How to take professional-looking photos of your rental property

If you’re looking to rent out your room, good photos of your place are your best ally. Especially if you’re hoping to do the whole thing online and avoid too many face-to-face flat viewings. Good photos that truthfully and attractively represent your place are what tenants are largely going to base their decisions on. 

Renting out your room fully online is easy if you use Badi, so all you need to do is take care of those photos. Let’s see how you can do so easily and without having to invest in a professional photographer or an expensive camera.

What we’ll cover:

It’s a pretty packed guide, but it’s easy to follow and it contains everything you need to know to make a great first impression with high quality real estate photos you have taken yourself!

Let there be light

Which of the two photos below inspires more trust? If you said the one on the right, you guessed correctly. The other one seems too shady, in every sense of the word.

Bright and airy images of interior spaces are more attractive for very logical reasons. They look calmer, cleaner, and even safer. We all want to live in a place with lots of natural light. And if your room is naturally dark, it’s even easier to underexpose it (make it look unnaturally dark). It’s important to keep it real, but no need to undersell your space.

Follow these simple tips to ensure your images are properly lit:

Ensure plenty of (natural) light

The most important thing is to ensure that the place is well lit when you take a photo. That means that you really want to do the photo shoot during the day. Open the curtains and pull up the blinds for best results. If that’s not enough, turn on the lights in the room as well, but make sure that the light temperature of the different light sources is consistent (more of that in a second).

Turn your back to the window

Have you ever taken a portrait against a beautiful sunset over the sea only to realise your features are so dark they’re barely distinguishable? That’s what happens when you take photos where your subject is lit from the back. The same happens when you take a photo of a room looking directly towards very bright windows – unless you’re quite skilled at balancing light to achieve a good exposure, most of the room is going to look either too dark or at least not sufficiently bright for a great first impression.

These photos can look moody and atmospheric if tackled correctly, but it’s best to avoid them for real estate purposes, especially if you’re not a highly skilled photographer.

Luckily, the solution is easy: turn your back to the window and shoot towards the room. And if you want to showcase the window itself, you can stand by the window and include it only in one small part of the frame, on the side. That way the photo will still be evenly lit overall.

Don’t shoot the windows with blinds down

But what if you really want to showcase the windows? What property owners sometimes do is turn down the blinds, turn on the lights, and then take a photo of the windows. Don’t do that. The effect is often going to be the opposite of what you were aiming for – photos where you’re looking at windows blocked by the blinds create a suffocating feeling and raise a sense of mistrust (“Why are the blinds down? What’s behind them?”).

If you really want to showcase stunning windows, you can focus on the view: stand close to the window and include just the edge of the window pane into the frame. You can also try shooting towards the window later in the afternoon, when the light is not as blinding, so the contrast will be milder. Or pull the blinds down half way, for a better light balance overall.

Don’t mix light temperatures

Yes, light comes in different temperatures, which directly reflects on its colour. Just look around your house and notice the colour of the light coming from the different lamps. Your bathroom and kitchen light is probably white, sometimes even greenish, whereas that beautiful corner lamp in your living room gives off a soothing orange hue.

If your flat doesn’t get much natural light and you need the help of the lamps to take the photos, pay attention to the colour of the light coming from different sources. There are no specific rules here, as there are more things at play, so just keep an eye on the final result and whether the lighting looks balanced and consistent. If you spot one light source spoiling it for the rest, just turn it off.

It’s usually the kitchen and the bathroom lights that tend to look a little off in pictures, so if you’re shooting from the living room towards the kitchen and you notice that the lighting is unbalanced, you can close the kitchen door and take a separate picture of the kitchen later.

Careful with flash

Flash light is difficult to master, so it’s best to avoid it completely and rely on other light sources. But if flash is your only option, at least make sure you’re not pointing it towards reflective surfaces such as windows, mirrors, glass cabinet doors, etc. Ugly reflections scream “amateur”, and you definitely don’t want to be perceived as one when you’re trying to impress renters online. So if you’re using flash, just move around a little and take a few test shots from different angles before you find one that doesn’t produce the reflections – it’s all about geometry here, so finding the right angle is all it takes.

Keep it looking sharp

Blurry photos are the second telltale sign of an inexperienced photographer, right after poorly lit ones. Users instinctively react with mistrust to photos that are blurry. Similarly to bright and airy images, photos that are sharp and neat inspire trust and make your place look more attractive. 

There are three main reasons a photo can look blurry: the subject has moved, the photographer has moved, or the photo wasn’t properly focused. When you take interior photos, it’s unlikely that your subject is going to move, unless there are pets or people in the frame. So we’re going to address the other two situations – camera shake and focus issues.

What is camera shake?

Camera shake simply means that you moved your hand while taking the photo. Even the slightest movement imperceptible to the human eye counts here, so it’s really important to either practise holding your camera steadily or find a way to secure it on a tripod. A gorillapod is an excellent option – they can be very affordable, work equally well for a camera and a phone, and they’re very easy to pack up and take with you wherever you go.

Fix focus issues for sharper photos

Focus issues are a little more complex, so we’ll only look at one of the more common reasons an image is poorly focused – simply focusing on the wrong element in the frame.

