My friend and I were flipping through a few listings on Realtor.com trying to find a place to fit her needs. Admittedly, I'm super nosey, so I LOVE looking at other people's houses. It's fascinating to me. Looking at houses with her was really fun, but man, I was having such a hard time looking at some of those listings. Why? The majority of the photos were horribly, terribly bad. Just one example was a shot of a living room, complete with a very elderly couple staring straight into the camera. Not kidding!
Like a chiropractor looking at someone with poor posture, or Stacy and Clinton looking at someone in a terrible outfit I could not contain my irritation! I've worked in a Real Estate office for the last ten years, and my absolute favorite part of my job is getting to take listing photos and making flyers to advertise homes. It's so fun and I get to be a little bit creative in my desk job.
Some Realtors will hire a photographer for their listings. You'll see that a lot in bigger cities and in higher price ranges. But, working in a Real Estate office, I've seen my fair share of bad pictures. Many Agents take the pictures themselves, and sometimes even with their cell phones. Bad photos can mislead and can make your home unappealing to a potential buyer. They could love your house in person, but the pictures could stop them from even asking to see it. (Of course, some Realtors or Agents may be extremely talented at taking pictures! You can always ask to see examples of their other Listings to find out.)
My photography skills are limited and what I know I've picked up along the way. Mostly from blogging! Hiring a professional is truly your best option, and I think it's totally worth the initial investment. If that's not in your budget, here are a few tips to help you take your own listing pictures. I have a Canon Rebel T3, but these tips will work with your point and shoot!
I could do, and maybe will do, an entire post on staging. Your Realtor will give you some great tips on how to improve your curb appeal and what needs touch up paint. Give your house a good cleaning before you take your pictures. Use Windex to shine up your fixtures and put everything away (under the bed or in the car!). Declutter the best you can. Clear off surfaces, if not completely, to the minimum. Close drawers and toilet seat lids. Park your car somewhere else and close the garage door. You want people to look at your house, not your stuff.
You know that elderly couple I mentioned before? In the photo of their bedroom you could see stacks of adult diapers and extra oxygen tanks. (Poor people!) It completely distracted us from looking at the room. You don't have to remove all of your personal items or even your photos. In fact some people want to know who lives in the house! But, the fewer personal items the more the room stands out.
Here is an example of a nicely staged Dining room. It isn't completely bare, but the family removed a lot of what was originally in the room. They took out a dog crate, bowls and a garbage can which left the room looking functional and open.
Turn on every light in your house! Open up all the blinds and curtains too. Light can completely transform a room. When you are shooting straight at a window, you will probably need to adjust your camera settings or slightly close the blinds to avoid a white out like in the picture above. (or take your photos early in the day when the light isn't as bright) Don't take your photos at night!
I also use this camera light in darker rooms to help brighten them up.
Here is an example of turning on all the lights. This house was on a very shaded property, and with only a few windows. Turning on every single light really helped highlight otherwise darker rooms.
This is where you get to experiment. The angle at which you take your photo is crucial. You need to convey how large the room is and sometimes make it appear larger than it actually is. The best way to do this is to stand in the doorway, which will give you the largest and most complete view of the room. Each room may need to be photographed differently.
I wish I could show you how deep I was in the corner of this room! I was as far back as I could go and even held the camera back behind my ear! Shooting with the camera horizontal will help you when it comes capturing as much of the room as possible (when a wide angle lens isn't an option for you.).
You will want to shoot vertically to highlight ceiling height or a small bathroom. I have a horizontal angle of this entryway to show how it connects to the next room, but I wanted to be sure that potential buyers could see the great vaulted ceilings, so I shot vertically as well.
At 5'6'' I'm not exactly short, but sometimes you do yourself a disservice when you take pictures at eye level. Here are two examples of photos I've taken standing on a step ladder. In the bathroom I wanted to showcase the gorgeous sink and tile (that toilet paper really bothers me now though!) and in the dining room I really wanted to show off the openness. Shooting at eye level is fine, but getting a little higher can really help showcase features your house.
You may need to squat down lower too! In the following pictures I got really low to the ground to show off the details of these bathrooms.
- Take several pictures at many different angles. The more pictures you take, the more you'll have to choose from.
- Highlight your home's features. If you have gorgeous hardwood floors, make sure you can see them in your pictures! One house we listed last year had some amazing mature citrus trees in the backyard. It wasn't granite countertops, or stainless appliances, but a selling feature for sure!
- Watch for your reflection! Shooting a bathroom with a large mirror can be challenging, but if I see you in the picture I'm not looking at the room.
- Cloudy days make for great photos of your home's exterior! It's awesome bright lighting, without the sun's glare or shadows.
- Give a room context. Don't shoot pictures of blank walls. The person will have no idea what they are looking at, or where it is in your home. If two rooms connect, let that reflect in the photos. Show how your floor plan flows. This is where taking several pictures of a room at different angles comes in.
- When taking pictures of your home's exterior, fill the frame with your house. While taking a picture from the street is important, your featured photo should be the actual house. Try shooting it at an angle instead of straight on to show the depth.
I hope my tips helped you! You do not need to be a professional to take good pictures. Spend a lot of time experimenting and trying different angles. The more photos you take, the more options you'll have to choose from!
Leave me a comment: Have you seen bad Listing pictures? What is the one thing that makes you cringe because of your job? Are you as nosey as I am when it comes to seeing what is inside people's houses?