Tips to Improve Your Listing Photos, Part 3 - The most important camera accessory, the Tripod.

Real Estate Agent with Georgia Elite Realty

As a Marietta, GA real estate agent specializing in Atlanta real estate photography, I had to learn quite a few lessons on my way to competence.  Even though I was a decent Atlanta photographer, or so I thought, it didn't take long to realize that taking pictures of homes came with its own set of unique challenges.  This blog series is written with the amateur photographer in mind.  Whether you are a real estate agenthome stagerseller or just interested in taking better pictures of homes, this blog series is for you.   

Part 3 - The most important camera accessory, the Tripod. - It doesn't matter what kind of camera you are using, keeping the camera dead level and completely still will improve your photos, period.  There are several reasons why this is especially true for real estate photography. First and foremost, home interiors are usually darker places than most of the typical locations we take pictures at.  The beach, a sporting event, the backyard...  these places normally all have something in common and that's the fact the are well lit.  When you get inside, its another story.  If there is the option to use a flash we can compensate, to an extent.  However, just blasting off a flash at a scene indoors isn't always the answer.  We all have experienced the 'flash nuked' scenes that looked bright, but nothing like what we were seeing in real life.  The other side of the coin are photos sans flash that are blurry or streaky because the camera moved, even the tiniest bit.  In order to capture those lower light scenes and preserve that ambience, the camera's shutter must remain open for a longer period of time.  During this, the camera must remain absolutely still to produce a sharp image.

I covered a couple of ideas for using flash in my last blog in this series.  If flash will not solve your problems trying setting the camera up on a tripod and using the cameras self-timer or a remote shutter release.  If you find the timer takes too long, I recommend using a remote shutter release.  Even the act of pushing the button on the camera to take a picture may be enough to introduce sufficent movement to render a less than sharp image.

Converging Verticals Real Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GAReal Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GA


 Another issue that we commonly run across is the fact that an average height person is typically 'looking down' on a room as opposed to straight into it.  Usually, the photo will look better if shot dead level at a height about half way to the ceiling.  So when photographing a room with 9ft ceiling start with the camera at about 4ft high and adjust accordingly.  This is fairly easy to do with a tripod as the handheld approach will leave most of us in an comfortable crouching position.  Of course there will be exceptions to this rule, like having to get the camera high enough to clear the back of a sofa for example, but as a starting point you can't go wrong. 

The wonderfully complex human eye can adjust for all kinds of perspective distortions whereas a camera isn't quite so capable.  Tilting the camera down, especially with a wide-angle, can cause what's known as converging verticals, where straight walls become slanted toward the top or bottom of the frame.  Converging verticals is another thing a tripod will help you avoid.  Try lining up the edge of your viewfinder or LCD with the edge of a wall or cabinet end so that those lines are parallel.  If you notice the verticals lines start to slant, move the height of the camera up or down until you get the feature you are angling the camera to get.  In other words, if you want more of that gleaming hardwood floor, trying lowering the camera's height before angling it down.  In some situations, converging verticals will be next to impossible to avoid, like shooting down into a family room form a second story overlook.  You can always attempt to correct it in post, just make it a habit to keep the camera at an appropriate height and as level as possible.

The picture on the right demonstrates converging verticals.  This photo was taken at 14mm at a height of about 5'6".  Notice the door trim and cabinet end on the right side of the image. 


Tripod 4 foot Real Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GATripod 4 foot half Real Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GATripod 5 foot Real Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GA

The above photos show the difference that a mere 6 inches in height can make.  The ceiling in this room is 9', the photos were taken at 4', 4'6" and 5' respectively.


Elevated Real Estate Photographer Iran Watson Listing Agent in Marietta and Cobb Co, GA


Keeping the camera level and at the right height are just a couple of benefits a tripod will afford.  Another application would be to use the tripod to get the camera much higher than what you could get holding it at eye level.  Hoisting the tripod and camera overhead is a great way to add a few feet to your shooting height.  This is especially useful when shooting the exterior of homes at day.  Typically the light will be bright enough that you will only need a very short shutter speed.  Combined with a higher ISO setting (400-800), this makes it possible to get a reasonably sharp picture even if the camera isn't completely still.  Just set the cameras timer, lift the camera and tripod overhead, take the picture and hopefully you captured a usable image.  If not, rinse and repeat until you do.  This technique was actually how I was introduced to Pole Aerial Photography via Lee Jinks excellent blog: Once I saw what a difference a few extra feet made, I just wanted to get higher and higher....  Lately, I have been using my tripod with a Little Giant collapsible ladder and work platform as seen here: .  I can get up to about 16ft and still have all the luxuries of my good camera and lens.  I really like this ladder system and I highly recommend it.  I use it in some form or fashion on just about every shoot I do, not to mention the fact it comes in handy when you actually need a ladder (as opposed to a glorified tripod platform).