Luckily, this is relatively easy to fix. Since you will most probably be using your phone camera to take the photos, we’ll use the example of a phone camera here. Your phone camera registers focus when you lightly tap the part of the screen where you want the focus to be. But how do you know where to tap? It’s quite simple:

  • If you’re taking a wide-angle view of the entire room, focus somewhere around the middle of the frame. This will ensure that most of your frame is sharp, which is exactly what you want for this kind of shot.
  • If you’re taking a detail shot – for example, a quirky flower pot on your balcony – you want to focus directly on your subject, ie. the flower pot. If you do this in portrait mode, the background will be nicely blurred and your subject will instantly pop!

The bottom line is, always ask yourself, “What’s the most important element in this photo?”, and then make sure that element is in focus.

Mind the composition

With cameras in our back pockets and within easy reach wherever we are, it’s tempting to just take our phones out and snap a photo without giving it much thought. That’s ok for our holiday snaps collection, but it doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to showcasing your apartment in the hope of attracting new tenants.

To fully understand the power of composition, do a little experiment: take out your phone and go take photos of the same room from as many different angles as you can. Here’s what you can try:

  • standing at the door,
  • standing in the middle of the room,
  • standing in a corner,
  • kneeling down,
  • standing on a chair.

Look back through the photos and observe how each of them shows the room very differently. You’re sure to find that some are more flattering than others (yes, rooms have their good side, just like our faces do).

Here are some basic composition tips for nailing your interior shots:

Keep a clean frame

If there are too many elements of interest in the frame, it will look messy, the viewer won’t know what to focus on, and they may even feel agitated. You certainly don’t want that. So pick one or two main points of interest and make them the focal point of your image. This can be a single object, for example a bed, or a group of objects visually and conceptually related to each other – for example, the seating area of a living room consisting of a sofa, a coffee table, and a reading lamp.

Don’t be afraid to rearrange the objects in the frame to create a cleaner composition. We’re not saying you should remove a bulky wardrobe and pretend it’s not there, but if you see that the right side of your frame is too busy, it’s ok to move a dinner table chair over to the left for the sake of compositional balance.

Keep your lines straight

This is a big one. No room for artistic interpretation here – in real estate photography, your verticals must be vertical, and horizontals must be horizontal. It looks neat, professional, and attractive; and conversely, uploading images with sloping lines to your listing looks sloppy and rushed.

Ok, so how do you keep your lines straight? It’s actually pretty easy – make sure the grid lines are turned on in your camera app, and align one of the horizontal lines of the space (e.g. the top of the door frame) with one of the horizontal grid lines in your camera, and a vertical line (e.g. an edge of a wall) with a vertical grid line. Done!

A word of warning, though: if you’re shooting from the corner (a great way to fit more of the space into the frame), you won’t have any horizontal lines. In that case, just mind your verticals.

Choose the right perspective

Perspective refers to the height from which you take a photo. Too low (crouching), and the image will look heavy; too high (e.g. standing on a chair), and it will feel shaky and unsteady.

You want to pick a perspective that makes the space look natural, close to how we see the room when we’re in it. That’s why it’s recommended to take photos of interior spaces from a height of about 1.2m, or your eye level when you’re sitting down.

Tell a story

Good photography always tells a story, and real estate photography is no exception. Your space has a unique character and it’s your job to make it come across in the photos you add to your listing. The winning formula is usually a combination of objective and unique points of view.

Start with a wide-angle view

For an objective view of your flat, take wide-angle shots that show the distribution of the spaces and the furniture. Remember to take photos of all the spaces, not just the room being rented. The viewer should have a very clear idea of what the flat consists of, how big it is, and what spaces they can expect to use if they move in.

Don’t skip the “ugly” spaces, like the bathroom, they’re very important! The person that moves in will be using it on a daily basis so they want to know what it looks like. Just make sure the toilet seat is down when you shoot, it leaves a much better impression!

Add in the details

Now combine these wide, objective shots, with photos of interesting details. What is special about your place? Is it the views, or maybe the decoration? Are you a plant lover or do you have an adorable fluffy cat? Whatever it is that makes your flat feel like home, capture it in the photos and add it to your listing. It’s these little details that will attract exactly the kind of person you want to be sharing your flat with.

Keep it neat

This is a very straightforward rule, but a surprisingly often overlooked one. Clean your flat before you take photos and remove any mess (this will also help you keep a clean composition, remember?). You wouldn’t go on a first date wearing a stained shirt, would you? The same goes for your flat, ensure it looks its best for your prospective tenants.

Skip the special effects

You may be tempted to enhance your photo with your favourite filters or take it with a special-effect lens, such as the fish eye lens. Our advice is to keep it realistic and skip any special effects, filters, and heavy editing. This is commercial photography, so you want to keep things neat, sleek, and objective in order to best “sell” your space to the interested viewer.

You can apply minimal auto-enhancement directly in your phone camera app, which mostly improves the quality of the light in your image. Alternatively, you can use the Snapseed app to lightly edit your photos, but remember to keep it real. In general, you should avoid:

  • Heavy filters,
  • Photos in black and white,
  • Selective colour effects,
  • Fish-eye or extreme wide-angle lenses,
  • Unnatural, oversaturated colours,
  • Logos or watermarks superimposed on the photo.

Making a great first impression is crucial in order to successfully rent out your room online. Users have plenty of potential rooms at their fingertips, so you need to grab their attention and convince them that yours is their next home. And neat, sharp, and properly lit photos are an essential tool in your tool box. Luckily, you now know how to achieve them!

Check out more of our tips on how to successfully rent out your room online.