In Real Estate, a Picture IS Worth Thousands of Dollars (Part 1)

Just like you can’t see a great personality across a crowded floor, potential home buyers cannot find the homes of their dreams based on words alone. Great photography can get your house more prospective buyers and as a result a better offer or offers to choose from. Too often agents and sellers use existing photographs or take quick photos of a property to market the home. The photographs often appear either dated, amateur, or simply don’t show off the home’s greatest features. In real estate, buyers are often looking for reasons NOT to purchase a home…so first impressions mean everything. In the following series of blogs, I will discuss basic techniques to making your photographs stand out and SELL your listings faster.

I am a Top Producing real estate agent in McLean, VA and have been a professional photographer for 10 years. Aside from photographing my own listings in McLean, Vienna and Arlington, I also photograph listings for other agents and sellers throughout Northern Virginia. Here are some tips to taking great photographs to market your real estate.

General Appearance

First off is the exterior appearance. Want to attract buyers? Be attractive! Make sure that the house is looking its best. All garden hoses and trash cans have been moved out of site, the lawn and yard have been mowed and landscaped, debris removed from the yard, roof and/or sidewalk. If painted areas are looking worn, paint them! This may sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many photos of properties I see where general appearance was clearly not addressed. You wouldn’t go on a first date not looking your best, why list a house when it’s not looking its best?

Lighting

Lighting can make all the difference in the world. NEVER photograph a house when the light is directly over you or in front of you. When the sun is directly over the house (typically 11:00 am -4:00 pm), you will see the greatest shadows appearing from the roof and windows. This can be very unflattering. Instead, take the photographs in the early morning (7:30 am – 9:30 am) or late afternoon (5:00 pm – 7:00pm). Which time you choose should be dictated by where the sun is in relation to the area being photographed. If the house faces east, you will want to photograph in the morning. Otherwise, you will want to photograph in the afternoon. As a general rule, photograph with the sun behind you and over your shoulder. If the sun is in front of you, you will either get a silhouette or you will be fighting glare on your lens. Another alternative is photographing your real estate with overcast skies. The benefit of this is that you will get soft, even light throughout the image with little to no shadows. The one negative is that you will have white or grey skies. This problem can easily be alleviated by cropping your image or Using Photoshop to paint in blue skies.

Camera Placement

Next, there is the question of camera placement (i.e. how high is the camera in relationship to the house). If the camera is too low, the house will look like a tower and the sides of the house will bow inwards towards the roof. If the camera is too high, the house will have a diminutive appearance and the sides of the house will bow inwards towards the ground. The trick to good camera placement is to divide the house into thirds as you look at it through the camera lens. Imagine three horizontal lines as you look through your lense. Your camera should be in the middle third, giving equal importance to the bottom and top of the real estate property you are photographing. This is very easy to do with a rambler or raised rambler home. Two to three level houses (colonial, split level, split foyer, Cape Cod, Craftsman, or Contemporary) and townhouses will require a ladder to get to the proper vantage point. Make sure your camera lense is parallel to the face of the house that you are photographing. Otherwise, your image will be distorted.

Composition

Finally, you will want to compose your image so as to show off the greatest attributes of the property or hide any potential shortcomings. If the house is small, get up close and fill the photograph with the image of the house. Real Estate properties look bigger when photographed up close. Whenever possible, photograph the house from an angle (front and side or back and side) so as to give your house depth. If you want to show off a house’s large yard, back away from the building and include more of the yard. In my next blog, I will discuss interior photography.