Take Better Real Estate Photos

Attract web-savvy homebuyers with quality shots.

When photographing a room, take a step back and show off as much of the room as possible.

Home sellers used to count on curb appeal to make a good first impression on potential buyers. Now, with 80 percent of homebuyers starting their house hunt online, a home’s “pix appeal,” or how good it looks in photos posted on the Internet, is taking over as the top way to impress buyers off the bat.

In a survey by the National Association of Realtors, homebuyers rated photos as the feature they use most when searching for a home on the web. Online listings with bad pictures -- or worse, no pictures at all -- can cause buyers to overlook your home from the get-go.

So how do you make a good impression with your real estate photos? If you’re selling through an agent, find out who will be photographing your home. Some agents, especially those representing pricier properties, opt to hire professional photographers to get the best shots possible, while others choose to take photos themselves. Look at the agency’s website for an idea of the quality of photos you can expect from them.

If you’re selling your home without an agent, you also have the option of hiring a photographer to take pictures of your home. Hiring a professional can cost several hundred dollars, so this option might not work for sellers on a budget. If you’d rather take a stab at photographing your home yourself, use these tips to take better real estate photos.

Before You Photograph

  • Invest in a decent camera. A cell-phone camera won’t cut it if you want quality shots, but top-of-the-line equipment isn’t a necessity either. Any point-and-shoot digital camera with five megapixels or more will produce good photos. If you’re willing to fork over more cash, a digital SLR offers more settings and allows you to use a variety of lenses. A tripod is also a good investment for taking sharp photos.
  • Stage your home. You want to show off the space, not what’s in it. Make sure your home is clean, and clear out distracting items like toys, refrigerator magnets and the like before taking photos. If this leaves your home looking a little dull, accents like a vase of fresh flowers can spice it up. Get staging tips from Debra Gould, the Staging Diva.

While You Photograph

  • Use as much natural lighting as possible. Open the curtains and turn on all the lights to make a room look bright and open. Rely on the camera’s built-in flash as little as possible; it creates unattractive shadows and reflects off mirrors and windows. You should also avoid taking photos on rainy days or at night, as this will produce gloomy photos. For exterior shots, take pictures on an overcast day so the sun doesn’t cast dark shadows on your home.
  • Choose the best angles and compositions. The best way to show off a room is to shoot from a corner or doorway to include as much of the room as possible. This provides context and makes the room look more spacious than a tight shot does. When photographing your home’s exterior, stand at an angle to the home rather than straight-on, allowing buyers to see the home’s depth. As much as possible, avoid photographing objects that obscure your home, like poles and wires.
  • Don’t make your home look like something it’s not. While you want to make your house look as good as possible, don’t mislead buyers. For instance, a photo taken with a wide-angle lens can make a room look deceptively large. Buyers will be disappointed and irritated when they view your home and see that your seemingly huge bedrooms are actually quite small.
  • Take lots of photos. Digital cameras give you the freedom to take as many photos as you want, so experiment with lots of angles and camera settings. Review the photos later and choose the ones that best represent your house.

After You Photograph

  • Touch up the photos. After you've chosen your best photos, you’ll probably find that they need a bit of tweaking. Maybe your living room looks too dark, or your home’s exterior is framed by distracting telephone wires. Free online photo editing tools like Picnik and Snipshot are easy to use and allow you to crop your pictures, adjust brightness and contrast, and correct colors.
  • Create a listing that’s as good as your photos. For buyers to see your amazing real estate photos, the photos need to appear on a website that’s user-friendly and easy to find through search engines. Whether the photos will end up on an agency’s site or your own site, make sure the site looks up to date, is easy to navigate and uses large, high-quality photos. Pair the photos with an accurate, catchy description that paints an appealing picture of your home.

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