In this post I’m going to show you what you need to know to shoot professional real estate videos including the gear you’ll need, the camera settings to use, and techniques on how to get great shots.
So I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the demand for real estate video has been soaring lately. I probably did close to 10 times the amount of videos last year than I did the year before and that number is only going up this year. I firmly believe that video is going to be a huge part of the real estate photography industry in the coming years and we all need to be ready to meet that demand head on. I decided to create this post because I’ve seen a lot of posts in forums from real estate photographers saying things like “my client wants a video but I’ve never done one before, does anyone have advice?” I’ve done a lot of real estate videos by this point and have really ironed out my method so I’d thought I’d share my experience with you. With the skills outlined in this video and some practice, you’ll be ready to go out and make amazing professional videos for your clients.
So the gear I use to shoot my real estate videos is pretty straight forward. To keep things simple, I’m using the same camera and lens set up that I use to do my real estate photography along with a gimbal. In my case, my setup is a Sony A7iii with the 16-35 GM lens and the gimbal I’m using is the DJI Ronin S.
So in other words, in addition to whatever camera you’re shooting on, you’ll need a wide angle lens (which you probably already have if you’re shooting real estate) and a decent gimbal. If you’re using a full frame camera, I’d definitely recommend a 16-35mm lens as anything wider than 16 for video starts getting pretty distorted on most lenses. Also, being able to zoom in to 35mm is nice as well for tighter, more detailed shots. If you’re using a crop sensor camera then I’d go with something like a 10-18mm range zoom lens.
As far as gimbals go, it really depends on your setup. I do love the Ronin S but one of the main reasons I’m using it is because of the weight of my setup. The 16-35 Sony G Master lens is considerably heavy and the Ronin S is one of the few single arm gimbals that can support my camera and lens combo sufficiently. DJI has a smaller version called the Ronin SC if you have a lighter setup and also Zhiyun Tech makes some great gimbals that I have used. Just check on the suggested weight limit on the gimbal you’re interested in before purchasing and make sure your setup is beneath that limit.
The other little piece of gear I incorporate into my setup and recommend considering is a Manfrotto quick release plate. The reason I use this is because the position of my camera is set on the gimbal and I can pre balance my gimbal at home so when I show up to the shoot I can just slap my camera on the gimbal, fire it up and I’m ready to go. I don’t want to be fiddling around with the gimbal on site trying to get it balanced in front of my client. For one, I try to take up the least amount of my clients time as possible and secondly it makes you look somewhat unprofessional in my opinion. You want to show up to a shoot prepared, ready to go and looking like you know what you are doing. By the way, I’m not going to get into how to balance a gimbal in this video because it's slightly different for every setup. Just do a YouTube search for your specific gimbal and how to balance it and hundreds of videos will pop up.
Alright, so let’s talk about camera settings. First thing we are going to want to do is make sure you turn your camera into video mode. Once your camera is in video mode we can manually set the parameters for shooting Real Estate videos.
So the first thing we are going to set is the resolution. I shoot my real estate videos in full HD 1920x1080 so I am going to set it on that. I do this for 2 reasons. The main reason being that I shoot my videos at a higher frame rate with the intention of slowing my clips down in post production. The camera I am using does not support frame rates above 30 fps in in 4K shooting. The second reason is that I think 4K is probably overkill anyway for a real estate video and the file sizes are big and can be harder to work with. If your camera supports 4K 60 fps or something like that, it’s up to you if you want to go that route.
The next thing we want to set is the frame rate. As I said, I always shoot my RE videos in a higher frame rate of either 60 or 120 fps. This allows me to convert my clips into slow motion clips later in post production and make them look very smooth. 120 fps being slower than 60 fps obviously. Most cameras these days have 60 fps in1920x1080 resolution but some may not have 120 fps. 60 will do the job just fine. I like both and bounce back and forth.
Next up is picture profile. If you’re not familiar, a picture profile basically applies a certain look to your footage. For example, some people like to use what's called a flat profile which allows for a bit more dynamic range in your image but the drawback is that it requires more time and color grading work in post production. I personally do not use a flat profile for real estate video work. I used to but found I wasn’t really getting paid enough for the time I was putting in for the post production work so whether or not you want to go that route is your call. I’m shooting Sony and I use PP1 picture profile which is a pretty standard profile requiring little correction in post and I’m pretty happy with the results.
Once we have those things taken care of we are going to set our shutter speed. So if you’re not familiar, there’s a principle in video shooting called the 180 degree shutter rule which suggests that for the most natural looking motion, you should set your shutter speed to be double what your frame rate is (or as close to double as possible). So for instance, if you're shooting in 60fps you would set your shutter to be 1/125 and if you are shooting 120 fps your shutter should be 1/250. We are not doing any crazy fast motion for real estate videos so we can bend this rule a little bit without anything looking weird. For instance, when I’m shooting indoors at 120 fps I will set my shutter to 1/125 instead of 1/250 to let a little more light in and the footage looks just fine. Once our shutter speed is set for shooting video we want to leave there and not touch it. We will be relying on our aperture and ISO for manipulating our exposure.
