Getting that Clean Kitchen Look in Real Estate Photography

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If you want a clean kitchen in your real estate photos, there are several things that can be done.

Before the Shoot

With bedrooms, you want a calm, cozy look. A spinning ceiling fan, cat hair like islands on the blue duvet, and jeans posed on the floor as if waiting for the fireman all add to extra activity, add to excess movement in a room meant for sleep, which is usually a calm activity unless you sleepwalk on the regular. The point here is that the way a room is prepared, with furniture and objects, determines how people view it.

So, let’s look at kitchens. What is desirable in a kitchen? Cleanliness. It needs to be clean. I do not want to see last weeks tomato soup dribbles on the stove top or a greasy teapot nestled between a box of Cheerios and an empty milk carton. If those objects are there in a real estate photo, they become the only things visible in the photo. This is not Where’s Waldo. No matter how small the object, if it does not fit, it will become the primary subject of the photo.

Real estate photographers sometimes participate in a secret activity that might just become harder with the onset of 360-degree cameras. Picture the real estate photographer with their camera and tripod in the kitchen. From a finished kitchen photo, it might look like they got into a corner, set up the lens, and took the shot.

But, what remains unseen in the photo is that, just behind the photographer, and sometimes underneath the tripod itself, there exists a tempory pile of objects from around the kitchen. There is a stack of kids artwork, receipts, a magnetic calculator, and an oddly-large quantity of magnets from Connecticut-based takeout pizza restaurants. There is an extension cord with Christmas lights still attached. There are several mugs. A paper towel roll. An empty Swiffer Wet Jet container. There is that plastic bag stuffed full of plastic bags. A loose pair of scissors. A blender. A couple of lost lids from canned beans. A sponge. Some nails. And a koozie. It is all there on the floor just beyond the frame of the shot. And, it all moves when the photographer sets up the second shot on the other side of the kitchen.

Let’s take the loose scissors as an example. Say, in a kitchen photo on an MLS listing, there are a pair of scissors loitering on the counter. The viewer immediately goes from thinking, “Oh, wow, what a nice, clean kitchen,” to, “Oh, look, a pair of scissors on the counter.”

Objects that do not fit are a distraction.

It is the job of the photographer to send a preparation list to the client before the shoot. Without a list, the photographer may end up straddling an old microwave while taking the photo.

After the Shoot

1. Raise exposure and shadows

Show the nooks and crannies of a kitchen. Areas left in shadow tend to look dirty. On one end you have a candle-lit booth in a windowless restaurant that gets you to wonder what is hiding underneath the sticky table and on the other is the hospital operating room, the essence of sanitation with bright-white round lights, crisp paper, and polished metal. Rooms with bright light tend to look cleaner because they do not hide anything.

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2. Reduce the yellow color cast

While yellow speaks optimism and happiness, it also cautions. Sometimes yellow is paired with sickness, nuclear activity, and grease. Plants that have too little water wilt from a green to a mushy yellow hue. To get the look of a clean kitchen, it helps to remove some of the yellow color cast from the lights. The kitchen will look like it had just been scrubbed clean with less yellow in it.

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3. Clear out blemishes

There are two ways to remove those leftover tomato soup dribbles on the stovetop. With Adobe Lightroom, you can mop up spots and small scratches with the Blemish Tool. This tool is great for removing dirt from shoes on the floor, and also those tomato soup spots. As a bonus, it hides pimples, though kitchens do not have pimples. The other method that a real estate photographer can use to remove those tomato soup dribbles is to grab a sheet from the paper roll sitting beneath the tripod.

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Good Videography Rule #1: All Shots Must Add

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All shots must add to the narrative direction of your videos.

In writing, if a sentence does not add to the story, say, for example, its existence is based on how pretty it sounds or how it smartens the writing, then it gets cut. Think of each sentence as a line connecting the previous sentence to the next one. In “good” writing, a reader would ride down an entire paragraph, whole pages even, without getting caught or slipping off the line.

A necessary sentence continues the one before it and prepares the one after it. A superfluous sentence breaks that line. A reader gets caught, pulled away, distracted by the workings of the person behind the curtain.

In videography, every shot is a sentence. Every shot is a line. Every shot must add to the video’s narrative direction. Any shot that does not add takes the viewer away from the video’s message. This message could be about being happy, remembering a wedding, a company’s mission, a product’s benefits, etc. You do not want to wager the impact of a video on a few unnecessary shots.


A good example is the Chevrolet commercial “Maddie” directed by Lloyd Lee Choi. The 42 shots and 12 scenes in this 1:13 length commercial sketch the life of a girl as she grows up alongside her golden retriever, Maddie. Every shot carries the narrative forward.

The first scene takes place in a gloomy, sterile environment. The overhead lamp casts a sickly white glow over Maddie. Most of the woman’s head is left in shadow. Maddie is the subject of this gloomy room here, and given the metal lamp and gauge in the background, I think of the vet. My main question is immediately about if this scene is a goodbye. Is she looking at Maddie for the last time? Paired with a sad piano score, this scene brings on the onions.

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The following two shots in the scene support the first shot. We catch her face looking down at her dog in shot 2, and then her hand as it passes over her dog in shot 3. These two shots tell the viewer that she is thinking about her dog. And the location tells the viewer that she is doing all of that thinking at the vet.

What is also important is that these shots concentrate the focus on both the woman and the dog. This is about the woman just as much as it is about Maddie.

