Video Tutorial: Tips for Getting Sharper Real Estate Interior Photographs

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Photography is a key part of advertising a property for real estate sales. But just as stunning images show the property looking its best, the opposite is also true. Poor photography, with blurred, sloping rooms, and out of focus images does little to inspire viewings.

The video tutorial gives you several tips for taking sharp interior photography, as well as showing other helpful hints like choosing an appropriate lens and focusing correctly. Watch the video to learn about tripods, lenses, focusing, and keeping the camera steady.

Now, let’s look at some of those tips in details.

Here are some basic, but important, steps to help you improve the quality of your interior photos. You’ll see what causes photographs to turn out blurry, and get some handy tips on equipment and techniques to avoid falling into these traps.

Preparing for the shoot

The best techniques for getting sharp photographs can be let down by poorly working equipment, or badly chosen or untidy scenes. So it’s important to start your session with good preparation and follow your check-list. Here are a few things that should be on your list.

1. Check your equipment

Make sure your equipment is okay, batteries are charged, extra lights working, tripod joints tight and in good condition, and that the lens is completely clean. Loose tripod joints, broken lights, and dirty lenses make problems for you later, so good preparation is worthwhile.

2. Make sure everything is clean and tidy

Dirty windows still look dirty in photographs, so take a household cleaning cloth and some glass cleaner. Cleaning everything is always easier than removing debris in post-production.

3. Set the scene

Tidy and set the scene, removing unwanted items from window sills, adjusting furniture positions and cleaning the windows. Don’t forget to look through the window too – a washing line of underwear probably isn’t what your client wants to see!

Think about the final image and what you want, then keep that in your mind throughout the photography session.

Using a tripod

Three common issues ruin a real estate photograph: blur, poor focus, and sloping rooms.

Blur and bad focus often come from camera movement during the long exposures you need when photographing interiors. Rooms appear sloping when the camera is not level.

You can resolve all three problems by securely mounting the camera on a sturdy tripod, which is why a tripod is highly recommended when photographing interiors.

Here are some pro tips for using a tripod:

  • Hang your camera bag from the center of the tripod (if it has a hook, as seen above) to increase stability.
  • Set the tripod exactly where you’ve decided to take the photographs, and extend the thicker sections of the legs first as they provide most stability. Avoid extending the center column as this is the least stable section and will reduce the stability of the tripod.
  • Give the tripod a gentle prod to make sure it won’t slip on the floor or wobble.
  • Mount the camera on the tripod, ensuring that the base plate and mounting are tight and cannot move around.
  • Adjust the tripod head until the camera is perfectly level and the image doesn’t slope to the left or the right. By getting the camera level, you ensure the room won’t look as if it slopes sideways.

For more on getting sharp images with a tripod, read: 5 Tips to Get Sharp Photos While Using a Tripod.

Eliminating sources of camera shake

There are also other sources of blurriness in photos. One of these is called mirror shake.

DSLR cameras have a mirror which sits in front of the camera sensor and helps you see the view through the lens by reflecting the image up to the eyepiece (through a prism). The mirror snaps up and out of the way when you take the photo, creating vibrations that can cause blurring.

You can eliminate this problem by setting it in the up position before taking any photographs. Look in your camera menu for the Mirror LockUp setting.

Left: The mirror is down in this image. Right: the mirror is up here exposing the camera’s sensor.

Conclusion

With good preparation and technique, and the right equipment, you can consistently get sharp, crisp interior photographs. When you set out to capture that image, remember:

  • Set the scene by making the room look neat and clean.
  • Make good use of a tripod.
  • Choose an appropriate lens.
  • Keep your camera stable and free from vibration.

Please share any other tips you have for taking sharper interior photographs of real estate in the comments area below.

Disclaimer: HDRsoft is a paid partner of dPS

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

David Robinson is a freelance photographer and writer from Surrey, England. His work spans architecture, book commissions, commercial imagery, landscapes, and wildlife. His photography has won awards from the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK. He is also a teacher and an author. Follow his work on Instagram.

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  • BlackEternity

    I hoped that this article would explain how to get photos of real estate in general.
    I.e. there is explanation of using a tripod for longer exposure times.
    But what about that? How should I approach such usage?
    When I take pictures of landscapes I am advised to use ND-Filters and or CPLs. Is the same applicable for this kind of photography? If so, what should I keep in mind?

    This article gives taste for more. I’m not in the business to need this kind of photography, but it can certainly help to make some indoor pictures better if I need them.

    Regardless of my feedback: I appreciate the article and it’s a joy to read something about a part that is unknown to me.

  • ‘smee

    I’ve only done my own photographs, and I’m not an expert, but this is my approach (beyond the above).

    Don’t go too wide. (this is a personal thing, but I loathe super wide shots – I’d rather be . more ‘representative’ and ‘documentary’. super wide can make a poky room look huge. Is that the look you want? It really messes up proportion, perspective, and scale in ways that we aren’t equipped to process effectively. IF you are trying to sell, you don’t want to piss off the people who take the time to actually come and see it in person!)

