Real Estate Photography: 7 Tips For Taking Pictures To Sell Your Home
Morgan McBride9-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 23, 2023
Selling your home can be an extremely stressful process. Whether you need to sell quickly or are willing to wait for top dollar, you need to connect with the perfect buyer for your home. Whether you take your own photos or hire a professional, you have to put a big emphasis on having lots of fantastic photos of your home before listing it for sale.
Why Is It Important To Take Good Pictures Of Your Property?
“It’s imperative that sellers make sure their pictures are attention-getting,” says Ashley Baskin, a licensed real estate agent who also serves on the advisory board for Home Life Digest. “Photos offer the first impression of the home, making them a key determining factor in whether a potential buyer continues to consider your property.”
High-quality photos of a real estate property are essential when selling your home. The first thing that buyers see when they look at a sales listing is the photos. Bad photos – whether bad in quality or composition – will immediately turn off many buyers. You likely want as many buyers as possible to see your home in person to increase the chances of a great offer, so you definitely don’t want to be turning people off with bad photos.
Should You Hire A Real Estate Photographer To Take Pictures?
There is a ton of value in working with a professional photographer while getting pictures for your home’s listing. In fact, if you’re listing your home with a real estate agent, they should be ordering and paying for the photographer if they don’t have one on staff already.
Taking the photos yourself to save money on a for sale by owner listing can still be a successful process with the right approach. However, if you have never picked up a camera before, carefully reflect on whether you’re really the right person to showcase your home.
Remember that you’re likely selling your property for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so paying for photos is not much in the grand scheme. But if you’re willing to give it a try, we have tips for you.
7 Real Estate Photography Tips
Given the importance of great photography, we rounded up some tips for shooting your home like a pro (even if you do it yourself):
1. Organize Your Home Before You Start
Just like when you’re showing the home, clean it until it sparkles, says Baskin. “Marketing a spotless home gives buyers the idea that the home is new.” Remember that you want your home to look like something a new owner can walk right into. Polish all surfaces, and don’t overlook windows and stainless-steel appliances.
Then you’ll want to stage it. Start by eliminating clutter: “Pack up knickknacks and photographs, and hide remote controls and mail in stylish boxes and baskets,” she says. Then clear as much furniture as possible. “Leave tasteful pieces to show the potential buyers how each room is used, but the house will feel bigger with less furniture, and it also allows the buyer to picture their own belongings in the space.”
If you’re not wild about your own furniture, you can “flash stage” your property, says real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental Brian Davis. This is when a company comes in and stages the property just before you shoot pictures of it. “They then immediately remove the furniture and decor they brought in, so it costs a fraction of the price of traditional staging, but you end up with professional photos of your house perfectly staged to post in your listing, thus attracting more viewings.”
Another option if you have a vacant home is virtual staging, says David Eisenberg, a licensed associate real estate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City. “It's very difficult to imagine what furniture might fit when you’re looking at a photo of an empty room, but a virtual staging company can place beautiful furniture and accessories into your space, accomplishing the same result as staging without spending tens of thousands of dollars on actual pieces.” You can do the same with a fixer-upper, he says, creating a “virtual” renovation to show the potential buyer some possibilities for the space before they bring in their architect and contractor.
2. Plan In Advance
It’s really important that you go into your real estate photos with a plan. It is likely that you will have a small window of time when your home is clean and picture perfect, and having a plan will ensure that you do not waste that time.
Make a list of all of the rooms or spaces in your home and make plans to get at least two angles of each room so that the whole room is shown. You will want at least four to six photos from each angle to choose from. It is much better to take too many photos and delete them then to try to re-clean and stage your home later. Don’t forget the outdoor spaces, curb appeal, and neighborhood amenities of your home. These are often the first photos on a listing and should be spectacular!
Once you make your plan, be sure to write it down. You might have a great memory, but a written checklist ensures that nothing gets missed. Finally, gather all of your equipment. Test it and be sure it is charged and you know how to work it. Malfunctioning tools can be a big waste of time and could throw off your whole shoot.
3. Be Your Own Set Designer
Once the house is cleaned and staged, it’s go time. The first thing you should do is take some sample photos before you continue. “There have been times I have taken a bunch of photos without looking and then afterward, I realized I should have turned off my flash or used portrait mode,” says Jackson Siegel, human resources manager for AI PhotoLabs.
Now’s the time to go through and make sure that everything is literally picture perfect — toilet seats are closed; towels are hanging nicely; dishes are out of the shot. Baskin recommends adding a pop of color, like an orchid or a throw pillow, to draw attention to featured spaces.
Don’t forget to make your lawn look its best, too — mow the grass, plant flowers and make sure any unsightly features are out of the photos. Remove your cars from the driveway, too.
Eisenberg recommends opening the curtains or raising the blinds in the photos — and not only for natural light. “Whether you have gorgeous, unobstructed views or you're facing a brick wall, photos that show the windows covered will make potential buyers skeptical,” he says.
