turnaround times. Now, I know this might sound really easy, but it’s not always. However, it is really important in real estate, especially in this crazy hot market. Realtors are going to want these photos back as soon as you can possibly get them back. Houses are going up on the market and they’re selling rapidly. We are having to turn around a lot of volume quickly, and it’s something you have to get used to doing as part of the job. For me, I use an editor, which has helped me so much. Like yesterday, I had three big photo shoots, and I was able to send them off right after I did them. Without that, I would have been up until like one o’clock editing the video last night. So, having an editor is a good way to do that, but you need to make sure that you’re able to turn them around fast. Personally, I tell people one to two days and aim for one day. I don’t guarantee it because sometimes I’m super busy and it might take two days to get something done.

Number 16 is to have an easy way to deliver your photos. I used to deliver my photos through Google Drive, which is a huge pain when it comes to downloading the photos because it zips them all together and takes forever. Then I found a company called Show and Tour. I’m going to be doing a video on that software pretty soon. I talked to the owner of that company recently and hopefully will do something with that company in the future. I use them personally and it’s really fantastic. It holds your photos, videos, virtual tours, and pretty much anything you need to deliver to a client and they can pay right there. It’s super nice, clean, fast, and easy for them.

The last one, number 17, is to have a website that has all of your work on it, a good portfolio, an easy way to contact you, just an overall place to show your brand. A lot of people try to skimp on this and it really shows. If you want to stand apart in your area, city, and county, one good way to do that is to have an incredible website. Take the time to build that website. There are tons of different ways to do it. Personally, I have my website built on WordPress, I use Astra as the theme, and Elementor as the builder. They all work fantastically. I’ve built quite a few websites using that exact setup and have had no issues with it.

That’s it, guys, 17 real estate photography basics. I hope this helped you and that you got something out of this. If you did, number 18 is going to be to subscribe to the channel and hit the like button. I appreciate it. Alright, guys, I will see you in the next one.