The First Image a Client Will See – Do It Well
Exterior Property Photography – The chances are that this is the first image most people will see when either looking at your portfolio or property images in a real estate window. The outside is everything; it is what determines, in most cases, whether people wish to look at the rest of a property.
It is important to get the best shot possible whilst trying to be as honest as you can.
Whatever your thoughts on this, it is a personal preference, but with some skilful photography, you can “hide” certain, surrounding and ugly features of a property.
Cranes for instance are not a problem, you can either re-align your shot to keep them out of the frame, or clone them out later in Photoshop. I have often done this on many occasions with a clear conscience, as I know that the cranes won’t be there forever, and possibly not even there for the first viewing.
When it comes to more permanent “distractions” shall we say, like water towers or power lines and cables, I would suggest that you include them, although again it is up to you. By removing them, you are liable for giving misinformation or falsely portraying a property with a view to selling. It can open up a can of worms and create some very irate clients.
This will not do your future any good so I suggest that honesty is the best policy here!
Exterior Property Photography – Lighting
I cannot stress enough how important the lighting for the exterior shot is. Whether it is sunny or cloudy, you always want the sun behind you if possible.
Exterior Property Photography – Sunny
Work out what the sun will do during your time at the job and decide on the best time of day to shoot the exterior. Ideally, you want the sun to be shining directly onto the front of the property showing it at its best.
If the sun is behind the house or building, is it a nightmare to expose correctly without blowing out the sky, let alone the front of the property looking dull and colourless.
Exterior Property Photography – Cloudy/Overcast
If it is a cloudy day, your job is a little easier. You can either come back another day when it is sunny to do the exterior, or you can shoot it anyway. Again, it is important that the sun is behind you as the light, although shaded, will still have an effect on your metering.
Make sure that whatever the light, you can see the details in the walls, fittings, windows and garden.
Exterior Property Photography – Night
Some of the most beautiful property shots I have seen have been at night or dusk. If the sun is setting in front of the house, it can throw a really warm “glow” on the walls and create a real homely look. Make the most of this.
If the sun is setting behind the house, perfect! You can get some fantastic shots here. Your cameras meter will expose for the sun and bright sky, leaving the house underexposed, so what I suggest is this;
- Whatever you do, ask the owner to turn on all the house lights and garden lights that are in the shot and open all the curtains.
- Find the optimum place to set up your camera and place it on a tripod making sure that you get the whole property in the shot if possible.
- If you have the time, wait for the sky to darken quite a bit (almost dark but with “some” light” and then take a general reading of the entire scene.
- You should, with an aperture of around F8, get a reading of a few seconds at 100ISO.
- The lights from the house should match that of the sky and hopefully you will end up with a stunning, night shot of the exterior. If the sky or house is a little dark, you can adjust using levels and curves in Photoshop to get them to match perfectly.
If you want to incorporate a brighter sunset with the house you can always cheat a little. As before, set the camera on the tripod and take two shots without budging an inch.
Before you set up the camera, point the camera at the sky and take a reading, remember it, and do the same for the house. Set your camera to manual and input the first reading (125th at F8 for example).
The first should be a shot that is exposed for the sunset, which will give beautiful details in the sky but leave the property underexposed.
Take the second shot that was exposed for the house (say 8th/sec at F8), which will bring out all the properties detail but blow out the sky to a degree.
Load both images into Photoshop and merge the two. Don’t worry if you feel this is too much for now, as long as you have the images, you can take your time practising and playing in Photoshop to get it right.
You will learn how to merge two shots with different readings in the Photoshop section later on.
Exterior Property Photography – Angle of View
Before taking any exterior property photography shots, walk around the garden with your camera to find the best possible angle that shows the property at its best and makes the most of whatever light you have;
- Is there a swimming pool, include it.
- Are there many trees surrounding the house? Keep them in.
- Any interesting features in the garden like statues. Include them.
- Does the house have a huge lawn? Get as much in as possible to show it off.
- Clear any unwanted or unsightly items such as hose-pipes or plant pots. You can lose them later in Photoshop but it is much easier to do it now.
- Open the patio windows so you can see some detail inside.
- Arrange any garden or terrace furniture so that it is neat and tidy.
- Have some drinks on the table to create a lived in look.
Generally make the scene as pleasant as possible because as I said at the beginning, the exterior shot is normally the “first point of contact” for anyone viewing a property.
Exterior Property Photography – Tip: Have a look at the property from the road, or even from a nearby hill if possible. Try something different and get a shot that no-one has thought of. If necessary, ask a neighbour if you can use their garden or terrace to get a shot.
You never know, this new contact may be so impressed at your determination, he may ask you to photograph his house!