Many Realtors photograph properties by themselves sometimes, even though they work with a professional photographer. So let's see how I can help you to improve your results.
This guide begins simple and gets a little more advanced towards its end.
Some of these examples may not apply to the cameras that you use, especially if you shoot with a smart phone.
Here below are some basic guidelines to help you improve the quality of your photos
Keep the camera parallel to the floor, in order to get the vertical lines as they should be - Vertical! Unless you are shooting inside a pyramid, all wall-to-wall and windows vertical lines must appear vertical. See examples below (click images for full size):
|1.1 Wrong - Camera is pointed too high||1.2 Wrong - Camera is pointed too low|
|1.3 Wrong - Camera is tilted||1.4 Correct- Camera is parallel to the floor|
2. Wide Angle and Distortion:
I often get requests to shoot the widest angle possible. I can't argue with a real-estate agent about what brings more buyers, but I do have my opinion as a buyer.. Shooting too wide makes a room look much larger than in reality and buyers will notice that, even if they don't say so. I remember when we were our house-hunting, seeing properties that were much smaller than in the photos and the property didn't leave good impressions on us.
When possible, simply take a step back and zoom in with your lens. You will maintain almost the same amount of information in the room and the size and proportions will look much more realistic. See examples below of a living room shot in different focal lengths. See how the sofa and the couch look so distorted in the 10mm version. Look at the window on the left, how stretched it looks. On the 20mm version these distortions are much less noticeable while we still maintain all the important information.
|2.1 Too Wide - 10mm lens||2.2 Good Proportion - 20mm lens and 2 steps back|
In the example above I have plenty of room to step back and zoom in but it is not always the case. In bedrooms you usually have 4 walls around you so just shoot from the doorway and take a small step back and shoot from outside the room. You don't need to show all walls in the room. It is enough to show two walls and a little bit of the third wall to show the dimensions of the room. See example below:
|2.3 Too Wide - 3 walls||2.4 Good Proportion - Just a little of the third wall|
When it comes to smaller spaces such as bathrooms or really small bedrooms then sometimes there is no other choice but to use a very wide angle. Yet, you can still control the level of distortion by re-composing. Check out the example below. The photo on the left I shot with the widest focal length and the one on the right I zoomed a little and took half step back. But I did one more thing - I allowed to see some of the wall on the right. The most distorted objects are those on the sides of the frame, as you can see the right-sink in the left photo. By rotating the camera a little to the right I positioned the sink a little away from the edge of the frame and zooming-in just a little I reduced the distortion of the sink dramatically.
|2.5 Too Wide and distorted (10mm)||2.6 Good Proportion and less distortion (13mm)|
3. Ambient Light:
Shooting interior usually involves low light conditions. To overcome that we need to either use a flash (see section 4) or allow more ambient light in. With automatic cameras and cell phone you can't control this but with cameras that have manual controls you can do that by doing one or more of the following:
So, which of these 3 parameters should you change? This is simple. If you have a tripod then use it and allow for a longer exposure (1/30 and even 1/15 if needed). This way you will still be able to shoot in low ISO values and and aperture values of 5.6 - 8.0, which are the most recommended.
So, let's say that you have a tripod, you use a longer exposure and your room is exposed beautifully. But since you shoot in broad daylight then the view outside the window is white as on a snowy day in Lake Tahoe. (see example below):
|3.1 Window is exposed correctly but interior is too dark||3.2 Interior is exposed correctly but window is too bright|
Why is this happening? Digital cameras have a much lower dynamic range than our eyes. In simple words: Cameras don't handle well extreme range of contrast. So what can we do? Well, we have a few options:
|3.3 Average exposure||3.4 Corrected exposure, using editing software|
4. Added light (Flash):
Using a flash helps us to get a better exposure of the interior while keeping also a good exposure of the exterior. But there are some limitations to consider:
The examples below demonstrate the differences between 4 scenarios:
|4.1 Built-in flash||4.2 External flash straight ahead|
|4.3 External flash straight ahead, with wide-angle diffuser||4.4 External flash bouncing from the ceiling|
5. High-Dynamic-Range photos (HDR):
As I mentioned in section 3, the reason for white-out exterior while the interior is exposed correctly, is the low dynamic range of the cameras (and this includes even professional cameras).
Another way to overcome this limitation is to use a technique called HDR. This technique requires shooting several photos of the same composition but in different exposures. Combining the different exposure photos together will give us a more balanced exposure.
Some cameras have a built-in option for HDR shooting. Refer to your camera manual to see if yours can do that. In this option the camera will take anywhere between 2 and 7 photos (depending on the camera) and will blend them together to a result of one HDR photo. It is recommended to use a tripod for maximum quality results.
The final result of an HDR may look similar to what you see in image 3.4 so you may feel more comfortable using the technique described in that section but in some extreme situations it may not be good enough. The dark area which you brighten up will have high digital noise.
Note: Many smart-phone applications have built-in "HDR" but this is most likely a "fake" HDR and it will look more like a drawing rather than a photograph. In some cases also a try HDR may look "flat" and with very little contrast. Check your camera setting and use either high, medium or low HDR and check the results of each one of them