I shoot real estate in Atlanta and pretty much all over Metro Area, like Marietta, Alpharetta, Kennesaw and so on. Occasionally I am booked to shoot a brand new home that hasn’t been staged or a vacant home where all furniture and belongings have been removed. One might think, well, that should be easy, in and out in 20 minutes! Not so. Yes, perhaps you will spend less time figuring out your compositions and hiding lights behind furniture but there are still challenges.
1) Beige, beige, beige
Yes, most new construction homes in Atlanta have beige paint on their walls. Many have beige tile, beige counter tops and beige rug. Beige! I’m not against beige, neutral works great as a starting pallet for a new home buyer. For a photographer it can be a nightmare. Everything seems to be a blur so you have to work carefully and light the rooms just right to create some contrast.
2) No place to hide your flash
Sure, you can try your best HDR technique but I try to go further. Even when there isn’t much to show in the room but the room itself it doesn’t mean you have to go extremely wide with your lens. Zooming in just a little gives me extra room along the walls to place my remote lights. Also I often place a light on the floor bouncing it’s light off the wall from about 2 or 3 feet. That provides a bit more light and texture across the carpeted area of the room.
3) Closets and bathrooms
With one flash in the room and only ambient light in a closet or bathroom they will look as dark holes on the photo. So to create even lighting and some interest beyond the room itself I place remotely triggered lights both in the closet and bathroom. It creates character and mood.
4) Balancing flash and ambient light
Many times the rooms will not have any lamps to help you with lighting so you will have to add more power to your flashes in addition to whatever ambient light you will get. I use at least two SB-80 Nikons in one room to make the light look more even and at the same time to be able to use fast enough exposure to not blow out the windows too much.
5) Opportunity to be creative
It’s easy to be creative in a nicely staged homes, lots of compositions to play with. Empty home? Different game. Be creative with your kitchen shots, use all the lights you have to light up the cabinets, to create depth in your photos. Kitchens and baths sell, remember? Help your Realtor sell that home! Take good exterior shots, see if there’s anything interesting in the neighborhood. Offer a short video tour.
Practice and get these things under control and you will produce good real estate photography even when you are shooting empty homes.