Best Practices & Pro Tips for Shooting Luxury Real Estate Photography

Three Zillow® Showcase Photographers Share Their Experiences, Best Practices & Pro Tips for Shooting Luxury Real Estate Photography

The camera angles and settings were perfect and the home was glowing with soft, diffused light when L.A.-based Zillow Showcase photographer Ashley Blackmer was just about to snap the final twilight imagery to wrap a five-hour shoot on a multi-story luxury property in Manhattan Beach, CA. 

But then the auto-programmed lights inside the home suddenly shut off, throwing her twilight shoot into jeopardy. With time running out, Blackmer immediately grabbed her camera, ran back into the house, turned on all the lights, ran back outside, and snapped the photograph. 

“I had to run back into the house, turn on all the lights, run back out, snap a photo, run back in, turn the lights on, run back out and take another angle and repeat,” Blackmer recalls with a laugh. 

While the above scenario doesn’t happen often, luxury real estate photographers must be ready to navigate everything — including the unforeseen and unexpected – while demonstrating flawless customer service, expertise and patience.

Here, Blackmer, along with fellow Showcase photographers, Ronnie Walker of Long Island, NY, and Luke Regner of Milwaukee, WI, share their coast-to-coast experiences and best practices to help you capture the best luxury listings possible for your clients.  


10 Best Practices for Capturing Luxury Real Estate Photography 


Provide an Experience.

Luxury real estate listings are more than just about individual photographs – they’re about providing a complete experience with next-level customer service, the willingness to always flex with the customer’s needs and the ability to make the seller smile. 

Walker finds one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is winning over agents’ trust. He recalls a shoot when he photographed a 15,000 square-foot house near Greenwich, CT, for an agent, who was nervous to use a new photographer after switching from someone she had used for many years. But after viewing Walker’s shots in the Showcase listing, featuring a virtual tour, interactive floor plan and scrolling carousel, “she was very happy with the results,” he says. “Once they see the results they’re like, ‘this is amazing.’” 

Effective Communicators.

Luxury photographers need to be excellent communicators with the ability to precisely communicate their expert opinion and explain why they’re photographing a home in a certain way. 

Walker, who photographs luxury homes on Long Island and Upstate New York, likes to share the screen on his camera or drone with agents and sellers to get their opinion on a certain angle. 

“Even the agents get excited when they see Long Island Sound from the drone view,” Walker says.

Go Above & Beyond.

Showcase photographers often find themselves pitching in to help prepare a home for photography, especially when time is scarce. Luke Regner has helped many of his Midwestern agent clients move cars out of driveways to shoot the exterior of a home while they were still working on the interior setup. He has held the ladder for an agent while she painted a home’s window shutters, hauled boxes into garages and moved the garbage to dumpsters when needed. 

“You’re representing the agent in front of their client, so the more we can impress the seller, the better the agent looks,” says Regner. 

All About the Details.

It’s the closeup shots that show the details, like an expensive chandelier in a foyer, chef-grade appliances in a kitchen, an infinity pool with a sweeping vista, a grand hall, or an ornate staircase, that can make a listing look luxurious. While real estate photographers must shoot both conventional and luxury listings with a wide angle to capture the entire space, it’s these details that can help illustrate the home’s luxury appeal. 

Because luxury listings involve a unique clientele who expects you to fully understand their needs and product, it’s helpful for luxury photographers to possess some knowledge of building materials, high-end appliances and floor plans.

Requires an Artistic Eye.

Not only do closeup luxury shots necessitate a different lens on the camera; they also call for a next level of creative artistry from the photographer to know what and how to capture that content with the best composition and camera settings, says Blackmer. 

“Real estate photography can be taught but, for artistic luxury photos, you have to have an eye for it. The same thing goes for vidoegraphy, which is huge with luxury photography, especially here in Los Angeles,” she says.

In the past, Walker has zoomed in on cool focal points in a home, such as an indoor bar with guitars autographed by a popular recording artist, a pool table with a light fixture in the background, a two-story pool house, and an outdoor bar with the windows opened wide to give the appearance of a luxury resort, he says. 

Regner likes to incorporate photographs that help create a vignette and tell a story. “So instead of a room, it’s a scene with maybe a bookshelf and a chair,” he says. “It’s more editorial in feel. Those types of shots are much harder to capture and require more time.” 

Be the Expert.

Luxury sellers and agents rely on the photographer to expertly guide them in what imagery will best showcase the home.

