Photographing Luxury Homes

Courtney Dunn
January 19, 2023

While we love every home we photograph, there’s a certain type that stands out above the rest. Luxury homes make incredible photos and are exciting to shoot, but they come with their own challenges. We could have bored you with a generic blog about photographing these homes and what to expect—but why would we when one of our own franchisees is an expert in the area? Darren Clayworth of Auckland North Shore has made a name for himself with his luxury home portfolio—so we decided to sit down with him this month and ask about his first-hand experience. From challenges to overcome to industry tips and tricks, Darren’s made sure to cover it all.

Q&A with Darren Clayworth

What was your first experience photographing a luxury home?

I am lucky that my local territory contains a wide range of houses, from affordable to very high end. Early on I treated all homes very similarly, but I made a conscious decision a couple of years ago to focus on the luxury/architectural space. I made a post on my local Facebook group offering a free shoot for someone with a high end, unique property—a local architect/designer responded and a shoot was planned. The designer had shared some photos that she took of her house, so I knew that the house was very high end. To prepare I studied a number of architectural publications and magazines and realised I needed to shoot very differently. It wasn’t about the size of the room, it was the space and the feeling. The property had a very nice morning feel, so a scouting visit was planned and the various photos were scheduled for a golden hour shoot. In the end the shoot was good, not great, but the hero photo and some internal photos did wind up in a home magazine so I was happy about that. 

What has been your most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience would have to be the time I turned up at a property to find my local competition packing up after finishing shooting the house. After some confusing conversations, I found out the house was signed to two different agencies and they would be competing to see who could get the best result. I was very happy with this opportunity and set out to make sure my shoot would come out on top. The end result was that my customer’s listing received consistently 20% more page views, which resulted in more enquiries for my customer. Additionally, I sold licensed images to the architect and louvre installer, which paid more than the original shoot!

Do you approach photographing these types of homes in a certain way?

My general approach to photographing a luxury home is to slow down and make a plan. The light for high end homes is very important so it’s important to understand where it will be at various times of the day to capture each room at its best. This may mean planning days or (in the case of NZ weather) weeks ahead of time. I feel it’s important to get unique compositions that the competition doesn’t—or can’t—deliver. This means utilising every tool I have at the appropriate time under the appropriate budget. I rely on tilt shift lenses for my unique compositions, polarisation to remove excessive glare from surfaces, and large flashes to help bring out the true colours. My twilight technique involves a walkaround of the property shooting handheld, I then mark the photos that look great and then rely on my camera light meter to tell me the true start of twilight time. In regards to inspiration, I'd like to credit all the fantastic RPP photographers out there. They take amazing photos and I do pay attention to their work. When I see something great I find ways to use their ideas in my own shoots.

What was your most challenging experience? 

My most challenging experience shooting a luxury home was for a very nice house out in the country. I had finished conducting my pre-twilight walkaround and found some amazing shots around the pool and outdoor area. I lined up my camera waiting for the ideal time to shoot, but—about a minute before I was about to begin—the glass balustrade surrounding the pool began to fog up majorly, which cut off the view and the house. The pool shots were a write off!  So I came back the next day to get the remaining pool shots and decided to grab those shots earlier than normal, which was lucky in the end as the pool glass fogged up again!

What makes a luxury home different?

Luxury homes have great attention to detail in many areas. Often the kitchens and bathrooms are amazing, there may be grand spaces with very accented lighting, and the main face of the building can look very impressive. For luxury homes out in the countryside, often a lot of thought has gone into the houses orientation in relation to the landscape and lighting which makes it very important to figure out the best time to shoot it.

When is the best time to photograph a luxury home?

Every home is different and deciding what is best depends on who you're shooting for and what the final image is trying to say. When shooting for architects I find partially cloudy days make interiors a lot easier to shoot, but this can make for difficult challenges when they want sunny pool shots also. In general, a nice sunny day is very useful so I can keep the sky natural. Also, understanding the direction of the sun for the early morning/late afternoon shoots can be very important if you're going for a golden hour type shoot.

What is your favourite thing about photographing luxury homes?

There are many things I love about shooting luxury homes, they are fantastic to experience and can produce some great portfolio images. But I think the best thing is that customers often seek me out specifically for luxury property work. It's a great ego boost when customers say my work is the best they have seen because of all the detail that goes into each image.

As you can see, photographing luxury homes is a challenging yet rewarding experience—and one where you need an expert like Darren! Fortunately for us (and for you), we have a whole network of skilled franchisees across Australia and New Zealand ready to take on the job. If you’re in the process of selling a luxury home, make sure you get in touch with us today—we’ll give your home the attention it needs.