These days, most of us carry a camera every time we leave the house. But smartphones may have made us less smart about taking good photos.
Here at Cozy we review thousands of real estate listings every month, so we know what captures a renter’s attention.
Second, take good photos.
We asked professional photographer Matthew Ehrmann, who’s based in Santa Monica, California, for some tips on taking great real estate photos. Don’t worry, he says your smartphone is up for the task.
How did you get into photography?
I majored in fine art at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, then attended The Art Institute of Seattle to study graphic design. I have always had an interest in photography and painting, so I’ve done those things alongside my graphic design work.
When I’m not doing my road photography, which I show at various galleries and on a few television shows, I do real estate photography. I got into it because because I was a building manager for apartment units, so I started photographing our units for rental listings.
What’s the most important thing to consider when taking photos of real estate?
Everything comes down to light. Bad light is the worst contributor to bad photos, because it makes things blurry or muddy. I always prefer shooting with natural light.
Let’s say you’ve just arrived at a property you’re going to shoot. What do you do first?
I walk the whole house and do a loose assessment of what I want to shoot, and I look at the light. Then I do a sweep for easily correctable things (a hose spread out in the yard, visible trash cans, open cabinets, open toilet seats, and toilet paper that’s rolled weird). Once that’s done, I start shooting.
I usually go in a very deliberate order, so I don’t forget any room or spaces. In each room, I take a shot from each corner, then I start focusing on the unique details of the space.
What do you avoid?
Anything that doesn’t look great. The “railing and up” porch shot is one example. You wouldn’t believe how many people have really dirty porches.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when taking photos indoors?
Again, it comes back to light. Maximize the natural light you have. Open a window if you can. Even though I don’t like shooting with a flash, sometimes you need to do it. You can also set up a small light in a closet or corner to give you some additional lighting.
What’s the best way to get great shots outdoors?
That’s the fun part, assuming you have good light. Take a few photos straight on, so people can see how the property looks as they approach. The path leading up to front door is a nice shot. Get one from street, so the entire place fits in one shot. Photos of the sides of the house show people where the windows are.
Make sure anything you’re going mention in the ad is photographed, including garages or sheds. It sounds cliche, but people love flowers. For example, a shot of a window with flowers underneath can help a renter who likes gardening imagine themselves living there.
I like getting the standard exterior shots, then I take more artistic shots of roof lines and dramatic angles.
What kind of photo screams amateur?
Seeing the photographer in the bathroom mirror, or any mirror. Nobody wants you in the shot. Bathrooms are notoriously hard to shoot, especially if there are 2 or 3 mirrors. Just do your best!
Aside from light, what are other important factors for getting a good shot?
Furnished homes look better in photographs than big empty rooms, every time. Also, don’t crop the photo with your camera. Take a bigger picture than what you think you need. That way, if a photo’s crooked and you need to straighten it, you’ll have the extra space.
Do you think iPhone photos can do the job?
If you have enough light, an iPhone (assuming it’s a newer one) takes great pictures. Considering you can adjust the photos on your phone or using Photoshop or other editing software, you can correct some of the shortcomings of a smartphone photo.
I shoot with a digital SLR, and I use the wide angle lens 90% of the time for real estate photography. I recommend the wide angle, because it makes small spaces look bigger, which is great for smaller houses and apartments. If you stand in corner and shoot with wide angle, you can usually capture both walls.
Is a tripod essential?
Again, you need to gauge your light. In a lower light situation, you’ll be happy you had one.
Any final tips?
Shoot more photos than you need and edit later. Try different things: different types of lighting and taking a shot from different spots. Then you’ll have the perfect mix when it comes time to post your ad.