"So which tripod should I buy..."?  My answer is simple, "Whichever tripod you will actually go and buy and then use."  Seriously, get the best tripod you can afford but don't get caught up on price and specs if you just need something to get you started.  Michael Yearout makes some solid suggestions as to makes and models in his blog at: .  He also points out that the tripod itself is just half of the equation.  A good head is also important. 

Still to this day I occasionally use a cheap $30 tripod and it works fine.  Granted a better constructed tripod will be a little sturdier and less prone to sympathetic movements, when its time to upgrade you can always use the cheap one for your flash.  A few features I do recommend are a quick release plate mount, some sort of built in bubble level and the ability to tilt from horizontal to vertical.  My $30 tripod has all of those.  I will add if you are shooting multiple frames for exposure bracketing and then additional frames for flash or a good window exposure, keeping the camera from moving will only improve your final blends.  This is a case where a heavier and studier tripod will make a difference.


Be sure to check out the other blogs on the Tips to Improve Your Listing Photos series:

Part 1: Learn What Makes a Good Real Estate Photo 

Part 2: How to get the Most out of your Flash 

Part 3: The Most Important Camera Accessory The Tripod 

Part 4: The Digital Darkroom, Photo Editing and Post Processing 

Part 5: White Balance and Color Control 

Part 6: Understanding Focal Length



Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Janet Sebile 07/26/2010 04:26 PM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Georgia Cobb County Marietta
Georgia Real Estate
Tips and Techniques for Better Real Estate Photography
real estate
iran watson

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Janet Sebile
Coldwell Banker Apex, Realtors - Rowlett, TX

You know I got a tripod and used it for the first time yesterday.  That alone made a difference in the quality.  It was awkward and I'm still figuring some things out but you are on the money.


Jul 12, 2010 06:51 AM #1
Richard Green
U.S. Cybertek, Inc. - Houston, MO

Great post! Using a tri-pod makes a world of difference, and the "cheapies" just do not cut it, they have WAY too much wiggle room. I would also suggest buying CS4, Aperture 3 or some such photo editing software. (or you can grab Picasa3 for free from Google, it's fine for basic retouching) Sometimes your pictures, no matter how hard you worked that day to make them the very best, need a little help. Also for shooting outside you can use a mono-pod if you need just a little stability. ;)

Jul 12, 2010 07:03 AM #2
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Great suggestions. Recently I have been lowering my height by just going down on one knee & I'm happier with the results.  No tripod, ladder.  I do have that ladder & it's the best BTW.  I just never thought to throw it into the car for my real estate photos. 

Jul 12, 2010 07:04 AM #3
Lee Jinks
Jinks Realty - McAllen, TX

THAT's what I'm talking about!

Jul 12, 2010 10:52 AM #4
Iran Watson
Georgia Elite Realty - Marietta, GA
Marietta Real Estate Agent - Photographer

Thanks for the comments!

@ Lee- I thought you'd like this one...

Jul 12, 2010 04:34 PM #5
Don Stern
Realty Executives South Louisiana - Baton Rouge, LA
Greater Baton Rouge Real Estate

Great post!  BTW, that looks like a great listing as well.

Jul 13, 2010 05:00 AM #6
Beth Lester
Beth Lester Designs - Torrance, CA
Home Staging & Interior Decorating

The tip on the level (mid room) is worth the whole price of admission to your blog!   I've played with different heights but haven't felt confident.  I'm going to go give that a try right now (as soon as I'm done reading all the newest photography blogs, anyway).

Jul 18, 2010 11:39 AM #7
Mark Gridley
eXp Realty, Reinventing the National Real Estate Office! - Fountain Hills, AZ
TecKnow Real Estate Agent, Fountain Hills, AZ

Iran: I just wanted to thank you for this series. It's amazing how much time and energy you've spent to share with us. Your series is well written and extremely informative. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best, I'd score it a perfect 10.

Jul 24, 2010 03:31 AM #8
Iran Watson
Georgia Elite Realty - Marietta, GA
Marietta Real Estate Agent - Photographer

Don, Beth, Mark thank you for the comments.

I appreciate the feedback I've received in comments and emails from this series so far.  Interestingly, none of what I have covered is anything new or difficult to seek out.  Maybe just rephrasing the information is enough for someone to catch on.

Jul 24, 2010 08:30 AM #9
Andrzej Niemyjski
Realty One Group - Sun City West, AZ

I couldnt agree more with this post.

Great stuff

Aug 07, 2010 07:24 AM #10
Geri Doyle
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, First Realty - Ankeny, IA
CRS, E-PRO Relocation 6415215678

Great information! I love it. Beautiful listing also. Thank you for taking time to explain this in detail.

Much success to you Iran.

Geri Doyle

Aug 08, 2010 02:49 PM #11
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Iran Watson

Marietta Real Estate Agent - Photographer
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