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How to take professional photos with your smartphone

If you are looking to up your real estate photography game - without hiring a professional - check out our practical tips for how you can take the highest quality smartphone photos, which we nabbed from a professional photographer.

Taking photos like a pro has never been so accessible, with some of the best cameras available, quite literally, in the palm of our hand. If you are looking to up your real estate photography game - without hiring a professional - check out our practical tips for how you can take the highest quality smartphone photos, which we nabbed from a professional photographer.

Armed with a bit of practice and patience, your clients won’t be able to tell the difference - saving you time and money - the ultimate win-win.

Tip 1) Always use natural light

Look it might sound obvious but lighting is one of the core reasons why smartphone photos look less than professional.

Even though smartphone cameras are boss-level powerful these days, the actual sensors (the part that records an image) are very small.  This means that they will often struggle to capture a high-quality image in low light.

To make sure you get the best results, the key is to use natural light wherever possible. When taking a photo always aim to position yourself so that your subject or focal point of the image is lit as well as possible, be that natural daylight or an artificial light source.

When things get dark your smartphone will really struggle, creating hazy, noisy images that are less than ideal.

Tip 2) Let HDR mode be your new best friend.

Be honest - how often do you actually take photos on HDR mode?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Dynamic range is the difference in light between the brightest and darkest parts of your image.

Enabling HDR on your smartphone means that the phone will take multiple images of the same scene and then intelligently stitch them together for you. Ahhhh the joys of technology.

HDR works particularly well for landsapes, where often you will get the sky looking normal but an underexposed foreground, or a normal-looking foreground and an overexposed sky.

Tip 3) Daytime flash- trust us on this one.

In a perfect world, every time you wanted to take photos of a property, the sun would be basking the room at the perfect angle, creating a palace of natural light. But, alas sometimes your only opportunity to take snaps for your listing is the dreariest bloody day of the year and you have a 15 minute time window. So, welcome daytime flash to the chat.

Similar to HDR, fill flash is a way to balance the light through your image and is particularly useful for outdoor portraits where the sun is behind your subject.  All you need to do is turn on your flash and hey presto-- no more silhouette portraits.  

Tip 4) The rule of thirds.

There is no duo more iconic than good lighting and photo composition when it comes to smartphone photography.  The ‘rule of thirds’ is the most basic rule for composition in professional photography as it can take the flow and direction of your images to a whole new level.

Putting the ‘smart’ in ‘smartphones’, the vast majority of cameras have gridlines that can help you put the rule of thirds in action and aid the composition of your shots. When taking interior or exterior photos of a property, you should only be taking landscape photos as this allows you to capture more detail; and it will also be how prospective buyers will visualise the property.

The rule of thirds splits your image into nine equal blocks, forming a 3x3 grid over your image. Once you have got your grid up (it is in your camera settings) and are preparing to take a shot; your first step is to decide where the horizontal lines go in relation to your subject. The best practice is to make sure the lines stay away from the center in either the top or bottom third of the image.

If there is a particular feature or piece of furniture you want to highlight within a room, line this up vertically on the left or right side and have the intersection point of the grid lines meet here. If this sounds confusing, standby - check out some examples above.

A final point with the rule of thirds. You can never take too many snaps. Try lining your gridlines up at different heights, with different features sitting at intersections to see what makes the room or exterior look the most appealing and spacious.

Tip 5) How low you should go.

In real estate photography height matters. Big time.

It’s natural to assume eye level is the best height to hold your smartphone camera, but according to photographers, when it comes to shooting interiors in particular- a lower height will create a much better shot.  But the question remains, how low should you go when taking your photos? When we did our research- one super cliche’ phrase stood out for shooting properties:

“Shoot from the heart”.

Despite the cringe factor; it seems to be pretty accurate and unanimous amongst professionals- which agree that four to five feet from the ground (or chest height) will give you the best results for the majority of properties. This is because it will showcase furniture and floors; as well as mimicking how prospective buyers will view your property.

Remember- this rule of thumb is a starting point; make sure you adjust your camera height based on the room you are in, what you want to showcase- as well as how the photos are turning out. In a room with super high ceilings or a sweeping staircase- heart level may not cut it.  Experimenting and practise will always produce the best results.

Extra for experts

When it comes to ramping up your smartphone photography skills, there are endless opportunities to continue to learn and upskill. Mastering these fundamentals will result in better quality property photos almost instantly. A couple of final tips for taking your photos to the next level.

Invest in a tripod for your smartphone: Having your camera steady and completely level will result in a more crisp and polished shot. This can often be hard when you are holding your smartphone at chest level or below. There are a variety of options around the $20 mark that will do the job perfectly.

Purchase some wide-angle lenses for your smartphone: Yup - we’re with you on this one and also didn’t realise these existed. These detachable lenses will enable you to capture more features in your shot- which is perfect for showing the full layout of a propertys’ interior layout or a sweeping landscape.

When in doubt, edit it out: There is an array of inexpensive- and in many cases free - apps that allow you to adjust lighting, brightness and shadows as well as enhance photo features. VSCO and Lightroom are two of the most popular ones, and there is a tonne of content online which shows you how to create a professional quality photo, and a consistent theme you can use for all your photos.

In a nutshell - the better quality photos you take - the more aesthetic and enticing your property listings will look. Taking them yourself is a fun skill to master, which will also help you build and maintain an epic social media presence as well as create high-quality videos to showcase your properties.