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So You Want To Take Your Own Listing Photos?

As a real estate virtual assistant, I work with many hundreds of listing photos.  Some agents hire professional photographers to shoot their listings and others take the pictures themselves.   My job is to select the best and try to tell a story about the listing.  Regrettably, when I am working with most amateur photographs, it can be an arduous task to portray the home in the best possible design.  I have spent much time cropping and/or passing over what could have been a good listing photograph but ultimately deemed unusable. I just cannot always show the public the home at its very best.   

I've come to a conclusion that very few agents can really take successful listing photographs.  Some worse than others.  Paulia Kennedy of the 'The Kennedy Team' is one such agent whose photographs shine above the rest and I don't say that because we work together.  She simply has the 'knack'.

I've compiled a short list of Do's and Don'ts based upon my experience with agents who choose to take their own photographs.  Simple, clean staging is really key. 

  • Use a good camera with a flash. Very simply, a camera phone won't work and most indoor photographs are grainy and unusable. If you can splurge on a wide lens, by all means do so. Good, wide exterior photos are hard to come by so a wide lens can be a blessing. Otherwise, I've worked with exterior photos taken from across the street, which allows the photographer to capture the width of the home but sacrifices nice exterior details. If you don't have a wide angle lens, photograph up-close in two sections and use a photo stitching program to bring the two parts together. 

  • When photographing the kitchen; one of the most important rooms in any listing, remove the garbage can.  I cannot tell you how many times I have to 'crop out' the unsightly garbage can and this, in kitchens which feature stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.  The garbage is quite a distraction from even the most beautiful of kitchens.

  • Let the countertops shine, which means, remove the clutter.  The 'one appliance rule' seems to work best, so before taking the photograph, consider taking the time to unplug the blender, coffeemaker, microwave oven and move these items temporarily to another room. A clean countertop makes for a great photo even if the countertops are not the highlight of the kitchen.

  • I often view virtual tours from other agents to see what the competition is doing.  I cannot tell you how many times I see the agents' binders, cell phone, flyers, business cards and car keys in the photographs, particularly on the dining room table and kitchen countertops. The same rule applies…take away the clutter, don't add to it and put these accessories in another room for the photo shoot.

  • I realize some rooms will never shine in any photograph; the paint might be too bold, the wall paper might be dated, the room may be small, but removing the laundry and making the bed really helps to improve the look of any bedroom. 

  • Try not to include the family pet in the shoot.  I've worked with photographs where the family pet is using the cat litter box, walking on the kitchen countertops or sleeping on the living room couch.  Again, this is another distraction and some buyers might be turned off just knowing that a 75 lb Labrador shares every inch of a home they might consider purchasing. If the house is being marketed as a pet-friendly home with its own doggie door, tiled floors and fenced in yard, then adding these items to the listing description is smart marketing but do leave the family pet photos out. You want to highlight the home itself and its best features.  Some buyers don't appreciate pets.  Good photographs should appeal to the masses.

  • Bathrooms often don't photograph well because it is very difficult to get inside and position the camera at such an angle to capture the entire room. But if you are able to get a good shot of the bathroom, close the toilet seat and pull the shower curtain. The room will look much neater and a closed curtain acts as a nice background for small and under-decorated rooms. I've often suggested to my agents to carry a pleasant-looking, light shower curtain in their car if the bathroom doesn't have a nice one. It only takes a few minutes to attach but can really make a difference in an unappealing bathroom.  One clean, unused bar of soap, one hand towel and a freshly folded bath towel are all that is needed to tidy up a small bathroom.  I call that my 'agent bathroom staging kit'. 

  • Finally, take many, many pictures….as many as you can; at least 50 per listing.  Turn the lights off, turn them on, move the door, photograph from all angles and not just from the main doorways. A nice trick Paulia uses is to stand in front of something decorative such as a fountain and have this item in the foreground while the home is in the background. I've seen her use this technique when a tree or bush is in full bloom so the flowering portion borders the photograph and the home is photographed featured in the background all in one frame.  Even the least desirable looking homes can really shine if photographed this way. 

Agents who pull up their sleeves and don't mind moving household items around are the ones who get the best photographs.  The difference between good and bad photographs can make or break a deal.  The attention to detail (or lack of) can be a good or a bad sign to a potential buyer whether to sign with a particular agent or not.

Janine Gregor
Real Estate Virtual Assistant to Paulia Kennedy

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 12:51 PM by Jeff and Paulia Kennedy

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