What’s the Difference Between Real Estate & Architecture Photography?

May 28, 2019

What’s the Difference Between Real Estate & Architecture Photography?

Do you have a love of shooting architecture? Are you looking to learn more about shooting buildings and the landscapes surrounding structures buildings? Would you love to build a photography business around your love of these art forms?

We have two great career paths that we think may be perfect for you, and detailed below are the differences between the two most popular types of commercial architecture photography. Both offer a unique skill set and offer different lifestyle choices.

Real Estate Photography vs. Architectural Photography - Which is best for you?

At first glance, real estate photography and commercial architecture photography are similar. But they are incredibly different in the types of clients, goals, business and workflow practices. Let's dive in.

Behind the Scenes of Commercial Architecture Photography Tutorial

For PRO EDU's Commercial Architecture Tutorial, we specifically sought out a large architectural firm to help in our hunt for a unique building. Fortunately, we found a global company right down the street from our studios in St. Louis. HOK - a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, welcomed Tony Roslund and our team into the most recent space they designed, and immediately we knew it was the right fit.

The brand new building at 4220 Duncan Avenue is Wexford’s newest building in the Cortex Innovation Community is a 182,000 square foot office and lab space opened in April 2018 and is on the cutting edge of technology and the progressive way that people are working.

Wexford Office Building Meeting Nook Photograph


It’s purposefully designed to encompass multiple companies working in the same place and features a public kitchen, small breakout rooms, smaller co-working spaces, and private offices. It’s equipped with iPad technology to make reservations for reserving spaces along with a cafe and ping pong tables. All of this innovation creates vibrant economic ecosystems that act as a magnet for talent, innovation and economic growth.


Commercial Architecture Photography Clientele


When shooting commercial architecture photography, the clients are architects, building managers, and companies.

Commercial Architecture Photo of Green Room


To keep these clients happy, Tony’s goal was to capture these intriguing elements in their true form, while simultaneously conveying a sense of work getting done. To do this, he intentionally included people, movement, flow, and activity. In his tutorial, he offers suggestions on how to find these ‘stand-in’s and/or when model releases are necessary.


By finding balance in very large spaces as well as intimate private spaces, the best commercial architecture photographers are able to make every photo look friendly and approachable.

Commercial Architecture Photography Business and Workflow Practices


When an architect, facilities manager, or company decides to invest in professional photography or videography of their building, the images are typically desired to be used long-term and will end up in portfolios and used as advertisements.

Commercial Photography of Orange Conference Room


In the Commercial Architecture tutorial, we slow down and shadow Tony as he dives into every tiny detail behind each image. The heavy post production work is a meticulous and detailed process that perfects an evergreen representation of an architects work.
In an architecture shoot, you have much more time, sometimes up to a full day to create just a handful of perfect images.


Since a lot of work is done on set, it’s common for commercial architecture photographers to contract out the retouching to someone else. In this case, Barry stands in and helps Tony out with the retouching on the tutorial.


Behind the Scenes of Real Estate Photography Tutorial


In contrast, our team of photographers went into the filming and production of the Real Estate Photography Tutorial with a completely different approach when seeking out a building. Obviously, this time our sights were set on a residential home. But, we wanted to show diversity so that the tutorial was relatable to a wide variety of audience.


We chose a single family, 5 bedroom 2.5 bath home in St. Louis that was built in 1908. The age of the house meant that it had plenty of small rooms like the powder room, parlor and the bathroom - giving Barry a run for his money to get great shots.

Real Estate Photo of White Parlor


However, the home also recently had a gut rehab and now featured today’s trends like a connected living room, family room and kitchen. We knew this was important to capture since the majority of homebuyers are seeking this open concept, and photographers are challenged to capture that element in a true to life way with a wide-angle lens.


Real Estate Photography Clientele

Real estate images are used for MLS and licensed to real estate agents and/or homeowners with the goal, of course, being to sell the home. Decluttering and flow are two critical concepts that clients look for.


Barry said, “You want the final delivery to reflect a family of images that look like they belong together. One of the biggest mistakes I see with real estate photography is delivering photos where one room has a blue cast and another room looks all orange. Many people aren’t color correcting the right way in camera, they’re trying to fix it in post - which can be done, but it is usually skipped or done really poorly. In this tutorial I show you how to save time by doing it the right way the first time.”

Front of House


When real estate photography is done right, your clients will be able to quickly sell homes to homebuyers because you’ve done a great job decluttering and creating flow so people can easily visualize the architectural features that are staying, such as rustic fireplaces, unique windows, elegant door frames, or modern fixtures. Homebuyers are able to vividly imagine themselves bringing in their own furniture and living in that space with the aid of your imagery.

