Photographing Bathrooms – Mirrors, reflections, and flash – oh my!

Photo of a typical pre-war bathroom


In a previous tutorial – I wrote mostly about post-processing and photographing a living room.  This time I am writing about photographing a typical bathroom of the pre and post-war periods.  (The more palatial bathrooms that are typical of high end modern homes and condos are another animal altogether.)  Nothing can be more frustrating for real estate agents and photographers  than photographing a small bathroom.  For such a small room, it presents a wide variety of challenges.

First you have to take in as much of the physical space as you can.  I have to say that without the advantage of a true  wide angle lens  (nothing more than 20 mm)  you have a serious challenge on your hands.   After twisting yourself into a pretzel  to get the widest possible angle, you may capture a fair portion of the room, but you’ve got a flash nightmare in the bathroom mirror. You may even have a really nice shot of your own mug taking a photo in the bathroom mirror.  Or you may have the flash from your camera bouncing all around the reflective  surfaces including the tile, the sink, some types of shower curtains. And then, there is always the toilet which may find itself in a featured position – which should NEVER EVER happen.

Buyers scrutinize photos of bathrooms.  They are second only to kitchens in the scrutiny department!  So you can’t just walk away with a crazy picture of light bouncing everywhere and your face in the mirror.

Although post-processing can help in many situations, bathrooms and kitchens have more “nasty surprises” in them once they are seen as full-sized photos  than other rooms.  of the house.  So taking several shots at slightly different angles is a wise precaution as well.

The photo at the top of the page is not going to win prizes. or make buyers say “Wow! I’ve GOT to buy this house!”  Its a simple updated bath in a pre-war building.  But its a good wide angle photo of the bathroom that depicts a neat, tidy, updated bath with modern touches that most buyers would view favorably.

Where did I start with this bathroom shot?  (The shot below was my first attempt at photographing this bathroom.)

Step 1: Think through what was needed for the the shot and take an initial shot:

  • The pedestal sink in a prominent position.  Check.
  • A portion of the cabinets to the right of mirror since taking the entire 180 degrees is not possible. Check.
  • The bath in the photo since some bathrooms only have showers. Check.
  • No reflections of me or my flash in the bathroom mirror. Check.
  • The toilet either absent or keeping a low profile. Check.
  • No unusual reflections…needs some work. 

Reflections were kept to a minimum, save one behind the shower curtain.  No, it was not my flash.  The reflection was due to sunlight reflecting through the window on a bright sunny day and bouncing off the shower curtain.  Its a distraction, but easily fixed. I simply pulled back the shower curtain and revealed the window in my next shot.

Bath - ShowerCurtain-FIRST Attempt

Step 2: Take more shots, at similar angles, this time with the shower curtain pulled back slightly. 

Step 3: Issues dealt with in post-processing:

  • In most bathrooms, I end up having to correct the white balance.  In this case not much was needed except a minor tweak.
  • The walls needed to be straightened.  Wide angle lenses do this, particularly in cramped spaces.   It did mean sacrificing a portion of the cabinets, but “funhouse” angles in real estate photos are just not acceptable.
  • This bathroom was naturally rather monotone, but I adjusted the black point to provide a fuller range of color. Some midtone contrast was also added for extra punch.  The net effect was less washed out and bland with the ability to see the natural tonal variations that were absent in my initial shot and the unedited version of this shot.

So although these aren’t dramatic “money shots” taking these photographs of bathrooms with  a degree of care and attention can really help make the listing appealing for buyers.


For the month of January, I have a special offer for agents who still like to take their own photos.  For $35.00 I will accompany you on one of your listing shoots for 1 hour and help you optimize the equipment that you’ve got and help you with composition issues. If you are interested, feel free to contact me at my email address: or you can call me on my cell: 914-374-5529.


© 2013 – RGHicks – – All rights reserved.

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