Simon Gannon • Mar 18, 2020

Tips for taking exceptional real estate photos with your iPhone


You can use your iPhone camera to capture great real estate photos with little or no technical knowledge. Below are some quick tips:

Study what works

Study real estate listings with photos that you think really help market the property and think about what works. Is it the light, the angles, the colors, the sharpness, the staging/contents of the image? What is it that’s compelling? How can you capture this in your photography?

Know your iPhone features

The iPhone is packed full of various features and capabilities, enough to inspire creativity and great photographing. Taking the time to explore these features can almost guarantee awesome snapshots images and is a great investment of your time (even though almost no one does it). Here are some quick examples:

    Shoot in portrait mode

    This is the feature that captures very sharp images with slightly blurred backgrounds. Portrait mode has been available since the iPhone 7+ and has been improved in more recent iPhones. All you have to do is choose portrait mode in the shooting menu, wait for it to focus and then take your shot.

    In more recent iPhones – from the iPhone XS series – you can adjust the depth of field after capturing the image. With the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, you can decide between using either the 1x or the 2x lens for your portrait shot.

    You can also explore the Portrait Lighting feature that simulates studio lighting when you capture images in portrait mode. It’s very flexible and can be adjusted before or after a shot is taken.

    Try HDR  

    HDR means High Dynamic Range and it’s the feature responsible for trying to get the perfect exposure for your photo. When you shoot with your HDR on, your camera captures the image at three different exposures – brighter, even and darker – and then combines these exposures to produce a single photograph. It’s a great choice for outdoor photography.

    The function of HDR is to capture high contrast scenes in great detail and blend them into a perfectly exposed photo so it’s also useful when shooting indoors with the windows open and sun rays radiating through them.

    You can choose to use the smart HDR on the camera app or manually control the HDR to adjust the exposures. Of course, the HDR in newer iPhones functions better.

    Switch between lenses 

    If you have one of the recent iPhones with multiple rear-facing cameras, you can switch between any of them to give you the best view for your photo. Apart from the iPhone 11 which has an ultra-wide-angle camera and a wide-angle camera, all other double-camera wielding iPhones come with wide-angle and telephoto lenses. The triple array camera setup of the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max has an ultra-wide-angle, a wide-angle and a telephoto lens, therefore providing even more zoom options.

    To switch lenses while shooting, you select between 0.5x, 1x or 2x options at the bottom of the viewfinder. The 0.5x option is for the ultra-wide-angle lens, the 1x for the wide-angle lens and the 2x for the telephoto option.

    The three lenses function in unique ways. The 0.5x lens is equivalent to a 13mm lens on a DSLR and captures more of the scene making it great for landscape and interior real estate photography; the 1x lens is moderately wide-angled and usually good for most types of photography; the 2x lens allows you to photograph objects from distance.

    Use burst mode

    This is a feature common in DSLR’s that allow you to take pictures in really rapid succession. Burst mode captures 10 images per second for as long as you hold the shutter button, thereby capturing the best still image of a moving object. This feature can be extremely useful if you have objects in motion in your images like flags or drapes.

    To use the burst mode on the iPhone XS series and older, hold down the shutter button for as long as you want. On the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, slide the shutter button to the left and the camera will shoot in burst mode until you let go.

    Tap to focus

    A good photograph is one in which the main subject is in sharp focus. Luckily with the iPhone, it’s quite easy to achieve that. In most cases, the digital autofocus feature of the camera app does an excellent job, however, sometimes you might want to exercise more control about which area is in focus. For that, you can use the tap to focus option.

    After framing your shot, choose the area you want to focus on and then tap on the screen to focus. When you do that, a yellow square appears to indicate the focus point. It’s also possible to lock focus on a particular spot by tapping and holding the screen on the intended focus point until AE/AF LOCK appears.

    Shoot live photos

    The Live Photos feature, present on the iPhone since iPhone 6s, captures beautiful moving images. If used right, this can be an incredible way to capture your real estate images to make them more inviting. Live photos are three seconds videos that are created by capturing images before and after you click on the shutter button.

    As you click on the shutter button, the camera saves video footage of 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after, complete with sound. This can be a very useful tool for you to create a short preview of a room.

    Try night mode

    If you use any of the iPhone 11 models, the night mode is an exciting feature to try out. It allows the camera to bring in as much light, color, and detail to your snapshot in low-light scenarios. This feature comes up automatically if you want to shoot after dark, or in the evening when the incident light is low but not dark, the night mode icon appears meaning you can manually select it.

