Types of Real Estate Photography

When you’re starting out, you might not know there are different types of real estate photography. It can be hard to know which to specialize in, what the potential profits are, and what gear is needed. 

We’re breaking down the four main types of real estate photography, along with some additional photo and video trends happening in this industry.

Types of Real Estate Photography

Different properties have different selling points. For instance, interior design might be the selling point for residential properties such as single-family homes, while the surrounding environment might be the selling point for commercial properties like offices. 

White Sofas Inside Building

As a result, real estate photography is categorized into different types depending on the property you're shooting. For example, there’s interior photography that targets the property interior design, and drone photography that provides aerial view of the surrounding environment. 

So, when joining real estate photography, you need to know the properties you target to shoot, so you can know which category you fall in and the camera gear you need. Before getting into the details, here is a quick overview of the different types of real estate photography.

Chart detailing the 4 types of real estate photography

Residential (Revenue Mix: 80 to 100%)

This category will make up the bulk of your business as a real estate photographer. Residential photography includes condo units, single-family homes, townhomes, multi-family buildings of two to eight units, and luxury properties priced at over a million dollars.

The residential category is probably the best category of real estate photography. Why? Well, you typically get a lot of repeat business from the same Realtor-client. Keep in mind that there are over a million Realtors in the US. Over five million homes are sold every single year.

While prices can vary significantly by location, these types of shoots typically garner around $100-400 per shoot. The average is maybe $200-250 for most average-sized homes (2,000 square feet) and markets (cities between 250,000 and 750,000 residents).

Commercial (Revenue Mix: 0 to 10%)

Commercial real estate photography is less common than residential real estate photography, but there are still several real estate photographers who specialize in it. In simple words, if you get paid for delivering photos, this is somehow commercial real estate photography. 

But real estate photographers and industry insiders define the term differently: photos intended for commercial purposes. Commercial photography differs from residential photography in a few aspects. 

  • Residential photographers usually deliver high-quality images to their clients with a limited license. Until Realtors can sell the home, they alone can use the photos. While the home is still on the market, the photos cannot be used for any other purpose than for marketing and selling the house.
  • On the other hand, commercial photographers make more money per photo, and have fewer licensing restrictions. They have broader permissions and longer usage terms. 

Suppose a photographer is hired to take photos of a favorite restaurant in town. In case the restaurant owner intends to use the images for several years as marketing materials over a variety of mediums (broadcast, magazines, print articles, web, etc.), that’s perfectly OK. Most photographers consider this commercial. 

There are three main reasons why commercial real estate photography jobs are usually more expensive than residential real estate photography:

  1. The value of commercial photos is higher. They are more valuable to the client if a company makes more money from them in the long term.
  2. Commercial jobs are more scarce, as they are not needed as frequently.
  3. Clients hold commercial photographers to a higher standard. Like any other professional photography category, commercial real estate photography requires both higher-end equipment and more experience.

Regarding prices, they usually vary, and the subjects are also more diverse. Most commercial photographers charge anywhere from $100-300 per photo. It is a smart practice to require a minimum of maybe five photos to ensure a decent paycheck for your time.

Brick House with Grass Lawn

Architectural (Revenue Mix: 0 to 5%)

This category can be considered an extension of commercial real estate photography and residential photography. Architectural photography clients are typically architects, civil engineering firms, contractors, designers, or home builders.

When people hear the term architectural photography, they tend to think of exotic, modern building designs. However, architectural subjects for real-world clients don't usually fall into that category.

  • Architectural photos typically focus on and highlight the flow of a single space or structure, functional design, or the quality of construction.
  • The pricing and licensing of architectural photography are quite similar to commercial real estate photography. The significant difference is that in the former, the focus is on accentuating each building's structure and details.
  • Architectural photographers often work with their clients to decide on the exact features to highlight. 
  • When shooting, they carefully consider the lighting, angles, and environmental factors such as the weather and time of day.
  • Most architectural photographers also use better lighting rigging, more accurate tripod heads, and high-end tilt-shift lenses to achieve a polished, high-end product. 
  • Architectural photography takes more time in post-processing to ensure that every part of the image looks just right.

Interiors (Revenue Mix: 0 to 5%)

Interior photography represents the little sister if architectural photography is the big sister. As the name suggests, interior photography focuses on the flow and design of interior spaces and rooms. The focus is evoking emotional connection — how the color, design, furnishings, and other amenities evoke a certain mood or feeling.

Usually, clients of interior real estate photography are architects, interior designers, magazines, realtors for luxury homes, staging companies, and owners. The subject can be any space of any type, size, and price — especially if it has a unique design or story. 

Interior real estate photography can be a residential shoot or commercial real estate photography. Aside from luxury homes, other subjects could be businesses and products, such as high-end furniture inside a staging home.

Trends in Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography is fast evolving, and this article won’t be complete without sharing the latest trends. Apart from the 4 main types of real estate photography, virtual tours, video tours and aerial photos are gaining popularity. 

Let me walk you through these trends, and show you how they allow a more thorough examination of the property compared to static interior or exterior photos. 

Virtual Tours

Virtual tours are like 360-degree photos stitched together, letting you virtually walk through a property. You can spin around, zoom in on details, and get a good feel for the space. Buyers control the navigation, exploring the space and focusing on specific details. 

The good thing about virtual tours is that the client doesn't have to follow the creator's path, like in video tours. You are giving clients the freedom to view who they want. For instance, if the kitchen design differentiates the property from the other listings, they can directly navigate to see the kitchen details. 

For virtual tours, you need a 360° camera and a monopod. You then stitch the photos to get a seamless 360° image using stitching software such as PTGui. Then, create a virtual tour using a platform such as Zillow 3D Home and Matterport.

Video Tours

Video tours provide a cinematic way to showcase the property details. Instead of an interactive experience like in virtual tours, clients get a linear viewing experience similar to watching a movie. You pre-record videos showcasing the property's key features and layout. 

Unlike still images, real estate video tours provide a better understanding of the layout and flow of the property. It’s like a physical walk-through. This connects potential buyers to the property, evoking an emotional connection. Unlike virtual tours, you only need a good DSLR and a stable tripod for video tours.  

Spacious lounge room with soft furniture

Drone Photography

Drone photography captures what you might not fully capture from ground level. For instance, you can use drone photography to provide a comprehensive understanding of the property's size, layout, and surrounding environment.

Remember, the surroundings might be the major selling point. For example, a property might sell faster if it’s near the beach or river. Also, some features such as swimming pools and gardens look great when shot from an elevated perspective.

Drone photography is not limited to still photos. You can use the drone to capture videos and incorporate them into video tours when editing. You can use drones in both commercial and residential real estate photography. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Choose the Right Type of Real Estate Photography?

The best way to choose the right type of real estate photography is to consider the unique features of the property you’re shooting. For instance, interior photography is the best when you want to showcase things like kitchen design and living room space. On the other hand, architectural photography is the best when you want to showcase the construction quality of the property. 

What Type of Camera Do Real Estate Agents Use?

Real estate agents can use a wide range of cameras, from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras. It’s advisable to go for full-frame cameras, as the large sensor allows you to capture bright photos even if the interiors are poorly lit. 

The Bottom Line

Within the broad confines of real estate photography, there is a narrow path for all photographers to make a living and to express themselves. Please feel free to reach out at support@photoandvideoedits.com if you'd like to be connected with a photographer in any of these fields or maybe learn a little bit more about real estate photography


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