Last month I was asked if I would give a presentation on photography for Realtors with tips on how to photograph homes. I decided to look at the photographs in the MLS to get some ideas on where to start.

It did not take long to find a blurry partial dining room picture taken in a dimly lit, half-million-dollar home and a picture of a family room with part of a human body and an entire dog in it representing a $300,000 home.

A recent study by Redfin estimated that only 15 percent of listings are marketed with professional-quality photographs, and found that the homes featured in those listings sold for closer to their asking price than those shot with point-and-shoot cameras.

If professional photography is not being used to market a home, it isn’t really being marketed, Redfin’s Michelle Broderick concluded in publishing the study’s findings.

There are many photography sites that give instructions on interior photography, exterior photography and architectural photography of all types. There isn’t a lack of information on the topic online or offline. The manuals that come with cameras contain a wealth of information.

Here are some instructions that I wrote on how to improve property photographs that struck a collective nerve and started a conversation among real estate professionals and home sellers.

Photography tips for listing agents

You will need: A camera, a towel, a table or sturdy flat surface, a hammer, a phone and a room that needs to be photographed.

1. Remove camera from case.
2. Remove battery from camera and put it in your pocket.
3. Place towel on flat surface.
4. Place camera on top of towel.
5. Fold towel over camera until it is completely covered.
6. Pick up the hammer and hit the camera at least 10 times. When the camera is flat you have hit it enough times.
7. Use the phone to call a photographer.
8. Carefully pick up the towel and keep it folded and toss it in the trash (this part may take some practice).
9. Take the battery to a recycling center.

If these steps are followed I promise that the end result will be better property photos.

I really don’t want anyone to smash their camera. I just want them to be used responsibly by real estate professionals.

The post got a lot of comments. One seller sent a note with a link to the pictures of his home and stated that he was going to contact the agent and ask for new photos. I looked at the photos and thought to myself that I would fire the agent because I would question her judgment, marketing ability, commitment and professionalism based on the photographic evidence.

Another seller commented that she wanted to send my instructions to her agent but decided not to because her agent used an iPhone for the photos and the seller did not think the agent should be encouraged to take a hammer to her iPhone but should — as the seller put it — "buy a camera."

I have seen articles on how to take property shots with an iPhone. It can be done but the built-in camera has some limitations. Most notably, it lacks a wide-angle lens, and it cannot take commercial-quality photographs.

If a seller sees an agent taking photos with a phone, he/she may think the agent isn’t a serious professional. The photographs may turn out OK, but they will never be good, great or amazing.

Photographs of the homes we list should be amazing, not just good. Photography sells real estate. Buyers use photographs to decide which homes to see in person. Homes with poor photographs are often screened out of the selection process.

Amazing or even great cannot be accomplished without the right kind of equipment and a commitment to the idea that real estate photography is not about taking quick snapshots to document a property. It is about creating marketing pieces that will cause buyers to fall in love with the home.

No one wants to admit that they have taken poor listing photos for their listings, but everyone agrees that there are plenty of examples of bad property photos in every MLS in the country.

There is an interest among agents in learning more about photography, which is a step in the right direction, and maybe one person will leave my presentation and decide to either hire a photographer or use a wide-angle lens and put the toilet seat down before they take a photo of the bathroom instead of after.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog. She is an avid photographer and her work is featured on her blog.

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