This guide will help real estate agents and Realtors take better real estate photos.
In many parts of the country and for many price ranges and types of properties, agents often take the listings photos that are used to sell the property. These tips will make sure you avoid taking bad photos and will help increase your GCI this year.
Why agents need to improve their photography skills
5.3 million existing homes were sold in 2019. While most people hire a real estate agent to find them their dream home, they also use a few other methods as well.
Back in 1981, 22% of home buyers used newspaper ads to find their home, by 2016, 44% were searching online first. That's why 90% of real estate firms have websites that feature property listings and 100% of smart agents have their own real estate website.
Pictures are definitely necessary when listing a home but it's also important to remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words. A bad photo can turn away potential buyers while great photos can translate into a quick sale.
Want to see some of the worst terrible listing photos? Here are 57 Hilariously Terrible Real Estate Photos.
What Is Real Estate Photography? How Has It Changed in Recent Years?
Any time you are taking pictures of a home, the interior, the exterior, the land, unique features of the property, and even pictures to display the lifestyle-related to the property, you are participating in real estate photography.
In my discussions and talks with thousands of agents across the country, most agents think of the listing photos they enter into the MLS and use for their sales materials as real estate photography. This definition is true but I encourage you to think more broadly on it as you consider the tips below.
If you are taking your own listing photos, how many showings are you losing because of poor quality photos?
Social media, email marketing, and digital marketing are the keys to growing your real estate business today, and these all REQUIRE good photos.
If you're not getting the results you want from modern digital marketing, how much are bad real estate photos hurting your business and costing you GCI?
Even if you're hiring a professional photographer for your MLS listings, you must still be able to take stellar photos for your own marketing.
Effective social media and digital marketing today requires much more than posting new listings, open houses, and closings. You have to share different types of content and that's why it's critical for you to improve your bad real estate photos with the tips below.
Most Common Real Estate Photo Mistakes and Tips to Fix Each One
If you're about to list a home, you need to learn how to avoid taking bad real estate photos. Whether your in part of the country where agents take their own photos or want some things to look for from the professional photographers you hire, keep reading to discover the 10 things you could be doing that causes too many agents to post terrible real estate photos.
Some of these will need to be done by the client and others you can manage yourself. Either way, fix these and sell your listings faster and for more money.
1. Bad Real Estate Photos are Too Dark
The worst real estate photos are so dark that it's impossible to really see what a room looks like. There are very few home buyers in the market for a bat cave.
You want to showcase the great light in your home, even if you don't really have it. That means allowing for as much light as possible.
When to Take the Perfect Shot
Use as much natural light as you possibly can. Midday is usually when sunlight exposure is best.
Keep blinds and shades open. If you need to, turn on lamps but just make sure there's no extra glare that ends up in the photos.
2. Taking Photos of Furniture
Do not put the focus in photographs on your client’s own personal belongings. There's nothing worse to a home buyer than trying to see what a room looks like when the only photos posted are of the current owner’s personal belongings.
Homebuyers want to be able to use the photos to see how their own furniture would look and fit into the room. If you can, remove as much of the furniture from your home before you take photos.
3. Capturing Your Clutter
Always tidy up before you take real estate photos. If someone can see dirt, dust, grime or clutter, it's a huge turnoff and it shows you don't care. Many potential buyers will think, rightly or wrongly, that if an owner does not take the time to clean up for listing photos that they likely did not maintain the property well either.
This is your chance to highlight what's great about the home. Even if the house is normally are messy, no one needs to know that until after you've sold the home.
Clean and Declutter
Do a thorough cleaning and remove clutter. Suggest to clients that anything they don't like, use or need should be sold, trashed or donated.
Anything they do want to keep should be boxed up and put into storage until they're ready to move into their new home.
Now, if the house is too sparse or empty, you run into another problem - reflective surfaces. Sometimes with mirrors, a reflection will always be a problem.
Pro Tip: If you do not have a choice but to shoot into a mirror or reflective surface, try to position your camera so that a blank wall is behind it. You can use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom to remove it later. You can also spend just a few dollars on Fiverr or UpWork to remove it as well.
4. Blurry Photos
If you're going to post blurry photos, you might as well not bother posting any photos at all. It looks amateurish and gives the impression you don't care about selling the home or marketing it well.