Agents can be picky and have high standards for what they want,” says Blackmer. “You have to listen and do what they’re asking, but you are also the professional, and that’s something we photographers need to remember. We know the best angles and what to capture so we want the client to be heard, but we also can’t forget to do what we do best.”

Walker agrees, recalling a time when an agent was highly specific in which angles she wanted him to shoot. “She loved the fact that I would listen to her as well,” he says. “Yes, we’re the experts, but it’s also the agent’s listing, so you want to work with them. If they want that angle, we’ll shoot it.” 

Offer the Total Package.

Luxury photography entails a wide range of media, including virtual tours, interactive floor plans, social media video, drone, twilight and still shots. With Zillow Showcase and Listing Media Services, agents can order all of this media at the same time and avoid having to hire a separate drone photographer or videographer. The media is designed to work together and provide an elevated, media-forward experience for buyers and sellers. 

I think that’s really the biggest difference with Showcase – what it looks like once everything has been posted,” says Blackmer. “There’s movement in each of the photos, which gives this luxurious feel to a listing versus one where the photos have been slapped together on a website.” 

The range of media required for a luxury listing all require extra time and attention to detail compared to conventional real estate photography. “Luxury clients love their video and twilight shots – not just virtual twilight but real twilight, which doesn’t necessarily follow the same settings for a regular shoot,” says Blackmer. “You have to know how to make your camera capture the quick-moving light at dusk and know exactly where you’re going to stand, what your shot is and keep moving because you might have only a 10-minute window to capture the front and the back of the house, which for luxury listings can be thousands of square feet.”

Think on Your Feet.

When photographing luxury homes, there’s much you have to plan on the spot. 

“We have to create that video when we show up. We don’t know what the house looks like before we show up, so it’s a lot of quick thinking,” says Blackmer. “You need to be able to identify what is making this a luxury listing and think, ‘How do I capture that and how can I put it together to make it visually appealing and tell a story?’” 

Be Patient & Flexible.

The higher price points and additional time required of luxury properties often bring added pressure to the photographer. Some clients start preparing a luxury home six months in advance of a shoot, spending huge sums in staging alone. Therefore, luxury homes require the photographer to possess a great deal of patience and understanding of how much work it takes to prepare a home, says Regner, who once drove nearly two hours from downtown Milwaukee in a downpour to shoot a home outside of town. 

Hand in hand with patience comes the willingness to remain flexible, even when time is scarce. The photographer may have rearranged their day to accommodate a shoot, only to discover the seller canceled at the last minute. But luxury clients also typically have tight schedules, requiring a next-level flexibility from agents and photographers. 

Be Tactful & Sensitive.

As with all real estate photography, there can be a great deal of emotion at play with the home seller and their family. Death, divorce and downsizing are all motivating factors for a homeowner to sell. When a seller has raised their family in a home and now finds it’s time to part ways with the property, it can be tough psychologically. Therefore, it’s imperative that the luxury real estate photographer behaves in a tactful and sensitive manner, says Regner.  

“Many people are moving under not the best circumstances. People are starting new families and have a kid on the way, or the sellers may be elderly and moving into a condo. Or there may be a divorce or a death in the family. You have to be delicate. Imagine having your first child born in a house, then the kids move across the country and you’re moving into a condo or assisted living. That can be crazy emotional for these people, so you have to always keep that in mind and read the room. Is it a quick flip, or do you need to be a little more gentle?”

Luxury agents and sellers don’t want to feel rushed by their real estate photographer, especially when they’re selling what is often the biggest purchase of their lives.

Listing Media Services and Zillow Showcase can help busy luxury real estate agents streamline their shoots by providing an easy, fast and reliable way to book a wide range of real estate photography media. Click here to learn more about Listing Media Services’ total package of real estate photography and media and Zillow Showcase, an elevated, media-forward listing, including a virtual tour, interactive floor plan and extras such as drone photography and videography, amenity imagery and social media video.  

The statements, opinions, and thoughts provided above reflect individual accounts. These individual accounts reflect an individual’s experience and advice, which is unique and outcomes and experiences may vary per individual. Neither ShowingTime+ or Zillow shall be liable for any and all damages attributed to the use of this information. Ashley Blackmer, Ronnie Walker, Photographer, and Luke Regner are ShowingTime+ photographers. 

A real estate agent looking at a phone and smiling, pleased with the property photos ShowingTime+ provided for her listing.

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