If you're selling your home, the most important aspect of marketing your property to potential buyers will be capturing flattering photos for your house listing. Great photos highlight your home's biggest assets and draw potential buyers in for showings, and showings lead to offers. With more and more people buying homes without touring them in-person, too, those photos you post online with your listing are doubly important: A particularly interested buyer might make an offer based on those photos alone.
"I've had many people buy without going into a property, and a lot of it is based on those tours and pictures online," says Patsy Rios Franzi, a real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Universal.
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If you're looking to list your property on your own, you'll want to spend time taking good photos of your property and your home's best features so the listing shines. (If you're working with a real estate agent, they will likely help coordinate this for you.) These tips from real estate experts and photographers can help you get the best pictures possible on your own.
3 Must-Follow Real Estate Photography Tips
Prep Your Home
Prepping your property for great listing photos starts with good home staging: You don't want high-quality photos to be ruined by a cluttered space.
"Eight out of 10 buyers go online first, so having those great pictures online is a huge, huge thing," Rios Franzi says. "That's why you want to prepare it before someone photographs the property."
You can stage your own home by removing personal effects and decluttering all surfaces. That means removing personal photographs, fridge magnets, and knick-knacks, Rios Franzi says. Kitchen countertops, side tables, consoles, and desks should all be cleared. If a room is particularly cluttered, consider storing some furniture to make the area appear larger.
Lyuda Dehlendorf, a real estate photographer based in Columbus, Ohio, reminds her clients to tidy bedrooms by storing shoes and clothes in closets and making the beds. Fluff the pillows on your living room couch, remove rugs to reveal the home's flooring, and consider adding some decorative touches.
"Bring in fresh flowers and fruits in the kitchen to make it look fresh and homey," Dehlendorf says. "And if you have potted plants, use them, but get rid of all the empty planters."
Don't go overboard with staging unless you're confident in your styling decisions.
"If you're questioning your decorating skills, just minimize the decoration," Dehlendorf says. "If you have a side table, for example, make sure there are not more than three items on that side table."
Your home might look organized, but make sure it's clean, too. Focus especially on mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces, such as appliances.
"When we brush our teeth, little droplets of toothpaste end up on the mirror and sometimes we don't notice or even see them, but when I photograph and flash it, you can see all the smudges and everything," Dehlendorf says.
Dust your furniture, too.
"I cannot stress enough that cleaning is a huge, big step," Dehlendorf says. "Spending $200, maybe $250 bucks to have a professional come clean your house is not a big investment."
When you go to snap your photos, make sure your computers and TVs are off. Turn off overhead ceiling fans, too, or they will show up as moving in images. Put your toilet seats down in the bathroom and pull your shower curtains back so the fixtures are visible, but remove your toothbrushes and anything on your vanity. Park your cars elsewhere, so the driveway and garage are empty for pictures. Hide outdoor trash bins or recycling cans for the time being.
Lastly, hide evidence of kids and pets. Stow Fido's food and water bowls, pick up the backyard, and hide any toys. Do the same with kids' toys and get rid of things like your diaper pail, even if the rest of the room is clearly used as a nursery.
Work the Angles
Your photos should portray your home at its absolute best. With that in mind, you want to be sure to play up angles and use other common photography tricks to help your space shine. If you're using the wide angle lens feature common on most smartphones now, you might notice that some of the lines become distorted, Dehlendorf says.
"Make sure all the verticals are actually vertical, like the walls, and make sure they're not falling one way or another or leaning," she says.
To avoid this, don't take photos too close to furniture or other items in a room. If you're in a dining room, don't stand too close to the table, for example, because the legs could appear at odd angles. Dehlendorf says taking photos from a threshold or entryway into a room can help prevent this.
She also says it helps to imagine that each photo frame should look like a photograph, picturesque and beautiful. Avoid focusing on items in the room, such as a couch or chair, and instead get an image that encompasses the entire room.
"Focus on the size of the room, how is the layout of the house, the floorplan rather than furniture," she says.
In larger rooms, take photos from eye level or above. For small rooms, take photos from eye level or below.
"Same thing for bathrooms. You have to get down at a good angle so the low objects are not distorted," Dehlendorf says.
Dehlendorf suggests taking at least two photos of each room, focusing on key spaces, such as the kitchen, primary bathroom, and living room. If your home has an interesting staircase or other feature, be sure to include a photo of it.
On the same note, don't be afraid to skip photos of rooms that aren't flattering, especially if you use one of your home's four bedrooms as storage.
"You don't need to take a picture of all the junk," Dehlendorf says. "Everyone understands a bedroom has four walls and a closet."
Get the Best Lighting
Lighting is another major factor in quality photos. To ensure yours have great light, make sure all of your bulbs are in working order. Dehlendorf suggests replacing bulbs so that all of the lighting in each room matches in temperature. If you have a cool fluorescent overhead light in the bathroom but warm vanity lights, consider changing one or the other so they all match. Open all blinds and curtains to allow natural light to filter in and make the rooms appear open and inviting.
As you take photos, be sure not to use these windows as a backdrop.
"It's going to be hard to shoot against a bright window because of the contrast of the darkness of the room and the brightness of the window, so try to find an angle when you are not shooting right against the window, maybe at a corner," Dehlendorf says.
When Dehlendorf shoots, she prefers to take outdoor photos on overcast days because that minimizes shadows on the home and lawn, but sunny days work well, too. If she happens to shoot on a rainy day, she can edit the photos to remove the rain, but not every home seller will have that skill.
Speaking of editing: If you happen to have some photo-editing skills, be sure not to over-edit photos. Dehlendorf will sometimes edit out smudges on mirrors or windows or enhance the brightness of an image, but going beyond cosmetic fixes while you're reviewing and editing your photos won't help you in the long run. If you edit out damage to a wall, for example, it will still show up in an inspection or showing, leading potential buyers to wonder what else your photos might be hiding.
"I photographed a property the other day and there were power lines in the backyard," Dehlendorf says. "They do not look good, but it's misleading to remove them, because people will show up and see them and be disappointed."
Consider Hiring a Pro
You might think you've nailed it with your listing photos, but if you find you aren't getting a ton of showings, it might be time to consider hiring a professional. It may not cost as much as you think: Dehlendorf's prices start at $150 for full listing photos, for example, and as with most home-selling things, you'll get the money back in spades with proper lighting and equipment, such as wide angle lenses and drones for aerial shots.
"The other day it was $275, but I've seen it for as little as $100," Rios Franzi says of common prices for home photography.
Real estate agents will usually cover the cost, but if yours doesn't, Rios Franzi and Dehlendorf agree that it's still worth the price.
"It will help you eventually to get a better price for your property, and that's the whole end game here," Dehlendorf says.
If you're using an agent, listen to their advice when it comes to staging and photography. If they suggest fixes for your home's decor or believe that hiring a professional photographer is the way to go, they're probably right. In the end, you'll save time and effort by opting for this route initially.
"That fresh set of eyes always helps," Dehlendorf says.