If you're struggling to take photos that aren't blurry, you can use a tripod for stability or even prop your arm against a door frame. You can also select an aperture that provides you with a decent depth of field.
You should also avoid shutter speeds slower than 1/200 seconds. If you're taking pictures on your smartphone, this will not be a problem, but if you are using a DSLR, make note of the shutter speed if you are not shooting on the automatic setting.
5. Using a Google Street Picture Rather Than Your Own
Google Maps is known for providing us with a great many tools to make life easier. However, great photography isn't one of them.
Especially when it comes to taking photos of your home that has curb appeal. It also gives potential buyers the impression that you couldn't be bothered enough to take your own photos.
Do some agents seriously do this? Yes, we’ve seen too many examples of it to simply laugh about it.
Even taking 15 minutes out of your day to take five good photos can make the difference between a home on the market for months and one that sells quickly.
6. Posting Holiday or Seasonal Photos
If you put a home on the market during a holiday season such as Christmas, your clients may have holiday items displayed. Which is fine until January 1st hits and then it's outdated.
And while the home may look great with a yard full of snow, no one wants to see that in July. If listing stays on the market long enough for a holiday or season to end, you'll have to take new photographs to display.
Especially since old photos give home buyers the impression that the listing isn't selling quickly. That can mean they may try to make a lower offer than you'd like.
7. Crooked Lines - Both Vertical Lines and Horizontal Lines
Make sure all your lines are squared off. In other words, your verticals should be vertical and your horizontals should be horizontal.
By verticals, I am referring to the vertical lines that run from the ceiling to the floor. By horizontals, I am referring to the horizontal lines of anything in the room, such as windows, molding, countertops, etc.
There are times when you may want to not straighten a horizontal or vertical. This is where your wisdom and subjective application of this rule come into play. The key is that you intentionally make this choice when applicable.
Otherwise, you may end up with lens distortion that makes your home look weird. To prevent that, a tripod can help you line up everything so that your lines are straight.
If you don't have a tripod or something else you can use to level everything properly, you can always correct any crooked lines and/or perspective issues in post-processing (i.e. when cropping).
Pro Tip: Enable grid lines on your camera. Both your smartphone and DSLR will have a setting for turning on gridlines. By enabling grid lines, two horizontal lines and two vertical lines will be equally placed over the display. These grid lines will help you ensure you keep the verticals vertical and the horizontals horizontal.
Pro Tip 2: Get a rock solid tripod or monopod. If you're shooting with a smartphone (strongly encouraged for your social media and marketing pictures), you can get these with a mount for your phone.
8. Not Enough Stuff
You may want to consider having the home staged by a professional, especially if your client has already moved out. A staged home will look more appealing and the furniture allows a buyer to see how they can use the room as well as envision themselves living there.
If your client leaves scattered, random furnishings, the home can look awkward, especially in photos. You don't need to do but, but a simple staging can help highlight the purpose of each room in the home and improve the listing.
9. Forgetting to Take Outside Photos
The outside of every home is just as important as the inside. But make sure that you don't allow trees, cars or poles to obscure the view of the home and property.
Move everything you can out of the shot. And make sure you take a photograph where you can see the entryway into the home.
10. Photos With Pets or Yourself
Yes, again, we have unfortunately seen too many of these in listings from many MLSs.
Be careful when photographing areas such as your bathroom where there are mirrors that can easily capture your own image.
It screams that you're an amateur and it's hard for a homebuyer to not focus on you in the background. The same is true for any pets.
While your pup might be awfully cute, he or she doesn't come with the house and shouldn't be featured in your photographs. Especially since to some homebuyers, a home with a pet means scratched floors, weird smells and stains, and fur everywhere.
Real Estate Photography Equipment Do You as an Agent Need
Camera or Smartphone
Real estate photography does not require a lot of equipment. If your phone is less than three years old, it's already better than many high-end DSLR cameras sold just 10 years ago.
There may be a time to upgrade to a DSLR camera (I use a Canon 80D) but you'll often find that if you're hiring a professional photographer for your listing photos that your smartphone will be what you use the most.
Lens, Flash, Self-Guided Tours and More
There are a ton of other things to consider adding to your arsenal and photography hacks to consider. Click here for an article just on those and learn how to take stellar real estate photos.
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