Although real estate isn't my favorite thing to shoot, I have done a lot of work with different companies as a side hustle. It's very easy to do, in fact, and you don't need much to get started in real estate. Anyone with a camera, a wide angle lens, and a tripod can do it... and yes, you do need editing software such as Lightroom.
You will need to shoot HDR (High Dynamic Range) when shooting real estate photography.
If you do not know how to do that, keep reading as I'll be explaining the steps to achieving this.
All companies will want you to shoot HDR, even if you're shooting for yourself, it will benefit you as it allows you to capture more detail in the highlights and in the shadows. It is a technique used to merge 3-5 photos of various exposures together to make one high dynamic range photo.
Nothing fancy is required. As long as there is a manual shooting mode, you're set.
Typically one one lenses is needed, a wide angle lens. The wider the better it will be to capture the entire room. It will also make the rooms appear larger than they are, providing a big selling factor to potential clients.
Always shoot on a tripod. You can get away shooting handheld, but then you will not be able to shoot HDR and it will make your workflow a heck of a lot longer and harder to do, if it's even possible.
Make sure you have a remote trigger for your camera, but no worries if you don't have one. Using a 2 or 5 second timer on your camera will do just fine. Either way, this is an important step to getting photos sharp.
Circular Polarizer (CP) Filter
Although not necessary, a Circular Polarizer (CP) Filter can help with removing unwanted glares and reflections off surfaces and hardwood floors. After purchasing a filter I decided to test this out and found it to be a massive difference when shooting at certain angles or rooms. The biggest thing I don't like is the blue light that enters from the outside and casts an ugly light on the hardwood floors. Although I love the beams of light, the colour different between indoors and outdoors can be very dramatic. With a CP Filter you can dim down the blue cast and save you some time in the editing. I have been shooting without one for years, but since I got one, I think it's going to stay on my lens.
This is a must, not only for real estate, but when shooting any kind of photography. It allows you to edit photos and retail details much more than from a .jpeg image.
Shoot in M (Manual), not P (program), A (aperture priority), or S (shutter priority) mode. You need full control of your scene.
Set your shooting mode to bracketing. This tells the camera to shoot 3 images (neural, under-exposed, and over-exposed). Three photos is enough in most cases, and makes editing easier than having too many photos.
Make sure you have it set so it takes each under and over-exposed image in 1 or 2-stop increments. I usually use 1-stop, but sometimes I may use 2-stops if my scene has a lot of contrast, such as very dark furniture/walls and bright windows.
Set your aperture to f/5.6 or f/6.3. Those are the sweet spots. They produce the sharpest results on your lens and they will produce images with everything in the space to be in focus, which is a big deal! You want the whole image to be sharp and in focus, not only a section.
Set your ISO to the lowest it goes. This can be ISO 100 or ISO 50 on certain cameras. The lower the noise the less grainy your footage will be. There is no need for shooting any higher than the minimum settings anyways
You may notice that with an aperture of f/5.6 or f/6.3 and an ISO of 100 will produce a very, very dark image. But, no worries! This is why we have a tripod. Set your shutter to take a longer exposure photo. With a tripod you will be able to shoot longer exposures without any blurry images. The exact shutter speed is something you will have to judge for yourself. It can be set to 1/100, 1/30, 1/2, 1" (one second), 5" (5 seconds), or longer. Set the shutter speed to whatever exposes the image correctly at the most neutral level.
I just leave my white balance to Auto. But you can set your white balance according to the location as needed. You will most likely be tweaking this in post anyways, so better off just setting it on Auto, unless if white looks way off due to odd colored walls or lighting.
CAMERA PLACEMENT & SETUP
There is not much creativity when it comes to real estate photography, which makes this job very easy but also could be very boring.
When shooting the establishing shots of the home, shoot everything horizontally. This is to ensure you capture as much as possible.
Keep it Low
Make sure to position the camera at a relatively low height. It should be positioned around the hip level. You may need to raise it a little higher or lower depending on the room.
Kitchens: In a kitchen I tend to raise the camera a little bit, just enough to clear the counter tops. You shouldn't be flush with the counter tops, so put the camera a bit higher so you can see them.
Low Furniture: If the room you're shooting in has very low furniture, you should lower the tripod. This prevents you from capturing too much ceiling and not enough ground.
Mind the Lines
The reason you keep you camera at around hip-level is because it does not distort the lines in the room. Your camera should be perfectly level, both horizontally and vertically. The vertical lines in the room should be perfectly vertical, and the horizontal lines (horizon) should always be straight too. The closer you are in camera the less adjusting you will need in post-production.
In certain situations you will not be able to shoot perfectly straight. This would happen in very tight or small spaces. In such cases, bring your camera higher and shoot more downwards to capture the entire room.
Shoot from the Corners
Place the camera in the corner of each room and capture about 2-3 good angles. All angles aren't necessary. It is best to place the camera as far back as possible. Often pushed up against the corner of a room or along a side wall. Sometimes if I'm lucky and there is a door behind me, I will pop it open and stick my tripod inside it.
In certain cases when you camera is position in such a way where you cant stand behind it, a trigger will come handy. You can step away from the camera, hide somewhere and take the shot.
TIPS & ADVISE
Make sure to turn on all of the lights and open all of the doors (to rooms & washrooms).
After shooting the establishing shots, go back and shoot the important details on a tight lens (faucets, lighting fixtures, or anything that makes the house unique or brings value). This can be either horizontal or vertical.
Upload all of your images into Lightroom.
Select your bracketed images (3 of the same images with varying exposure)
Click, Photo > Photo Merge > HDR
Make sure Align Edges is enable
Make sure Auto Settings is disabled
Ghost Amount should be set to none, or minimal if you have any movements in your shot.
Once you have created your stack, the three images will merge into one photo. From here edit your photo as if you were to edit normally. Decrease the highlights and increase the shadows, and slightly decrease contrast to get more dynamic range.
Play with the HSL settings to make sure the colours are proper. I tend to decrease my blue saturation almost all the way down. This prevents the blue light from outside from overpowering your image. My oranges/Yellow tones are also set down a little bit to make the tungsten lights blend more with the exterior environment.