The Importance of Professional Photography in Real Estate

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There are still real estate agents today that choose to take photos of their client’s home on their own flip phones or cameras. The disservice they are doing to their clients is almost tantamount to what would be considered in other professions, like medicine, a gross malpractice.

Every day I peruse the MLS (Multiple Listing Service- the place where real estate listings are made public) and I am amazed at some of the low-quality poor photographs agents put up online to represent their client’s most valuable asset- their home.

What makes this even worse is the old adage- first impressions make a lasting impression. Over 90% of buyers use the internet to search for homes- and that first impression, coming from the pictures of your home, is what drives someone to decide to visit your home and potentially buy it or go somewhere else and buy another home.

I decided several years ago to stop taking photos myself of listings I have and have a professional photographer take them instead. This is something I pay for myself- it does not come out of the client’s pocket.

Professional photography of your home matters. It is the difference between watching television on a 1960’s black and white tv and watching television on high definition 2019 machine.

Yet many agents, to cut corners and costs, continue to do their clients the disservice of not having their home photos taken professionally.

Example of poor photography of house currently on market

I started working with Jessica Travis, who is a professional real estate photographer, in 2017 and she has done a phenomenal job of showcasing my listings via her pictures. They really pop online and have helped immensely with marketing the homes I sell.

I interviewed Jessica to get her take on things related to real estate photography. Below are her answers to my questions.

Cameron: What mistakes do you see amateur photographers make when taking MLS photos?

Jessica: I’ve seen reflections in mirrors, people or pets in photos, and crooked lines (verticals should be vertical and horizontals should be horizontal). Another common mistake is shooting with a fisheye lens or attachment, which creates too much distortion and often “curves” the straight lines of wall edges, window frames, and cabinets. Sometimes you’ll see harsh shadows or shooting directly into a window, which results in an interior room being overly dark. And this is more of a personal preference, but leaving the toilet seat/lid up.

Cameron: Why do you think agents should choose a professional photographer to shoot their listings?

Jessica: Professional photographers have an understanding of light, color balance, composition, angles, and the value of a wide-angle lens. An investment in professional photography helps the marketing of the property. I have had agents who had taken over a listing that had expired and had become the new agent. The previous photos were not done professionally, and after professional photos were taken the listing sold in a matter of days.

What appears to be a living room

Typically the home buying process starts online. Many buyers will decide whether or not they are interested in viewing a home based solely on the listing photos. Starting with professional photography increases that likelihood that a showing will be scheduled.

Cameron: To prepare for the photo shoot, what are things sellers should do to prepare to make the most of the photo shoot?

The number one thing is to declutter! Remove appliances and food items from kitchen counter tops, along with all magnet from the refrigerator. Limit personal photographs, clear bathroom counters and surfaces of personal care items, tame power cords, etc. Make every effort to showcase the features of the home- the flooring, fireplace, appliances, etc. That said, don’t remove all of your décor. Making a space too sparse can make it uninviting and bland.

What appears to be a dining room

Have all painting, cleaning, powerwashing, appliance replacements, tree trimming and visible improvements done before photos are taken. This reduces the time needed for photos to be taken as well as the need for a reshoot once the improvements have been completed. This ensures your home is portrayed in the best light possible when it hits the market. Buyers don’t typically recheck previously viewed listings for updated photos.

Remove excess furniture or rearrange furniture to open up a room and show more of the available space. Extra recliners or arm chairs are the common culprit for blocking the flow of a room.

Limit overtly seasonal decor. Seasonal decor can date photos and make a listing appear to be older than it is which can be discouraging to buyers.

One last thing for homeowners and real estate agents. When scheduling photos, allow time for weather delays. Often times photos are scheduled 1-2 days before a listing is scheduled to go live because homeowners and agents are anxious to get a property listed. Weather can be unpredictable and rainy/overcast days happen. I typically recommend rescheduling for sunny or partly sunny days because colors are more vibrant and exterior photos look drab with grey skies. 