What I love about this commercial, and why I chose it for this example, is how the scenes connect. They join on primary movement, cutting on the action of what’s happening in front of the camera. Scene 1 connects to scene 2 with the movement of the woman’s hand.

Scene 2 and scene 3 connect with their shared lack of movement and similar subject distance.

Scenes 3 and 4 are joined by walking shots.

Scenes 5 and 6 connect on two shots of her parents.

We get cuts-on-action 9 times throughout the commercial. Choi and writer Chris Cannon may have intended to create the smooth flow of memory with these cuts. If so, then these shots are essential to making the woman’s memory smooth.

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Scene 1 is also shown again in the second to last shot. In the writing process, Choi and Cannon must have wanted to use scene 1 as the sandwich buns between all the middle scenes to give the viewer a grounding point for their emotions. They wanted to highlight that loving relationship.

Each shot in scene 2, 3, and 4 reinforce the present loving relationship between the woman and Maddie. She pets her on the couch and takes her for walks in these initial scenes.

The scenes after the fourth are not as present as in the first four, but they still reinforce that loving relationship of scene 1. The woman arrives at college in scene 5. Scene 6 takes us to her graduation. She breaks up with her boyfriend in scene 7 and tries to kiss him in scene 8 (we are going back in time here. Forward would be awkward). She learns to drive in scene 9 and blows out candles on her eighth birthday in scene 10. We see her reading with Maddie as a puppy in scene 11.

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The final scene, number 12, takes us all the way back to when she first picks out Maddie from the litter of puppies. She runs out of the Chevy van, parents following behind. She hurdles down the hill to the lone basket of puppies (it is not the best spot for a basket of puppies, but it makes for a good commercial). She reaches into the basket and lifts one of them up. It is at this moment that we are taken back to scene 1 at the vet.

Why did the writers choose to bring back a shot from scene 1 in scene 12? When thinking about how all shots must add, this shot from scene 1 returns us to the present. We see her hello with how she names and then kisses Maddie in scene 12 and we see her goodbye with how she kisses her at the vet in scene 1. The kiss in the shot in scene 1 completes the narrative arc of the commercial. Without it, we would be left wondering why she is at the vet with a vague feeling that this is Maddie’s last day. The kiss seals it, makes certain that this is the end (at least that is my interpretation).

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If you scan through all 42 shots in this commercial, you will find that each one serves to advance the narrative. Choi kept out shots that did not add. If this commercial were in writing, it would be one continuous line right to the end.


Thanks for reading! Liked it? Give it a star or consider following for more content like this, Or, you know, you can leave a comment below. What do you think about this rule? Is Maddie at the vet? Is this goodbye?

Product Videography with the Godox TT350

Apple’s deep black close-ups that portray their MacBooks and iPhones like solar eclipses are as iconic as their commercials with white iPods and earphones on dancing silhouettes.

We associate the feelings that these iconic commercials create with Apple’s brand: a silent materialistic euphoria and a sense of trust about quality. It feels good to open a new Apple product. Their products, to the touch, feel like high-class pieces of engineering.

This is all to say that the way Apple shoot’s their products determines how customers perceive its brand. This is true for any company with a product that they are selling. How they shoot their products impacts how customers perceive the product.

I have not created product videography for any clients (yet). But, since I have the equipment to do it, I decided to practice. The following photos are raw frame-stills taken from the camera. The footage was later corrected to enhance the blacks and overall sharpness. This product setup uses 1 light, a bounce card, and a black background.

I began by setting up a black background behind a gray wood desk and positioning the camera 2 feet in front and at the height of the desk. There was a 1-foot gap between the back of the desk and the black background. This gap prevented a shadow at the meeting of the background and back of the desk, which resulted in a smooth transition from the table to the background.

I then placed a 1k Dracast light 2 feet above and 1 foot to the left of the product’s placement on the desk. I attached an egg crate to the Dracast light to direct light straight at the product, not the background. I also added a bounce to the right side of the desk to fill out the product using the single light.

The product for the test shots was a junky Nikon 70-300mm. I ended up using a Godox TT350 speedlight as the product in the video.

Attempt 1: Too much light and too soft

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My arm is pure white. This is not a good look.

In this first try, I had used a 50mm prime at f/1.4. The light was somewhere around 60%, and at that percent, it had blown out my skin and created harsh shadows. Also, the focus was too soft. To fix the lighting, I raised the light by 1 foot. This softened the shadows. I then changed to f/4 on the lens. This lessened the light coming into the camera while also boosting the sharpness of the overall shot. The product was far enough from the black background that the change in f-stop did not noticeably alter the bokeh.

Attempt 2: Still too blown out

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My fingers are blown out. The shine on the barrel of the lens is too strong.

The second try was much sharper. My skin was not blown out. But, I was not a fan of the blown-out ring of light on the lens. This, again, was caused by the light’s intensity. Rather than decrease the intensity, I raised the light by another foot. At this point, the light was almost touching the ceiling.

Attempt 3: Just about right

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My arm is not blow out. The shadows are soft.
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Notice how the highlights on the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 lens are not blown out. Also, this lens is great for real estate photography.

I reached a nice balance of softness and brightness by the third try. This is the setup that I used when creating the video with the Godox TT350 speedlight.

I noticed that in some of the close-ups, the focus was not completely sharp. The next time that I do this, I will raise the f-stop to f/5.6 and increase the intensity of the light.

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The “TT350” logotype is out of focus. A f-stop of f/5.6 would increase the sharpness of this part.

If you have any comments or advice, please let me know! I am always open to learning.