6 Tips for Practically Painless Photography

When you get right down to it, real estate photography is essentially product photography. The product is the property, and the photos are intended to make the home look its very best to draw in interested buyers.

But unlike professional product photography—wherein dozens of people scuttle around to arrange, rearrange, and stage the product absolutely perfectly—it doesn’t take a lot of time, effort, or money to receive professional quality results for your listing.

A Clean Home is a Photographic Home

First and foremost, the listing property should be clean and ready to be photographed. Floors vacuumed or mopped, stains shampooed, windows and mirrors washed, and counters clear. All dirty dishes and laundry should be hidden out of sight. The lawn should be mowed, and landscaping trimmed neatly.

You don’t have to get too nuts, you’re not trying to pass a white glove inspection. The goal is to show a clean and inviting space.

Be Ready for Your Closeup

As a follow-up to the cleaning tip above, have everything ready for the photographer when he/she arrives. Many real estate photographers, us included, have multiple shoots scheduled for a single day. Waiting for last minute cleaning to be done pushes the schedule out of whack, and throws off the times for every appointment that comes after.

While some small tidying is understandable, anything that requires the photographer to wait for long periods may necessitate an additional charge. For example, if you just need to stash the morning dishes or last night’s laundry, that’s something that can be done quickly while the photographer is focused on something else. If, however, the floor needs vacuumed, mirrors washed, and counters cleared, that’s something that will take time.

This includes the “moving mess” that we have come across in a few appointments. This is when a homeowner shoves all clutter into one room with the intention of just moving said mess once the photographer finished with another. Depending on the size of the mess, this could be time-consuming, and turn a 45 minute shoot into an hour and half session.

Save yourself and your photographer that wasted time by having everything ship shape before your appointment.

The Homey Details

Some agents and homeowners fret over every tiny detail and accessory in the home, often focusing too closely on ones that aren’t that big a deal. A few “homey” items are fine, while clutter is not.

A few appliances on a clean kitchen counter are fine, such as the coffee pot, toaster, and mixer. A dozen different appliances, however, makes for a more cluttered look. Remove all but the few most common ones to offer a neat appearance.

Soap dishes and dispensers on bathroom or kitchen sinks are fine, so long as they’re clean and not distracting. A counter full of toothbrushes, razors, towels, or other personal hygiene products is not.

The ultimate goal is to make the house look nice and neat, not barren and sterile.

A Light Chore

Capturing great images requires lots of light, and real estate photography is no different. Before your photo shoot, turn on all lights in the home. Not just overhead lights, either. Don’t forget the table lamps. This helps the areas look brighter, and results in better images. Even if a lamp doesn’t throw off much actual light, it creates a sense of welcome and life while fixtures that are off look distinctly “dead.”

While you flick those switches, check the bulbs in your ceiling fan, bathroom fixtures, and over the stove. Replace burned out bulbs so every one works.

Turn off all televisions and ceiling fans to avoid distracting images in the final photos. We want lots of light, not blurry fan blades and the latest episode of Honey Boo Boo.

Clear the Set

A listing photo is designed to sell the house, and ideally these photos should have no life forms in them. No humans, no pets. Photo appointments should be set when all family can be away for that hour or so.

As with many other things, life can get in the way and sometimes this isn’t possible. That’s fine, so long as everyone still in the home can be safely kept out of the camera’s way. This includes pets, elderly family members, kids, and anyone else who may unintentionally photobomb the image.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, specifically for those with medical conditions that make moving difficult. Speak with your photographer if this situation applies, as he/she will most likely have a suggestion as a work-around.

All pets, however, should be contained or controlled. Without exception.

Trust Your Photographer

Many well-meaning agents and homeowners like to suggest areas the photographer should focus on during the appointment, and sometimes even where to stand! While this is appreciated when dealing with impressive feature upgrades, professional real estate photographers have the experience necessary to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Don’t hesitate to point out unusual features, such as the newly built two-tier deck, or finished lower level, but avoid suggesting the photographer take a photo of the hardwood floor. This lovely feature will show in the final images.

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Keep these tips in mind for a smooth, efficient, quick photo shoot!

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The 7 Biggest Mistakes of Real Estate Photography

In our 20 years of marketing for the real estate industry, we’ve seen some great photos, and some not-so-great ones. Here are a few common mistakes in listing photos we’ve seen time and time again.

Nice Couch

In many cases the listing is occupied, meaning there is furniture and other accoutrements in each room. This is fine, there’s nothing wrong with a furnished home, but don’t fall into the “Furniture Ad” trap. This occurs when the photos are taken in such a way that seems to focus on the furniture. We’ve seen many photos that are great images of the back of a couch or chair, but don’t really give an overall look of the room itself. Remember, you’re trying to sell the HOUSE, not the furniture.

Step back, tilt the camera up, and give a better view of the room’s flow and size.

The Corner Shot

Vacant houses are especially guilty of this mistake, but occupied homes can fall victim as well. The Corner Shot is a photo of the corner of a room. That’s it. We see two walls converging and some floor and ceiling, maybe a window, but nothing more. There’s no feel for the size or layout of the room.

To counter this claustrophobic conundrum, you’ll need a wider lens. Ideally, three walls in the frame helps give a better view of the space.

The More the Better

This isn’t really a style problem, but more of a flawed mindset. We’ve seen some listings that have 80+ photos of a property. While this may seem advantageous, it can actually turn away potential buyers, especially if they have to scroll past 30 photos of the exterior before they even get into the house! Duplicates, unnecessary angles, and focusing on unimportant “features” can all aggravate a buyer who’s browsing online.

While you want to have enough photos to entice a showing, you don’t need dozens upon dozens to do so. Buyers typically like to see a few photos of the outside of the home, then move inside to get a feel for the style and layout.

Think of the listing photos like a movie trailer. You don’t want to give away every little detail about the property right away—you want to pique a buyer’s interest and get them to come and see it for themselves.

Let There Be Light

The word “photography” literally means “drawing with light” and many listing photos neglect this important aspect. Some photos are too dark, showing only the bright light coming through a window, while others are too bright, the victims of an overly ambitious flash.

Rooms should be evenly lit, and the camera set for the proper exposure to capture the best possible image.

Photo Priorities

Typical listing photos include the exterior of the home and main living areas. But we’ve seen some . . . shall we say, unique photos of home appliances. Water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, and even the interior of the washer and dryer. While it’s commendable to show the condition of included appliances—especially if they’re newer—they don’t belong in the listing photos.

List them in the description and leave the photos for the features that will bring buyers through the door.

Improper Exposure

Following along the lines of bad lighting, numerous things must come together to create a clear, sharp, well-done photo. If any of these are wrong, you end up with blurry, dark, crooked images. These not only make it hard to see what you’re looking at, but they can have a negative impact on both the property, and you as an agent.

Smartphone photos are for Facebook and Instagram uploads. Show your clients and potential buyers that you are a serious professional by investing in a good camera and lens setup, and familiarizing yourself with the workings, or by hiring a professional to do the job for you.

Knock, Knock!

Not every home can look like a perfectly staged set. Homes are lived in, and sometimes knick-knacks and picture frames can line the walls and shelves. Some homes just have a “lived-in” or “homey” look, which can be fine so long as it’s neat and tidy.

But not every listing photo follows this advice. We’ve seen images that look like the agent surprised the client with a photo shoot on laundry day. Scattered toys, dirty dishes, and roaming pets should be avoided at all costs in listing photos. Homes should be clean and ready to be photographed.

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Remember, the listing is the product you’re trying to sell. The better the photos of your product, the more interest you’ll receive in its purchase.

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