10 Real Estate Exterior Photography Tips

Lackluster exterior shots can sink an otherwise solid listing. Let's face it - most homebuyers decide to tour a property based on that initial curb appeal. Drab photos scream, "Move along, nothing to see here!" As a real estate photographer, it’s your job to help “sell” clients on the home through your images.

We’re going to share real estate exterior photography tips to help you capture the home's personality and highlight its best features. Let's dive in!

Top 10 Real Estate Exterior Photography Tips

The first thing people notice in a listing is the exterior of a building, home, or apartment. A high-quality image is vital. That means you can make the property attractive by capturing good exterior images. 

Here are some simple tips for taking great exterior shots for real estate. Plus, we connected with real estate photographer Matias Galeano from HCE Visuals to share his expert insights on how he captures exterior photos!

Two storey house with unique architecture design and huge tree on its green lawn

Don’t want to read the entire article? Here’s a chart outlining each tip we’re covering and the importance of it:



Prepare the Property

Shows the home in its best light

Use the Right Real Estate Camera Gear

Ensures crisp, high-quality photos

Shoot During the Golden Hour

Creates warm, inviting lighting

Take Aerial Photos

Provides a unique perspective

Capture the Details

Highlights unique architectural elements

Avoid Distortions

Prevents warped lines and angles

Be Creative With the Composition

Strategically guides viewer's eye

Vary the Depth of Field

Allows focus on specific features

Consider HDR Blending

Captures details in shadows and highlights

Retouch the Photos

Removes unwanted elements

Prepare the Property

Exterior photos often serve as the first point of contact for prospective buyers. Proper preparation lets you showcase the property's essential features, including a beautiful garden or well-maintained lawn. 

Mow the lawn to an appropriate height to give it a neat appearance. Remove debris, such as fallen leaves and branches, from the yard. Power wash exterior surfaces such as siding, walkways, and driveways. 

This helps to remove dirt, mold, and stains, so you don’t have to edit them out later. Clean windows and window sills for a sparkling appearance. Finally, remove the property owner's personal items, such as children's toys and gardening tools.

Use the Right Camera Gear

Camera gear can make or break your exterior photos. Even with good real estate photography skills, taking quality photos without the right gear can be challenging. 

Tripod setup outdoors

Let's dive into the most important camera gear you need. 

  • - Tripod: The aim is to capture crisp photos without blur. A tripod helps you eliminate camera shake, especially for twilight photos or low light situations.
  • - Wide-angle lens: The best exterior photos are when you capture the entire property in a single photo. Get a wide-angle lens such as a 24mm lens.
  • - High-resolution camera: You don't want pixelated and low-quality photos, so consider getting a high-resolution full-frame camera.

We asked Matias what his go-to lenses are for exterior shots:

“For the main shots, I always use my Sony 16-35mm, making sure I have all the necessary establishing shots, all the conventional angles, etc. And then I will use an 85mm f1.2 if I want to show off some particular details, and perhaps use some shallow depth of field to offer the client some additional artistic shots.”

Shoot During the Golden Hour

The golden hour is generally the hour after sunrise or before sunset. At these times, the sun is low in the sky, and its light has to travel through more of the Earth's atmosphere. Without getting overly technical, this results in a softer, warmer, and more diffused light. 

When you shoot at this time, the warm tones help add an inviting feel to the property. There are also minimal shadows and fewer extreme highlights during this hour. Twilight also coincides with stunning colors in the sky, especially during sunset. 

This can add a captivating backdrop to your outdoor shots. Glare from reflective surfaces, such as windows, is also minimal during the early evening. 

Taking it one step further, Matias breaks down how to determine when to shoot a property based on the direction it’s facing:

Depending on the aspect of the property, i.e which way it’s facing, you’d want to plan the shoot either facing the sunrise or sunset. Generally speaking you want to avoid harsh sunlight, as well as having the front covered in shade. The rule of thumb is East/South facing properties should be shot in the morning, North/West facing houses shot in the afternoon.”

Take Aerial Photos

Aerial photos show the property in relation to its surroundings. This helps prospective buyers understand the house’s exterior, its location, nearby amenities, and the neighborhood. For instance, they show proximity to parks, bodies of water, and schools.

They also give a clear view of the entire property, including its size, layout, and the arrangement of structures and outdoor spaces. Use a drone to capture unique features such as swimming pools, outdoor entertainment areas, and gardens. Before moving forward with drone photography, remember to check the FAA regulations!

Capture the Details

While getting photos that provide a good overview of the house is important, don’t overlook the smaller details. These can oftentimes set a house apart from others on the market and be vital selling points. Whether it is pine trees surrounding the house or interesting architectural features, include the details that make the property unique.

