Good real estate photography could mean the difference between a slow sale and an all-out bidding war. Many sellers, however, find themselves wondering if it’s really worthwhile to hire a professional. After all, they’ve got a perfectly useable smartphone camera right in their own pocket!
While it’s true that digital photography is making it easier than ever to get quality photos on your own, photographing your property is a completely different animal than your usual family snapshots. Let’s look at a few reasons why real estate photography is so important, what a professional can offer, and how to get semi-professional results if you do decide to go it alone.
Why is real estate photography important?
First impressions are just as important in real estate as they are anywhere else. It’s up to you to make your property stand out from the comps and highlight its unique advantages.
Even though most buyers will hire a realtor to help them in their search, a large part of that search will probably still happen online. Even if your house fits a buyer’s criteria, they might consider it a red flag if you only show photos of the outside of your house or if the photos you do show aren’t well lit or staged. After that, it’s all too easy for them to scroll down to the next listing.
On the other hand, if your property lacks some of the features found in the same price range, you can use photography to encourage interest in the features you do have. Too few bedrooms? Highlight that amazing kitchen reno!
How can a professional help?
Real estate photographers have a different skill set than portrait, food, or product photographers. They know about lighting dark rooms attractively and getting a full view of tight spaces.
Want an example? Try getting a shot of your powder room with your smartphone. Challenging, right? You can’t back up far enough to get everything in the frame.
A professional real estate photographer will have a wide to ultra-wide angle lens to solve this problem, as well as a tripod. But here’s the catch: while those lenses might allow you to get the whole room in one shot, they’ll probably cause some distortion too (meaning, the walls might appear to be tilted or curved). A pro can fix those distortions with a professional photo editing program.
They can also optimize your photos for use on social media, so your images don’t appear stretched from being taken at the wrong aspect ratio. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone take all that off your hands?
How to find the right photographer:
Make sure the photographer you choose has experience in real estate photography. They should have a portfolio to show you! Some photographers will even offer extras like drone shots for large properties or a 3D walkthrough.
Your realtor may be able to recommend a good photographer, but make sure your house is staged and ready before they get to work. Taking photos of your house in the wrong state could be a worse idea than foregoing the photography altogether!
Make sure you understand how you are allowed to use your real estate photos! Your photographer will be happy to talk real estate image rights over with you to make sure everyone is on the same page.
What if I decide to take the photos myself?
Though a professional will give you the best results, it is possible to take listing photos on your own if the budget is tight. Start by treating your photoshoot like you would a showing:
- Open your curtains to let in lots of light…unless there is something unsightly outside the window that might turn buyers off.
- Close your toilet lids, cabinets, and shower curtains. It just looks nicer.
- Move your cars before taking the exterior shots so they aren’t blocking the driveway.
- Don’t spend too much time on arty details. Buyers would rather get an idea of the scale of your rooms and the flow of the property.
- Put away any personal items. This is important for your privacy, but also because too many personal touches make it hard for buyers to picture themselves living in the space.
- Watch out for your own reflection! Stand to the side of mirrors and other reflective surfaces as you shoot.
It’s best to use a DSLR or mirrorless to take listing photos, leaving your smartphone as a last resort. Consider renting a wide-angle lens (24mm or wider is ideal) if you don’t want to buy one, although there are several affordable third-party options on Amazon.
You will most likely need an off-camera flash. Your camera’s built-in pop-up flash will create distracting flares and unflattering lighting. An off-camera flash can be mounted on top of your camera and pointed at the ceiling to “bounce” softer, more even lighting down into the room.
If you must shoot with a smartphone:
Stand as far back as you can to get as much of each room as possible. Look for free apps that will help you “stitch” multiple photos together to get more of the room in one shot. If the images turn out on the dark side, you may be able to boost the exposure in your smartphone’s native photo editor.
If your homemade listing photos are too big:
You may have trouble uploading photos to the web because the file size is too large. If you are comfortable using a photo editor, open the image sizing options (or in Lightroom, the Export options). Save images for web at 72dpi. Make sure they are JPEG files and not RAW, TIFF, or PNG files. 1000px for the longest side is usually a safe bet.
If photo editing software is a little further than you want to go, you can use a site like TinyJPG. There you can automatically compress your image to a useable size with a simple drag and drop.
Whether you go with a professional or take the shots yourself, real estate photography is an important step toward listing your property. It will generate interest, show off can’t-miss features, and encourage buyers to schedule a showing and see the place in person.
Your realtor will help you along the way. They likely know which local photographers do great work and can help you get in contact. A realtor can also give you any pointers you need as you stage your property and get it ready for its close up. Then, all you have to do is get your photos uploaded, make the listing official, and sit back and wait for the showing requests to start rolling in.