Whether you’re a realtor, someone trying to sell, or someone looking to buy, great photos are some of the best tools you can have in Real Estate. A Realtors’ association survey found that when it comes to web features that buyers consider “very useful,” 83 percent cited pictures. Great photos are much like having great curb appeal – they draw potential buyers in. Bad photos don’t just leave a bad first impression; they can turn off buyers before they even set foot in the property.
Unfortunately, there is no single magic bullet or secret camera setting to ensure that pictures will be good – however, here are some Dos and Don’ts from professional photographers:
Use a good camera – do you need a top of the line Digital SLR? Probably not – but will a lower end one like a Cannon Rebel make pictures look better than a cell phone or a point and shoot? Yes! DSLRs can accommodate different lenses and can have the shutter speed and aperture adjusted – meaning your can take longer exposure pictures – longer exposures means more light can reach the lens, avoiding pictures that make rooms look dark and uninviting.
Pro tip: Camera shops often have consignment sections where you can purchase used entry level DSLRs for below retail price. This is a good way to get a starter camera, and allows you to ask as many questions as you need to learn how to use the camera.
Get some equipment if you’re going to take a lot of photos: A simple tripod can solve a lot of bad picture problems. While you will never need all the gear that a professional photographer has, if you find yourself always wishing you had more light, you can find compact fluorescent versions of studio lights for a fraction of the price - $80 to $100 USD; they cast wide, soft light, meaning they can illuminate a dark room without casting hard shadows. Finally, consider a wide angle lens – using one means you can show a lot more of the room in the photo, meaning the viewer can get a better idea of how spacious the room actually is.
Think about the weather – if you photograph a house on dull, dark day, it will look dull and dark on the inside. Open the curtains, lift the blinds, and turn on the lights! Get it as bright as you can. When photographing the outside, try to do it on an overcast day to avoid harsh shadows.
Tidy up first! You can have lovely pictures with lots of natural light taken from the best angles, but if there are dead flowers, toys scattered everywhere, dirty dishes or too much clutter, you’ll end up with great pictures of a messy house. Clean up the setting and stage everything before you start – it will save your time in the long run and will make sure people viewing the pictures will notice the lovely bay window, not the toddler playing in front of it.
Be afraid to take lots of pictures from different angles. When inside shoot from a doorway or corner to show as much of the room as possible. Step back and try to find the best angle to capture the room.
Embrace technology! If you’re already tech savvy, you can use Photoshop to add perfect finishing touches – remember though, with all Photoshop fixes, its best not to go overboard. However, if you know what you’re doing, you can straighten walls, adjust shadows and colour, crop out unwanted details, remove imperfections, or stitch photos together to make a panorama. If you’re not a Photoshop wizard, you can use free programs to adjust lightness and contrast, or hire a professional to do touch ups on your images.
Pro Tip: If you’re really good, you can take photos using the HDR (high dynamic range) technique to make a composite image. Basically you take several photos of the exact same scene using different exposure values (and use a tripod!) Then you combine the photos, so you have your darks, lights and midrange covered (newer versions of Photoshop have an option for this) – allowing you to see a lovely room, AND the view outside the window, rather than just a blown out block of white. There are many HDR tutorials online that can tell you more.
Use a flash. Unless you have absolutely have to. Seriously.
Be afraid to hire a professional. If all this seems daunting and you have no photography skills, consider hiring a professional photographer. They have all the equipment and the knowhow to take the best photos possible, and great photos can be a great investment.
Want more information? The website All Things Photography
has an excellent e-book on Property Photography
– a must read for anyone who will be taking property photos.