Avoid Distortions

One issue with wide-angle lenses is distortions. Straight lines become curved as the lens tries to compress a broad scene to fit in the frame. That means the horizon, walls, and angles of the property might not look level.

For example, take a look at the image below. It was shot at a focal length of 8mm, causing the house to look curved and distorted. For buyers, if this is the first image they see of a house on a listing, it could immediately turn them off to the house, especially if they think there’s something wrong with it based on the distortion.

Exterior shot of a house that boasts a huge green lawn

The best solution is to use the alignment grid on the viewfinder. This allows you to preview the angles and lines before capturing them. You should also avoid using ultra-wide-angle lenses like 8mm fisheye lenses.

Also, consider using the lens correction feature in photo editing applications like Lightroom. For example, Lightroom will try to correct the distortion and straighten the lines when you turn on a specific setting in the Develop module. Note that Lightroom needs to have a profile for your specific lens in order for this to work properly.

Focus on the Composition

Almost all properties have one side or angle that is more flattering than the others. Strategic composition guides the viewer's eye to the interesting architectural elements of the property. 

Remember, the goal of real estate and architectural photography is to emphasize the property's key features, such as architectural details and landscaping. Frame shots that showcase the front facade and the entryway. 

Aim to capture a comprehensive view of the property to provide a sense of space. If the property has outdoor living spaces like patios or decks, showcase them in your composition. Provide a variety of perspectives by capturing shots from different angles.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to get creative with some of your compositions. Matias shares,

One thing I enjoy is trying to include some foliage, branches, or trees in order to create a natural framing of the house, without taking up too much of the image. This can sometimes help the viewer get some context as to the natural environment of the house.”

Vary the Depth of Field

The aperture setting determines the depth of field. A narrower aperture results in a deep depth of field, meaning that everything in your camera frame will be in focus. This is the best setting for capturing the entire real estate property in a single exterior shot. 

Open the aperture wide when capturing a specific part of the property, such as a gazebo. This results in a shallow depth of field, where the background and foreground are blurred. This allows the exterior shot to emphasize the specific feature you are capturing.

Consider HDR Blending

HDR involves capturing overexposed, well-exposed, and underexposed photos and blending them into one photo using photo editing software. The HDR technique helps you capture the details in extreme highlights and dark shadows.

Retouch the Photos

Even if you are an experienced real estate photographer, you might still get the composition wrong or leave something unintentional in the frame. 

Retouching images in photo editing software removes distracting elements you may have missed (or were maybe unavoidable). 

Woman editing a photo using her laptop

Some of the benefits of retouching real estate exterior photos in photo editing software include:

  • - It helps you remove reflections from shiny objects such as windows.
  • - Advanced photo editing software such as Photoshop allows you to remove unwanted objects from the photo.
  • - It allows real estate agents to improve colors by adjusting the saturation, contrast, and vibrancy. 
  • - It allows real estate agents to blend multiple exposures into an HDR photo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is Curb Appeal Important?

Curb appeal is important because it's the first thing prospective buyers notice when viewing a property. This sets expectations for the condition and care of the entire property. A property with good curb appeal is often perceived as having higher value.

How Do You Make a Real Estate Photo Look Professional?

You can make a real estate photo look professional by balancing the exposure. Ensure the photos meet MLS aspect ratio listing requirements. Tailor your composition to capture the interesting architectural elements the client considers important. Finally, adjust the saturation and vibrancy during post-production image editing.

When Should You Take Exterior Photos?

The best time to take a real estate photo is during an overcast day with diffused natural light. You can also shoot at dusk to convey a unique mood and atmosphere. Turn on the interior lights so they are visible through the windows. 

This creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Also, turn on exterior lighting features, such as landscape lighting, to highlight key areas of the property. Avoid shooting midday when there are harsh shadows on the exterior of the house.

What Is the Best Focal Length for Exterior Real Estate Photography?

The best focal length for real estate photography is 16mm to 24mm. The wide-angle perspective captures more of the scene, allowing you to showcase entire exteriors, including landscaping and architectural features. Avoid ultra-wide-angle lenses below 16mm due to excessive distortion.

Two storey house with unique architecture and lit outdoor lamps

The Bottom Line

First impressions are essential in the real estate industry. Property photos can either make or break a sale. They're that powerful. If they are beautiful and realistic, they can generate a positive impression and can help sell more homes and bring in more clients and referrals. 

If you're spending more time in post-processing and not enough time growing your business or with your family, let PhotoAndVideoEdits.com help you with some of that stress so that you can shoot more, edit less, and spend more time with your loved ones.

Relevant Quick Links: