Marketing Academy
Real Estate Marketing
Real estate photography glossary

Real estate photography glossary

12 min read
Real estate photography glossary

Have you ever watched a real estate photography tutorial or read an article and felt disappointed because there was so much technical jargon you gave up after a few minutes? We come to your rescue with a brand new basic real estate photography glossary, so you will no longer be in the dark.

Photography, in a broad sense, encompasses a wide range of subjects, styles, and purposes. Real estate photography shares common ground with other types as the rules regarding composition, camera settings, and technical knowledge are the same, but it narrows the focus to capturing properties, homes, or commercial spaces for marketing and sales purposes. The primary goal is to document a property accurately and present it in the best possible way. One of the elements of good photography is technical correctness: the image must be sharp, clear, and bright enough, with the right colors and contrast. To achieve that, you need to understand your camera (mobile phone) settings and experiment with different parameters of the below elements.

Real estate photography common terms in a nutshell


Definition: The opening in the lens through which light passes.

Explanation: Think of it like the pupil of your eye. A larger aperture (smaller f-number) lets in more light, while a smaller aperture (larger f-number) lets in less light.

Shutter speed:

Definition: Shutter speed controls how long the camera’s shutter stays open when taking a photo. 

Explanation: It controls the motion blur in a photo. Faster shutter speeds freeze action, while slower speeds create a sense of motion.

Using different shutter speeds controls the level of light entering the camera, allowing photographers to capture the perfect exposure for each shot. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds and usually ranges from 1/60 to 1/2000 or higher, depending on your camera type. Knowing which shutter speed is best will help you take sharp images without blur or motion distortion. For example:

  • A fast speed helps to freeze the movement of some objects.
  • A slow shutter allows more light to enter the sensor, blurring any movement captured in an image
  • If you want blurred backgrounds with crisp foregrounds or vice versa, it all depends on selecting the best shutter speed.

You can change the shutter speed on your camera by doing the following:

  • Switch your camera settings from Auto Mode to Manual or Shutter Priority Mode.
  • Next, use the button or dial located on the top of your camera to adjust the exposure settings.
  • Then, choose the ‘T’ mode, which stands for time value, focusing on the speed values in seconds.

Keep in mind that lower speeds will work better if using a tripod. If not, you’ll likely need higher shutter speeds to prevent blurring.

The ultimate 2024 guide to building a real estate website
Get your FREE copy now!


Definition: The sensitivity of the camera sensor to light.

Explanation: Higher ISO values are used in low-light situations, but they can introduce more digital noise. Lower ISO values are used in bright conditions for cleaner images. 


Definition: The amount of light that reaches the camera sensor.

Explanation: Getting the right exposure involves balancing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve a well-lit photo.

Depth of field:

Definition: The range of distance in a photo that appears sharp.

Explanation: A shallow depth of field (low f-number) blurs the background, emphasizing the subject. A deep depth of field (high f-number) keeps more in focus.

White balance:

Definition: Adjusting the colors in a photo to appear more natural.

Explanation: Different light sources (sunlight, incandescent bulbs) have different color temperatures. White balance helps correct these color shifts. This is measured in Kelvin degrees.

For example, light on a sunny day at noon measures about 5500 Kelvin degrees, while light from a desk lamp typically measures around 2700 to 3000 degrees.  At these temperatures, the natural light will look white, and the desk lamp will look yellow.


Definition: The arrangement of elements in a photo.

Explanation: Consider framing, rule of thirds, leading lines, and other techniques to create visually appealing and balanced images.

Rules of composition

Composition in photography refers to the arrangement and organization of visual elements within the frame of a photograph. It involves making intentional decisions about how to present the subject and other elements in order to create a visually appealing and impactful image. Good composition can significantly enhance the overall quality and storytelling ability of a photograph. Key aspects of composition in photography include:

  • Rule of thirds: Divide the frame into a 3x3 grid and position key elements along these lines or at their intersections. Most smartphones and digital cameras allow you to turn on this grid so you can see the lines on the screen while shooting. 

Example: A landscape photo with the horizon placed along the lower horizontal line.

  • Leading lines: Use lines or shapes within the photo to guide the viewer's eyes toward the main subject.

Example: A pathway leading toward a distant mountain.

  • Symmetry and patterns: Capture scenes with symmetrical elements or repetitive patterns. 

Example: A reflection in water creates a perfectly symmetrical image.

  • Frames: Use natural elements or architectural features to frame the main subject. 

Example: Photographing through an archway or between tree branches.

  • Foreground, middle ground, background: create depth by including elements in the foreground, middle ground, and background. 

Example: A close-up flower (foreground), a person walking (middle ground), and a distant mountain (background).

  • Perspective and depth: Experiment with different angles and viewpoints to add depth and interest. 

Example: Shooting upward to capture a tall building against the sky.

  • Fill the frame: Zoom in or move closer to the subject to emphasize details. 

Example: A tight shot of a flower, showing its intricate details.

  • Rule of odds: Odd numbers of elements in a photo can be more visually appealing than even numbers. 

Example: Three trees in a landscape photo.

  • Negative space: leave empty or negative space around the main subject to draw attention to it. 

Example: A lone bird in a vast sky.

  • Golden ratio: use the golden ratio (approximately 1.618) for more balanced compositions. 

Example: A seashell spiraling in a pattern following the golden ratio.

Effective composition helps convey the message or story, directs the viewer's attention, and creates a sense of visual harmony. It is a skill that you can develop over time through practice, experimentation, and a deep understanding of visual principles. While these guidelines can be useful, breaking them creatively can also lead to unique and compelling compositions.


Definition: A file format that stores unprocessed data from the camera sensor.

Explanation: Shooting in RAW allows for more flexibility in post-processing, preserving more details and providing greater control over the final image. 


Definition: The aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in a photo.

Explanation: Achieved through a shallow depth of field (f1.8-3.5), bokeh creates a pleasing blur in the background, often seen in portraits.


Definition: The glass or optical element mounted on the camera.

Explanation: Different lenses have various focal lengths and purposes. Wide-angle lenses capture more in the frame, while telephoto lenses bring distant subjects closer. Often seen in photographs with atmospheric lighting or when focusing on a garden feature and blurring the neighbor's property at the same time.

Camera Settings and Preselected Programs (M, S, A, etc.)

Auto modes – mean that you can leave some shots to the camera’s ‘brain.’ Auto modes in cameras refer to settings and features that automate various aspects of photography, allowing even novice photographers to capture images without extensive knowledge of camera settings. These modes are designed to simplify the photographic process. Common auto modes you might use in real estate photography include: 

  • Auto Mode (A or Auto): In this mode, the camera takes full control over exposure settings, making it ideal for beginners or those who want a "point-and-shoot" experience.
  • Program Mode (P): It is similar to Auto mode, but it allows the photographer to adjust some settings like exposure, ISO, and white balance while still maintaining automatic control over shutter speed and aperture.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A): In this mode, you can set the desired aperture (f-stop), and the camera adjusts the shutter speed accordingly to achieve proper exposure. It's useful when you want to control depth of field (blurry background or sharp focus) while letting the camera handle other settings.

Manual shooting modes – if you’re interested in learning about photography, a camera with a manual shooting mode is essential. Also, some real estate shots require manual mode only. In manual mode, you have complete control over all exposure settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, allowing precise adjustments to achieve the desired creative effects.


Definition: it is a technique where a series of photos are taken at different exposure settings for the same subject or scene. These multiple shots typically include one photo at the "correct" or metered exposure, along with others that are intentionally underexposed (dark) and overexposed (bright). 

HDR photography

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is a common technique used by real estate photographers that merges several images of the same shot taken at different exposures to create a final image with an overall correct exposure. It allows you to record details from contrasting scenes, such as a dark interior with bright light shining in from a window.

To create an HDR photo, you need to use a tripod.  Once your camera is locked into position on a tripod, you need to take at least three shots at different exposures.  The framing needs to be exactly the same - only the exposure will change. You will need to properly expose one photo for highlights, one for the mid-tones, and one for the shadows.  Shooting more than three images can help get even better results because you will capture more of the entire dynamic range. Once you have your photos, you must combine them into a single image in post-processing. There are some dedicated HDR programs, but another great option is Photoshop, which also has an HDR feature. Launch Photoshop, go to the menu File>Automate>Merge to HDR Pro to use it. Then, select the files, and Photoshop will merge them into a single HDR photo.  The results can be fine-tuned using the HDR interface sliders.

Using this technique can create images that look unnatural or fake.  Use a light hand or just pick specific images that will benefit from this technique to avoid a photo that looks nothing like the space you photograph.

Home/property staging

Definition: Home staging involves preparing a property for sale/rent by enhancing its visual appeal. The goal is to make the property more attractive to potential clients, showcasing its best features and allowing them to envision themselves living in the space. This may include decluttering, rearranging furniture, and adding decor to create a welcoming and appealing environment. It is recommended to do property staging before taking photos - the work will be easier and faster, and the effects much more impressive. 

Virtual staging

Definition: Virtual staging is the process of digitally enhancing or altering images of a property to showcase its potential. Virtual staging is done using computer software instead of physically arranging furniture and decor. It allows real estate professionals to present a variety of styles and layouts without the cost and effort of physically staging a property. Virtual staging is often used in online listings to attract buyers.

360-Degree Photography

Definition: 360-degree photography involves capturing an entire scene in a single image, allowing viewers to see all directions — up, down, and around. This immersive technology is often used in real estate to provide virtual tours or panoramic views of properties. It enables potential buyers to explore a space as if they were physically present, enhancing the online viewing experience.


Mastering the terminology of real estate photography is a key step toward becoming proficient and successful in the field. As you delve into the world of real estate photography, continuous learning, and practical application will refine your skills and contribute to your ability to capture the essence of properties effectively. Stay inspired, keep practicing, and explore the diverse facets of this dynamic and visually engaging field. If you have further inquiries or need more information, feel free to reach out. Happy shooting! 

Take your real estate website to the next level with Placester!

Discover new opportunities and save thousands of dollars every year.

Call us at 800-728-8391 for more details or simply leave your phone number, and we’ll reach out to you!