Homeowners Guide to Real Estate Photography

Article by James Martori II of ChapterNEXT Photography

Homeowners’ Guide to Real Estate Photography

You’re selling your home and your real estate agent has wisely hired a professional
photographer to take the listing photos. An appointment is made, and a
photographer is set to come to your home soon. Your agent tells you “Make sure the house is clean and ready for the photographer”.

Are you ready?

So what does that mean? Your house is always clean – what do you do differently? Well, I’m a professional real estate photographer. Let me tell you what I hope to see when I get to your home.

The Outside

Depending on the season, in the front I’m hoping to find a front yard that is mostly free of leaves. Trash cans should be pulled to the side of the house or into a garage and if there is a hose it will look better neatly coiled by the spigot. Preferably any sprinklers have cycled through before I arrive or after I leave. If you think any weeds need to be pulled, prior to my arrival they will be gone. A leaf blower once over the driveway never hurts.

In the backyard, the same goes for hoses. Additionally, any tools, lawn mowers, kids or dog toys, bags of charcoal, pool towels, rafts, floats and coolers should all be stowed out of sight. If there is a pool and it has a water feature it should be turned on. A quick skimmer pass over the pool to remove fallen leaves or flower petals is suggested. Fallen citrus fruit should be off the grass. Freshly mowed lawns always photograph cleaner than unmowed lawns. Patio tables and chairs should be organized, and staged. If you have a newer, clean barbecue that has a cover, it should be removed and stowed.

The Inside

I will want all the lights in the house on for the shoot. That means all the lights. Desk lamps, floor lamps, end table lamps, the stove top light usually found in the overhead microwave, any directional accent lights for art or other wall hangings, ground level hall lights, etc. Basically, if it has a bulb – turn it on.

Windows should have the blinds raised if there is any sort of view out that window. This isn’t necessary if it’s a window looking out at a back yard cinder block wall but certainly all front facing windows and anything looking into the back yard. The photos are far prettier with clean windows.

Bedrooms and bathrooms should be tidied of normal things we tend to keep out in everyday life. So kleenex boxes, reading glasses and other items should be removed from nightstands.

Reduce any clutter

Tooth brush caddies, electric razors, q-tip jars, etc. should be removed from bathroom
countertops and shampoo and conditioner bottles, wash cloths, loofahs and the like taken out of the showers. All toilet seat lids should be down and toilet bowl cleaning brushes, plungers and wastebaskets removed.

Kids rooms should have toys and any strewn items off the floor. Beds must be made, pillows fluffed. Other than the master closet which most agents will want photographed the closet is usually safe to stuff miscellaneous items into during the shoot. Most agents will want the laundry room photographed. While it’s not necessary to remove detergent, fabric softeners and other bottles and boxes, they should at least be neatly organized in one location.

Please – do not kill yourself dusting the tops of doors or window sills or armoires and china cabinets. The camera will never see them. Remember, we’re shooting whole rooms from multiple angles at eye level. If you can’t see it as you walk through your home, I won’t be able to either.

Garages, Workshops, and Sheds

Ask your agent if they want the inside of the garage shot. I am there to shoot the entire house which includes the garage. Your agent does not have to use a single photo they don’t like so my preference is to shoot everything and let them make the editorial decision. I much prefer not to have to make a second trip to your home to take one garage photo because you were not on the same page as your agent. Make that decision in advance (the same goes for backyard sheds and workshops).

The Big Picture

Finally, try to remember what we’re doing here. We are not (except in the rarest of occasions) shooting for Architectural Digest. We are taking photos of your home for the MLS. Designed by us to show your home in its best possible light. The sole purpose is ultimately enticing a prospective buyer to want an in person showing. If that happens we’ve all done our jobs.

I will shoot with a view towards accentuating the best features of your home, while doing my best to minimize any imperfections. That said, remember that if your house has gigantic power lines in view from the front yard, then your house has gigantic power lines in view from the front yard. I can hide them by shooting from certain angles or tighten shots to minimize them. If need be, I can even remove them entirely in Photoshop. But when a client pulls up in front of your home they will see your home – warts and all. The more it looks exactly as it did in the photographs, the fewer objections (unspoken or possibly even subconscious) that buyer will have. Nothing creates a greater fear of latent defects than arriving at a home that “looked much better in the pictures”.

Don’t stress or worry! If your house is priced right it will sell. Your agent will make sure of that. So take a deep breath and relax. This is not life or death stuff here – it’s just photography. Help me help you by having the house ready and then let us do our jobs (your agent and I). We won’t let you down.