Real Estate Photography Business and Workflow Practices

On the business side, real estate photography is all about efficiency. Of course you have to create great images, but you can't spend an eternity massaging them to perfection if you want to be profitable. The images are used to sell a home and once the home sells, the images are essentially dead. Meanwhile, another hundred homes went on the market which creates a lot of opportunity in this market.


Real estate photography is an ideal lifestyle choice if you want to make great money without sacrificing most nights or weekends. When Barry was in his prime, he would spend roughly 60 minutes shooting and 60 minutes retouching an average home. He would be able to shoot three homes per weekday (taking breaks to hit the gym, drink a smoothie and pick his daughter up from school) which totalled 15 homes per week charging a flat rate of $200/home. By earning $3,000/week he was able to make a six figure income without monopolizing family or personal time.


With practice, Barry was able to develop a skill set that allowed him to work efficiently on site to help eliminate glare, control ambient light sources, and minimize color contamination -- this made cleanup in post quick and easy so he could deliver high quality, true to life images for his clients the next business day.

The cost associated with real estate photography is modest and pricing generally ranges between $50-$300 per home. Maximizing your output and profits is the number one skill a photographer must have in order to be successful.

Real Estate Photography - Kitchen


In Barry’s market, most agents wanted homes to be shot with all the lights on. This can be a challenge for many photographers because it contaminates the ambient and makes it difficult to get clean colors and accurate white balance. Using a combination of flash and selecting the appropriate baseline shutter speed for the ambient, it’s easy to minimize contamination by balancing the different light sources. This helps to create a uniform look and continuity across a family of images. Keep in mind, shooting homes with the lights on or off can differ from market to market and it’s always best to find out what your client prefers.


Real Estate photos generally have a very short shelf life. Most times they live only on the web in low resolution and “die” when a listing sells or expires. Barry’s standard license for Real Estate photos was for two years and it allowed usage for all marketing associated with the sale of the property including syndication.


Real Estate Photography can be done using minimal gear which can make it a great supplemental genre for photographers that are already shooting other types of photography or even for Realtors who want to shoot their own listings.

Furthermore, Barry uses the many of the same fundamentals shared in the Real Estate Photography tutorial in his current day-to-day work for architects, kitchen and bath companies, builders, and interior designers. The sky’s the limit once you get this stuff nailed down.


Which Tutorial is Best for You?

Because of the vast differences between Real Estate Photography and Commercial Architecture Photography, Barry MacKenzie and Tony Roslund have totally different shooting styles -- Tony is slow and methodical, and uses mostly natural light, whereas Barry tends to work much faster in his real estate work and relies heavily on flash.

Besides the clientele and workflow, here are three other noticeable differences:

  1. BUDGET: It’s not uncommon for commercial architecture budgets to range from $3-$5K over even upwards of $10K. These photos are often being commissioned by multi-million dollar firms with deep pockets for hiring photographers. In contrast, Real Estate photographers are being hired by Realtors who have a limited budget for photography. Budgets for RE photography can range from $50-$500 depending on the specific market and the experience of the photographer.
  2. TIME SPENT: Commercial architecture photography is slow and meticulous — during a full day shoot only 8-10 images will be captured. Most shoots will include an advance site visit and/or scout to build a shot list, sometimes the site will need to be cleaned and propped, talent will have to be hired, etc. The post production for Commercial Architecture Photography is equally meticulous and will usually include compositing, color work, retouching, etc. At the other end of the spectrum is Real Estate Photography. Real Estate Photographers are tasked with creating 15-25 images in very short amount of time — usually within 60-90 minutes. The homes are shot “as is” and photographers go in “blind” without having seen the property in advance. Post production is minimal.
  3. USAGE: The usage for Commercial Architecture images and images shot a Real Estate are vastly different. When an architect receives an RFP they must submit photographs of like-kind projects that have been recently completed. In most cases, if they can’t provide photographs of current like-kind work they can’t even bid on a project. These photos are often licensed for an extended period of time and are used both internally and for advertising. In comparison, Real Estate photos are only used for a very short period of time and they generally “die” when a listing is sold or pulled from the market. With that said, there are opportunities to re-license these photos to stagers, interior designers or builders.

Overall, both tutorials are valuable for anyone shooting real estate or architecture photographs.

There are some parallels and a few of the techniques or principles complement each other. But, there are enough differences to justify learning two different points of view from a business perspective.

You really can’t go wrong. Pick one up today!




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