Box Camera Film X Film Camera  - jdblack / Pixabay
jdblack / Pixabay

In real estate marketing, photos are the first thing most people see. Many times I see examples of really bad photos in some of the Facebook groups I hang out in.

Typically the response from the more seasoned agents is “hire a pro” to do the pictures and clearly there is a case to be made for that but I am taking a path of learning to be a pro there too.

I’m doing it because I enjoy the technology side of things as a recovering engineer and started taking photos when I was a teenager with a manual 35mm SLR using film. I enjoy the challenge to do a good job and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

There are some basics you need to pay attention to.

Number 1 is to get a decent camera. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. I purchased a Nikon D5100 DSLR for $200 used on eBay. It came with a ‘kit lens’ and some adapters to help with zoom and wide-angle. I even got a carry bag so if you have an interest in doing this sort of thing, shop around and see what you can find.

Number 2 is a wide-angle lens. The kit lens and adapters are not sufficient for real estate photography. Neither is your fancy phone. Depending on the type of sensor you have (full or cropped) you need to choose the right wide-angle lens (cropped needs a bit wider). Fair warning, the lens was not cheap. I paid about $400 for just the lens but it’s necessary for what we are talking about.

Number 3 is a tripod. I’ve purchased a couple of them until I found one that really holds the camera solid, level, and is adjustable in a way that helps me take good shots. In real estate photography, you’re going to be taking multiple photos at different exposures to get the picture you want. Some cameras have an HDR setting which does that automatically but in the case of my Nikon D5100, it only takes 2 exposures and merges them. A good photo might require at least 3 and maybe more depending on the lighting. To do that is called ‘bracketing’ and some cameras will do that automatically too but you have to merge them in post-processing.

We’ll get to that.

When I started doing my own photos I talked to the guy who did my shoots for me. Josh was gracious and coached me in composition, angles and exposures. It got me started but one of the best things I ever did was watch this 45-minute video from They taught me about prepping for the shoot, how to clear and stage the area for the best effect, and a lot more.

Yes, I watched the entire 45-minute video twice. It helped more than anything so far. I also used them to process some difficult photos at $1.60 each while I am learning how to do it myself. That’s the post-processing part I will talk about next.

Affinity Photo is the software I’m using. It costs about $50 full price but I found a deal at $25. It is a full-featured, photo editor that can handle any photo work you need to do. It will handle High Dynamic Range (HDR), bracketed photos, 360-degree photos (you have to edit out the tripod), and everything else I can see that needs to be done in post-processing. It can crop and rotate, adjust white balance, color, and noise if you need to. Easily as good as Adobe Lightroom for a lot less money.

I will say, Affinity looks to be overwhelming at first but I found a couple of online courses for free that helped me understand the ‘workflow’ and I’m going through a couple of advanced classes from the same instructor that I was able to get for $20 each on Udemy.

The last thing that I’m working on in the photo venue, I mentioned 360-degree photos too. I purchased a Ricoh Theta SC camera too. I am playing around with virtual tours and I think it did a decent job. I was able to host them on my own website in WordPress and you can see one if you click here. It’s not perfect but for the cost of a couple of hours, I think it’s decent. The next step is to add a floorplan view or perhaps a dollhouse view.

I’ll close this by saying, you can learn anything you want online and you can even get good at it if you want to. In the United States, education is mandatory but learning is optional.

To the naysayers who just resort to ‘hire a pro’ comments, I get it. You don’t want to learn, you have other things of interest, great! Good for you but if you are one who wants to do it, then I say go for it but get to the level of the pros so your clients benefit from your work.

It’s possible and you might enjoy it.

Thanks for listening,
Jerry Robertson