When a Smartphone is All You Have for Your Real Estate Photography

Services for Real Estate Pros with Danzi Photography

Any good real estate agent knows this crucial secret: if you want to sell a property, you have to have high-quality real estate photographs.

While the photos won’t be enough to get people to say “I’m buying it!” they can help people decide if they’re interested enough in it to stop by for an open house or a phone call to a real estate agent.

Many of us work on the same principle. Think of when we’re online shopping, and stumble upon a product that has no pictures. Would you consider buying it? Maybe if you really need it, but most likely you’ll keep looking.

The same can be said for real estate. However, not every agent or private home seller can afford to hire a professional photographer to snap these pictures. Sometimes, all you have is your smartphone. Is smartphone real estate photography doable?

Yes. Here are some tips that can help.

1. Spruce up the Place Before

No matter who’s taking the photos, and how expensive and advanced the camera is, the secret to a good photo is to have a good model to work with. Cameras and Photoshop can only do so much, so consider fixing up the place a bit before the photoshoot.

This could be anything from cleaning the property until it’s spotless to adding some extra pieces of decor to create a particular vibe of the place. This way, you essentially get an ideal canvas to work with.

2. Bring in Some Extra Light

We all have a smartphone with very capable cameras, but there’s one thing that most of them cannot do. They typically cannot take a decent photo in bad lighting. Although smartphone software and lenses improve dramatically year over year, it still helps to have a well lit home, apartment, condominium, etc.

Because of this, it’s important to have as much light the moment you’re snapping photos as possible. Preferably natural light to avoid the colors from being distorted. As a result, consider noon as the best time to take your pictures, when the sun is high up. If your home (or some areas) isn’t blessed with a lot of natural light, then you can recreate it with some Halogen bulbs, which are the next best thing.

Don’t use the flash to get around the lack of light. Smartphone flashes aren’t as good as the flash of a professional camera, and you can have issues with focusing, the colors, or even the quality of the pictures. Smartphone flashes tend to create hotspots in photos and those aren’t flattering whether your subject is a person or a home.

3. Go for Wide Shots

In real estate, you want to offer an overview of the property for potential buyers to get a sense of what the home looks like, so as a general rule it’s best to stick to wide shots. Stand in the corner of a room, preferably with the light coming from behind, and try to capture as many elements as you can. Many smartphone cameras today include wide-angle lenses.

Tight shots should only be used when you want to accentuate a particular element of the home, such as a high-quality cupboard that you think people would like to see up close or stainless steel appliances. But don’t show the bed, the nightstand, and the closet of the bedroom in three different shots. Try to capture all of them so people get a better sense of the space.

4. Don’t Shoot Portraits

Portrait shots are not your friend, even if you’re taking close-ups. Always keep the phone horizontal (landscape mode) when taking these pictures. Even if some elements aren’t needed in the photo, you can easily crop them after. But you can’t add elements you missed.

5. Take a Lot of Pictures, Then Edit

On your phone, the first picture you take can look amazing on the screen, but when you see it on a computer, you start to see some issues. Even professional photographers will snap multiple pics of the same element because this allows them to choose the best one later.

Additionally, you should also edit your photographs. We’re talking some color or light correction, maybe play with the contrast, and other things to improve the quality of the snap. Don’t go overboard and add crazy filters. These are great for your Instagram profile, not when you’re trying to sell a property.

6. Use an App to Edit Photos

There are a lot of photo editors you can download directly on your phone to edit your smartphone real estate photography. Google Snapseed for Android and VSCO Cam for iOS are popular choices because they’re free and generally get the job done really well.

If you prefer to edit on a desktop or laptop, then you can try Adobe Lightroom (with a subscription) or Photoscape (free). All these programs come with automatic color corrections, as well as filters you can apply over your photos. Just make sure the pictures remain natural.

7. Prepare Your Phone for the Photoshoot

Lastly, you need to play around with your phone’s settings to make sure it will take the kind of photos you need. If you’re not concerned about that, you probably haven’t explored this area of your phone, but here are a few things you need to change from the default options:

● Choose the widest format, usually the 16:9 format, though it can vary from phone to phone, especially on Android;

● Opt for longer exposure times as it can improve the lighting on the pictures. Short exposure times are ideal for moving objects, but in this case, you don’t need it;

● Balance your ISO value. In a bright room, you need low ISO and high exposure. In dark rooms, the reverse works better. It’s important to fix the ISO value depending on what you’re shooting. Remember, higher ISO values allow the camera’s sensor to let in more light, but they also introduce more grain into the photo.

Additionally, you should also clear the lense of the camera, and maybe invest in a microSD for additional space.

Taking the perfect snap of your property is achievable even through with your smartphone. For some, it’s just a matter of a little bit of practice, so you should adopt a “try, analyze, and improve” mindset if you’re not that experienced.

Comments (10)

Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello and Welcome to the Rain where we all learn from each other and help each other.  I have a 6s iphone and about ready to buy a new one.  Any suggestions.


Oct 20, 2020 09:29 AM
Jason Danzi

Thanks for the feedback! In my humble opinion, I would wait for the iPhone 12 Pro Max which can ge preordered on 11/6. It's expensive but I think the cost might be worth it. Especially if you are shooting any kind of real estate properties. It has both an ultra-wide and wide-angle lens with a large image sensor (for a phone). An added benefit is LiDar. While relatively new for phones, this makes it much easier to create floor plans and 3D renderings of a room. Just my thoughts.

Oct 20, 2020 10:13 AM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Welcome to the ActiveRain community. Congratulations on your first post.

Oct 20, 2020 04:55 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Hello Jason, very good report about when a smartphone is all to have for real estate photography.

Oct 20, 2020 04:57 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Not sure I agree . We have been financially freed up from the unprofitable cost of ineffective Print Media ( newspapers/Homes Magazine) . Today Pictures are 

everything !!! You don’t want to lift up  so so pictures ( an Agent must spend some of the Listing Commission on Marketing 

Oct 21, 2020 05:44 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Jason Danzi - when this is all you have the iPhone Pro 11 does a good job.

Oct 31, 2020 03:52 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Welcome to ActiveRain! I don't use a cell phone for listing photos, but if I wanted to, these would be very useful tips!

Oct 31, 2020 05:53 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Thanks for the tips, and I think the iPhone 12 is going to be amazing. However, I leave all of our listing photos to the pros. D 

Oct 31, 2020 10:03 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great tips, Jason, but I still plan to continue to use a profesional for the majority of my listing photos. But I always take some of my own to use in different ways and these tips will help!


Oct 31, 2020 02:42 PM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Jason Danzi  There are some listing that there is just no time to get professional photos taken. These properties are in hot areas with waiting lists and often sell in a few days. I thank you for these tips as for these listings I use my phone  

Nov 02, 2020 09:28 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jason Danzi welcome to ActiveRain, and congratulations on successfully posting your first blog on this site.

Nov 06, 2020 01:48 PM