At Transblue we work closely with homeowners, real estate developers, and property managers to create and improve their outdoor properties. While we complete these exterior renovations, we like to get really good pictures of the work we do. Real estate and architecture photography require a special approach in order to capture the true beauty and charm of the home/project.
Typically when I go out and take photos I use my Sony A6500 with an 18-105mm lens but these tips will work for any camera. Even some phone cameras can be a great option for taking real estate exterior pictures. No matter your current camera situation I hope you will take away some useful tips from this article.
All pictures used in this article are my actual photography work
First I would like to start with what lens you should use for landscape and exterior photography, I highly recommend a wide lens that can capture the majority of your exterior living space. Depending on what camera you use there can be different options for what works best. Personally, I would use anywhere between a 12mm lens all the way to an 18mm. The reason I use an 18-105mm is that it allows me to get a wide angle shot as well as a detailed shot as I zoom in. If you’re using a phone a wide or ultra-wide option should work just fine!
Once you’ve decided on a lens the next step is the composition (how your photos are framed). To start out I usually go to the four corners of each outdoor project and have the camera placed in front of my chest and tilt down slightly. Once that’s out of the way I would say go crazy with what you want to do next. Get down low and get detailed shots of the grass, climb up a tree and get a top view that shows everything. Once that’s done pick the one you like best and you’ll be surprised at what worked and what didn’t.
Sometimes we don’t have the option on when we can take these kinds of photos but if it’s your own backyard the ideal lighting time would probably be either around sunrise or before sunset. But if I were to choose between a bright sunny day or a gloomy one I would choose the latter. When things are too bright the photo tends to lose a lot of its details and it becomes difficult to edit later on. When things are flat or covered in shadows you are able to keep the details and just raise the exposure afterward. However, phones sometimes take some great photos when the sun is out so I wouldn’t worry too much about lighting if you’re using your phone, for exterior photography. Here’s an example of a photo where it was a super sunny day but the outdoor space itself was covered in shadows. I ended up just increasing the brightness of the shadows afterward and it ended up looking great.
On the bottom left corner of your camera, there’s usually something that looks like 1/60, 1/120, etc. That’s called your shutter speed. When you take a photo the shutter speed is the length of time that your sensor sees the image. So when you bring it down to 1/30 that means it’ll take 1/30th of a second to capture the image. The longer you leave the sensor opened to capture the image the more light goes in the sensor. Usually, night photographers will set the shutter speed to something like 15 seconds or even longer to capture as much light as possible. However, if there are moving subjects or you’re shooting handheld the image will most likely turn out blurry with such a low shutter speed. For landscape photography, I usually try to use the fastest shutter speed possible while making sure my exposure is correct. So I would go up to 1/120 – 1/360 just so everything is clear and crisp. If it’s dark outside you can reduce your shutter speed but if it’s too low you want to make sure you use a tripod so the image doesn’t turn out blurry.
Aperture is the opening in a lens through which light passes to enter the camera. I like to describe it as light going through a window. If the aperture is low (like an F1.8) Imagine the curtain on the window is wide open and it lets all the light in. The higher the number goes (like an F11) the curtain starts to close more and more until there’s barely any light going through. However when you have a wide open aperture like an F1.8 you have to realize that it usually just focuses on a small area and the background tends to be blurry. It’s great for portraits but for something like landscape, I would recommend something along the lines of an F5.6 or higher.
ISO to put it simply is your camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO like 100 means low sensitivity to light and a high ISO like 12500 means the sensor is more responsive to light. The disadvantage of a high ISO is that the image can end up losing a lot of its detail. Every camera is different so you want to do some research on your own camera to see what’s the highest ISO number you can raise it to without losing too much of its quality. However, if you have enough light I would say leaving it on the lowest ISO would probably be best.
Whether you’re in your backyard, a park, or hiking up a mountain I hope that these tips are able to help you improve your photography skills and help you understand how cameras work a little more. Good luck!