    Use multiple bracketed exposures. (I’m not going for hyper-real HDR, but exposing the shadows and the highlights separately – gives me a lot more control over the final image, — you DO want to see both inside & outside, don’t you? This also lets me present an image much closer to how a person will remember seeing the room in real life)

    Shoot from eye level (again – this is a personal bugbear. But at the very least, if you are doing a set of interiors that will be viewed as a set, making sure the eye level is reasonably constant will go far to enhancing the continuity, and again, hews to a ‘documentary’ perspective)

    Add some detailed close-ups (another ‘personal’ thing. Are there any interesting features, quirks, oddities, or awesome architectural details? take some details shots – bracketing if you can’t get the dynamic range in a single exposure)

    One last tip: If you’re doing an exterior shot and don’t have a tilt-shift lens — get as far away from the object as possible and use a telephoto to get the framing. extreme perspective has it’s place… but not in a ‘documentary’ type photograph)

  • BlackEternity

    Wow that is awesome input. Appreciate the extensive writeup.
    I will keep that in mind when I should do some interior shots. Thank you very much for your time to write this.

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  • david@djrobinson.co.uk

    Thanks for the feedback and mentioning the use of ND and polarising
    filters too. As you already know from your landscape work, ND filters
    are great for balancing the light between the land and the brighter sky.
    They work best when the horizon is flat and you need to reduce the
    brightness right across the width of the image.

    That’s where the ‘light balancing’ problem starts to differ with
    interior real estate images. In a room, the windows rarely span the
    entire width of your shot or go right to the top of the frame. Using a
    ND filter would certainly reduce the light coming through the window,
    but it would also darken the walls above and to either side of it,
    giving the room an unwanted gloomy feel.

    Even when photographing in rooms with walls made almost entirely from
    glass there are usually frames and structural supports that you don’t
    want to have darkened, so ND filters aren’t really the solution.

    A cpl ( circular polarising filter) can be useful to cut down
    reflections from windows and to darken blue skies. However there are a
    few drawbacks when using them for interior photography. Polarisation is
    most effective when you shoot at 90 degrees to the sun, so unless you
    time it perfectly it’s unlikely that the window and the sun will be in
    the right relative positions to get the best out of the filter.

    Interior photography often needs a wide-angle lens to capture the whole
    room. A wide-angle lens captures a wide image so, no matter how hard you
    try, much of the scene just cannot be at 90 degrees to the sun.
    Consequently, the effect of the filter will vary across the photograph,
    producing an inconsistent look.

    A cpl is also a layer of dark glass in front of your lens. It cuts out
    light, potentially losing you 2-stops and thus resulting in longer
    exposures. Unless your camera is absolutely motionless longer exposures
    increase the risk of camera movement and resulting blur.

  • Jim Wolff

    Good article, although I wish it made some recommendation for best lenses. I am torn between a Nikkor 12-24mm F2.8 and a Tamron 15-30mm, F2.8. Which is better for clarity?

  • ‘smee

    you’re welcome. Again. not an expert, just what worked for me.

  • Michael

    Good article, however, the use of a fast lens does not make sense as you want the interior of rooms looks very sharp so the aperture should be in the range of at least f/11 or even f/16 to make sure having deep DOF. I just took some shots for my friend who was selling his house and using f/11 with ISO 800. My shutter speed was between 1/15 and 1/60 depending of an ambient light. My camera was mounted on the steady tripod, plus I used bouncing of the ceiling modified off camera flash. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a6ed9ec0ad2cc6b8b77ea45fcf58196570fdbb94a8b53c9865abf0e09d2c2b78.jpg

  • david@djrobinson.co.uk

    You are totally right that a larger f/number gives a greater depth of field, but it does so at a cost.

    To get that larger depth of field you’ve had to go to ISO 800 and select a slow shutter speed. Both options potentially degrade the final image due, in the first instance, to increased digital noise and, in the second, an increased risk of blur due to camera movement.

    By contrast, a fast lens means you can use a lower ISO value, like ISO100, and still have a faster shutter speed. That way you have less digital noise, and less risk of movement blur.

    But what of the depth of field you might ask?

    You’d initially think that a fast lens will have a narrower depth of field, throwing more of the room out of focus. However, a fast wide-angle lens, let’s say a f/4 16mm, focused on a point seven feet in front of the lens, will render everything from just under 4 feet in front of the lens to over 25 feet away in sharp focus.

    If we used f/11 instead, we could improve the depth of field, getting everything from 1.5 to 34 feet away in focus, but it is going to cost us three stops of light! In practice that could mean dropping the shutter speed from 1/60 sec to 1/8 sec. That rules out hand-held shots and increases the risk of blur, even on a tripod.

    Given that we are either holding the camera, or it is on a tripod, it’s reasonable to assume that it is at least 4 feet above the floor. That means that although we are using a fast lens, everything from the floor at our feet through to the far side of the room is in focus, without any of the drawbacks of higher ISO, additional lighting and longer shutter speeds needed with a slower lens at f/11 or f/16.

    Another advantage of using a fast lens is making better use of the natural light, and not needing to set up flash or lighting units. This avoids problems with bounced flash, as flash isn’t selective about what it bounces off, bouncing back off everything, and creating unnatural shadows on objects in the room.

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