Below is a home prep checklist that Jessica created. Reprinted with her permission.

GENERAL

– For all areas of the home –

Thoroughly clean whole house (vacuum carpet, mop hard floors, clean countertops, clean windows)

Turn all overhead lights and lamps ON

Replace all burned out light bulbs

Use bulbs of the same temperature (ALL incandescent or ALL compact fluorescent)

Turn all ceiling fans OFF

Turn all TVs and computer screens OFF

Open blinds/window treatments to let in outside light

Remove personal photographs (or replace with general landscape/object photographs)

Make sure all artwork, lampshades, wall decor, etc. are hanging straight

Remove stacks of mail, papers, magazines, etc.

Place all shoes, jackets, and hats in closets

Remove all seasonal decor and calendars as it can date your listing

Remove/hide remotes, phones, small electronics, charging stations, vacuums, etc.

Tidy/hide visible cables and cords

Remove valuables that are not to appear in published photos

Hide pet food and water bowls, beds/crates, toys, leashes, litter boxes, etc.

Use lint roller on furniture to remove pet hair

Clear back yard of pet waste/toys

EXTERIOR

Close garage doors

Remove cars from driveway or areas that block the front view of the home

Clean up landscaping (mow, trim shrubs, weed, clear leaves, sweep sidewalks)

Remove empty/unsightly planters

Remove cobwebs from eaves, door frames, decks, patios, etc.

Remove/neatly coil visible water hoses

Remove/hide toys, sports balls, bicycles, etc.

Remove/hide trash cans

Clean porch, tidy up outdoor tables/chairs/cushions (pillows/cushions should be fresh, not faded)

Remove covers from patio furniture, grill, pool, hot tub, etc.

Open patio table umbrellas and extend awnings

Remove flags or banners (these tend to flap in the wind)

Clean pool

Remove pool vacuum/cleaner hose and hide pool cleaning supplies

LIVING AREAS

Minimize personal affects on surfaces such as photos and knickknacks

Remove stacks of magazines, papers, mail, etc.

Remove excess furniture to maximize space and flow

Remove/hide remotes, small electronics, charging cords

De-clutter fireplace mantel/hearth

Fluff and arrange pillows

Remove excess blankets and throws

Remove kid’s toys

Clear tables, dust and polish table tops (minimal decor permitted)

KITCHEN & DINING

Minimize personal affects on surfaces such as photos and knickknacks

Clear counters and surfaces of clutter, papers, mail, minimal use appliances, etc.

Clear outside of refrigerator of magnets, papers, photos, etc.

Hide trash cans in pantry or closet

Remove dishes, soak, sponges and rags from sink

Remove excess furniture to maximize space and flow

Clear dining table, dust and polish table top

Use decorative place setting if available and/or feature one center piece such as a small  bouquet of flowers on the dining table

Straighten all dining chairs and space them evenly

Remove child seats/booster chairs

BED & BATH

Make bed, including decorative pillows/shams if available

Clear nightstands of all personal items

Store away phone/tablet charging cables

Remove all clutter from top of dressers

Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos

Remove personalized names from walls when possible

Remove wall stickers/posters

Tidy walk-in closets if they are to be photographed

Close closet doors

Clear countertops of soap, toothbrushes, medications, deodorant, etc.

Put toilet seats down – remove toilet covers if applicable

Remove shampoo, soap, loofahs, etc. from visible showers and tubs

Remove dirty towels/robes – leave out only new, unused towels

Remove floor mats (unbroken floor space increases perceived square footage)

Remove or hide trashcan, plunger, cleaning products etc.

Examples of Professional Photographs from houses I’ve listed and sold

Author and Publisher of Cameron Brooks News and Views and Affiliate Broker with Realty Executives Associates. Call or text me at 865-387-4408 or email at cameron@cameronviews.com.