    Its principle is similar to choosing a very slow shutter speed while using a DSLR which allows more light into the camera sensor to improve image quality in low-lit environments. In addition to slow shutter speed, the iPhone uses computational photography software to make images captured in poorly lit surroundings brighter.

    Turn on the gridlines 

    Turning on the gridlines of your iPhone viewfinder can help you shoot photos following the rule of thirds which suggests that for better image composition, the main subject should be along the lines of the grid or at their intersections. The gridlines have two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines.

    The rule of thirds is a fundamental technique used in photography for properly composing shots. It’s one of the oldest photography tricks in the books. Following this rule creates more tension, energy, and intrigue in your photograph.

Master basic technical skills

    Use as much natural light as possible 

    Lighting is the most important aspect of photography. The better the light, the more likely you are to capture great photos. The best type of light is usually natural light, so before you start shooting, your goal should be to use as much natural light as possible.

    While shooting outdoors avoid facing the sun; while shooting indoors open the windows to let in natural light. Shooting indoors can be particularly tricky as the natural light might not be adequate in rooms with small windows. In that case, you would need artificial lighting.

    Pay attention to composition

    Taking some extra seconds to compose your shots can mean the difference between a great shot and an amateurish shot. Take some time to unclutter your scenery, dust surfaces, and arrange everything within your field of view. Make sure there are no scraps or unwanted objects in your scene as that can invite doubts about your professionalism.

    Spare some minutes to picture what you hope to achieve and that will help guide your composition.

    When you shoot a small room, try to aim into the corner using the ultra-wide-angle lens. This creates the illusion of a bigger space.

    There are two broad types of real estate photography and they both mostly require different approaches

    Outdoor photography 

    This is aimed at showcasing the external structure of the building, highlighting its most attractive features. This is a great place to show that unique brick wall, porch, pool, garden, or any other attention-grabbing feature.

    The biggest factor here is the position of the sun and the direction of your building. You would want to avoid shooting into the sun (try to have the sun behind you at all times). If your building faces the east, morning shots are recommended; if it faces the west, you should consider late afternoon shots.

    On average, outdoor photography is relatively easier to shoot and iPhones have been competent for it for some time now, since the release of the iPhone 6s.

    Indoor photography 

    Where iPhones older than the iPhone 11 have been OK for outdoor photography, they weren’t great for indoor photography. The standard focal length for the iPhone before the 11 Pro was the approximate equivalent of a 28mm DSLR lens and just wasn’t wide enough for indoor photography without a wide-angle lens add-on.

    Wide-angle lenses are crucial for great indoor photography as they make small spaces look bigger and more appealing. The key here is to fill the image with the contents of the room and not negative space. The good news is: iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max all have ultra-wide-angle lenses.

Use these photography tools  

    Tripods 

    A tripod is one of the most essential equipment for capturing interior photos. Without a tripod, your images are likely to come out blurry and slightly out of focus regardless of how steadily you try to hold the iPhone. A tripod doesn’t have to be big and heavy, there are small tripods with iPhone adapters meant for smartphone photography.

    Consider an external ultra-wide-angle lens 

    Due to how indispensable wide-angle lenses are for interior real estate photography if you intend to use an iPhone older than the iPhone 11 models you would need to acquire a good external wide-angle lens that can work with iPhones. With the aid of this tool, your iPhone can give you good indoor shots.

    Extra lighting

    On cloudy days or at noon when the sun is at its peak, it’s difficult to capture great indoor shots. You would have to employ the use of an external source of lighting. Close all the windows and turn on the interior lights – the bulbs should be daylight bulbs with a color temperature of about 5600k. It’s good practice to always carry extra bulbs or stage lighting with you when you intend to shoot interior shots.

    Experiment with angles

    Some experts suggest you shoot from the waist level, but sometimes the best shots might be taken from a lower height or eye level. Try different angles to make your photo unique and to highlight aspects of a property that you want to emphasize. 

Use Moneyshot’s editing apps

Check out these tips on how to edit your pictures in Moneyshot like a pro!

Take Lots of Photos!

Your best chance of getting great shots is taking as many as possible – it’s not like you are going to run out of film! The more photos you take, the faster you will learn.

Simon Gannon • Mar 18, 2020