Then photograph your home from the front entry to the backyard, taking care to capture as many details as you can. “Just about every listing site shows you 15 to 20 photos, where each photo is a landscape view of each room in the house,” notes John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “But when people visit your house for a showing or during an open house, they usually take their phone out and start taking even more photos of the house.”
He recommends taking close-up shots of appliances and various materials in each room, along with features of your outdoor landscaping. “Consumers want to see the details of which brands of appliances you have and what the counters, flooring and plumbing fixtures look like,” he says. “Potential buyers want as much visual information about homes for sale that they can get, so create an in-depth story that’s almost like a detailed digital brochure of your home.”
4. Use The Right Equipment
Yes, smartphone photography has progressed to the point that the results are almost professional quality — but the key word here is “almost.” Davis suggests using a DSLR camera, even if you need to borrow one from a friend. “The lens is better; the image sensor is larger; and they simply take better photos.”
Real estate photos will turn out best when taken on a tripod with a remote control for the most stability. This will help you to be able to get crisp photos, even if you need to adjust the shutter speed for a darker room. If you need to use lighting, you will also need light stands for your lights.
Traditionally, photos of homes for sale are taken with a wide-angle lens. This is not the time to take close ups of your decor or small features on the home. Think big picture and focus on getting big, bright photos. These lenses can be expensive, but you may be able to borrow one from a friend or local library.
And if you really want your photos to stand out, Stan Mead of Summit Home Buyers in Salt Lake City recommends creating a 3D virtual tour of the entire property. For about $500, you can find a company like Matterport that will combine drone footage with a 3D camera.
“Imagine starting with a sweeping overhead shot of the home’s exterior, which leads you to the front door, and then on a room-by-room virtual tour so that potential buyers can explore the entire house from their phone or computer,” Mead says. This type of tour is especially useful for high-end properties, or for out-of-town buyers who need to choose a property sight unseen.
5. Get The Lighting Right
Good lighting is essential for strong photos. Davis recommends shooting the house during the middle of the day when there is plenty of natural light. “The more light you have, the more crisp your photos will look,” he says. Open all of the blinds and curtains to make the space feel as bright as possible.
If you’re struck with a dreary day, flick on all your lights; just be sure that the light is directed on the object you’re photographing rather than the camera, says Siegel. Try shooting with and without the flash, as sometimes the flash creates too much saturation, he says. “This happens when the flash is focused on the photo, which you might have experienced taking a selfie in front of a mirror.”
If your home is especially dark, cut on all overhead lights and consider using a light kit. These kits allow for filtered light to brighten up the room. Don’t forget to add lights from multiple angles to help eliminate shadows and dark spots.
6. Choose Your Angles Carefully
Make sure to take wide-angle shots, which make the rooms look bigger, says Alice Bil, photographer at studioEPIC. “Spacious homes sell,” she says, so use the widest-angle lens you have, or invest in a wide-angle lens or converter. You can even find affordable wide-angle converters for smartphones, she says.
Davis recommends not just settling for the same angle, but taking photographs of every major room from multiple angles. “Take shots from eye level, then higher and lower.” Taking shots from the corners of the room can make the room look larger. “By getting ‘coverage,’ as they say in the film industry, you leave yourself plenty of options to choose the photos that paint each room in the best light, both literally and figuratively.” Take multiple photos from multiple angles of each room so that potential buyers can get a feel for the flow of the home.
But don’t get too zany; after all, people do want to see the features of your house, not your artistic creativity. “Stick with keeping the camera vertical or horizontal, rather than at an angle,” says Siegel. Focus on wide angle shots and don’t take zoomed in pictures. Also do not focus on any furniture or personal accessories that do not convey with the sale of the home. Remember the purpose is to show what people will be buying and leave it at that.
7. Use Photoshop To Improve Picture Quality
Photoshop and similar photo editing tools and software are essential for real estate photography. Computer editing can be used to simply improve lighting, contrast, and coloration of your photos. More advanced editors can add images on TV screens or outside of windows or even remove unsightly items like a cat’s litter box. However, if you’re not an experienced editor, this is not the time to try. Bad photoshop can throw all of your home’s photos integrity into question.
If you do edit your photos heavily, take care to edit them all similarly. For example, if you make one photo of a kitchen very warm and cozy and another one stark and cool, it might not look cohesive and could confuse buyers as to what a home actually looks like. Lightroom makes this easy by allowing you to create “presets” or saved sets of edits that can then be applied across many photos. Treat editing like makeup and just use enough to enhance the image without making it distracting.
The Bottom Line
It’s a lot to think about, but whether you engage a professional photographer or take the pictures yourself with an eye for the details, a well-thought-out photo shoot will bring traffic — and eventually the perfect buyer with the offer you’ve been waiting for. Be sure to check out more home selling content on the Rocket HomesSM blog.
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