Ok, next up is white balance. We want to set the white balance to manual kelvin because we are going to set it manually for each shot that we do. If you use auto WB, you’re going to experience color temperature shifts in the middle of your shots like when you go from one room into another with different lighting. You want to avoid this at all costs obviously because it looks unprofessional when your shot is changing color midway through. I also set one of my custom buttons to set white balance so I can quickly access it.
Alright, now let’s talk about focus. You’re gonna want to have your camera set to manual focus for shooting these videos. When you’re shooting a house and moving through the space you’re going to have a lot of items close to the camera and far away and if you are set to autofocus, the camera is not really going to know what you want it to focus on. What you are going to end up with is focus hunting in your shots, or your shots going in and out of focus as the camera is deciding what to focus on while on the fly. Also, another helpful tip is to use focus peaking if your camera has it. Focus peaking will outline areas that are in focus in a certain color and help let you know what is in focus and what is not.
So that about sums up all the camera settings I use for shooting videos. Of course we are going to have to adjust our exposure settings from shot to shot but we will get to that in a minute. One more piece of advice regarding the settings is that I would strongly recommend saving these settings into one of the custom slots on your camera so you can just turn your dial to that slot when you're ready to shoot video. That way you’ll be ready to roll and not wasting time remembering and dialing in all these settings on site.
So now that our camera settings are taking of and our gimbal is balanced and ready to go, let's talk about the shooting process. So as I said earlier, I pre balance my gimbal at home and throw it in my bag and because I have this quick release plate in a fixed position I can just throw my camera on when I get to a shoot and it's ready to roll. If something got a little out of whack while it was in my bag I can make any micro adjustments on site but I’m not spending 20 minutes rebalancing the whole gimbal.
Speaking of the gimbal, let’s talk about a few things regarding that first. If you’ve used a gimbal before then you know it isn’t magic. You can’t just throw a camera on it and start walking and expect to get perfect footage. You need to master what’s called the “ninja walk” which is basically keeping your knees bent as you walk and moving your feet forward in such a way to minimize any up and down movements. We are shooting these clips to be slow motion and slowing them down will make them look significantly smoother so that will definitely help as well. Also, I’m using the gimbal on full follow mode so that it follows my movements whichever way i’m moving it.
So as a general rule of thumb, I find that shorter shots work best. The longer the shot you try to attempt the greater your chances are to have more imperfections in it. Also, more complex movements run a higher risk for flaws as well. I’m definitely not saying to not try those shots but I find keeping your shots fairly simple and straightforward works best. After all, we want our edited video to be exciting and to the point so these clips will only be living on screen for just a few seconds in the end anyway. You don’t need to be trying to walk around with the gimbal trying to capture the whole house in 1 shot.
So the first thing I do before I shoot a room is stand near the entrance and get my settings straight. First being the exposure. Because of the limited amount of available light when you’re shooting indoors your aperture is going to be probably wide open or close to it so 95% of the time I’m solely using iso to adjust my exposure. Once I get that where I want it I then want to press my custom button I have programmed to set my white balance. I do this by eye by adjusting it until the colors on my screen look as close as possible to what I am seeing with my naked eye. As far as focal length, I’m using a 16-35mm lens on a full frame camera and most of my shots are being shot at 16 except for a few here and there. We’ll get into that shortly. Finally, we need to set our focus point. I usually focus on the back wall of the room or something across the room at a distance. Now we are ready to take our shot.
It’s key to have a variety of different shots in your arsenal so that the viewer doesn’t get bored watching your video. So for instance, if all your shots are just walking forward into a room, one after another for the whole video that would be really boring. I have a few favorites that I usually incorporate into my videos and I will outline those now:
First is the forward walking shot as I just mentioned. This basic shot is definitely the most frequent one that I use.
Second is the reverse walking shot.
Third is a sweep or horizontal moving shot.
Next are pan and tilt shots in which I’m executing by pressing the joystick on the gimbal up, down, left or right. This takes a little practice and finesse to be gentle enough on the stick to get a consistently smooth movement.
And finally we have the dolly or slider mimic shots that I use to capture details. These are the shots I’m typically zoomed all the way in on my lens to 35mm for to achieve as much bokeh and parallax effect as possible. My feet are staying put and I’m simply moving the gimbal parallel to my subject, keeping the gimbal as even and level as possible.
So those are pretty much the basic shots that I perform for each shoot. Of course I throw some different ones in when the situation presents itself. I just go room by room executing a nice mix of these shots so I know that I’ll have what I need to create an awesome video once I get to the editing process. I always aim to capture each room in a wide shot and then if there are any important features or details present then I focus in on them with a few additional shots. Definitely don’t be afraid to get creative and try different shots! As I said, it’s key to have diversity in your shots to keep the viewer intrigued and interested.
Well guys, that concludes my method for shooting professional real estate videos. I really hope this post gave you a clear view of how this process is done but If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them down below and I will be happy to answer them.