Everything is marketed with photography, including beer, boots and all that falls in between. We can find pictures of our next home on the internet and photos of a washing machine we might want to buy to put in the laundry room.

  • I would never consider using my phone for photographs used to market a client’s home.
  • Anyone who believes that just anybody can take pictures needs to look at some MLS listings.
  • We owe it to our clients to do everything we can to make their property look amazing.

Everything is marketed with photography, including beer, boots and all that falls in between. We can find pictures of our next home on the internet and photos of a washing machine we might want to buy to put in the laundry room.

Take a quick look at websites such as Zappos; you might notice that all of the photographs are perfect. That could be because they are shot by pros in studios where lighting can be controlled. I don’t think that the people who make or sell shoes also photograph them, which is a good thing.

The purpose of real estate photography isn’t just to document that a house has rooms and a brick exterior; it is also a powerful marketing tool that can help homesellers get more for their homes and attract buyers online.

Cameras keep getting better, and photo editing software is less expensive and easier to use than ever before. The camera on my phone is better than point-and-shoot cameras that I used 10 years ago, but I would never consider using my phone for photographs that are going to be used to market my clients’ home. They deserve better.

After searching through our MLS, I have to say that in spite of all of the technological advances in cameras, the photographs used to market homes for sale have not improved at all. Sure, there are more of them, but having more crappy pictures doesn’t make the homes look more appealing.

It is possible to take some really bad photographs with a new, expensive camera. A person should just be able to buy a camera, press a button and get perfect photographs, but for some reason that isn’t happening. Anyone who believes that just anybody can take pictures needs to look at some MLS listings.

2 categories of bad photos

The bad pictures I see can be put into two categories. The first type either features a distraction or simply fails to be aesthetically pleasing.

An example would be a close-up of a kitchen with a sink full of dirty dishes and a cat on the counter — or a bathroom with the toilet lid up.

I often have to explain to my own clients why a room wasn’t photographed, and why it won’t be.

Some agents like to take close-ups of the inside of closets. I guess that is better than saying that the home has closets, and, of course, there is always that potential buyer who doesn’t know what a closet looks like.

The second category is just bad photography. The listing agent did not hold the camera level and created a photo with crooked walls or a leaning house. Or the agent doesn’t understand white balance and created a bunch of yellowish images and a couple of blue ones.

Agents don’t always use a wide-angle lens, and they take pictures of room parts. The pictures are often too dark, which makes the home look kind of depressing.

It seems like there are a number of agents who only work at night, and they take their interior shots in a dark house. Sometimes you can see the flash reflected in the window.

Agents have a ton of excuses (that they call reasons) for using poor photography and for providing photographs of rooms or room parts that will not help market or sell the home. Many don’t have an eye for it and believe that their property pictures are good enough.

Some Realtor associations and real estate companies offer photography classes for real estate agents. Photography can be learned, but the classes seem to just encourage more amateur photography.

Classes on what a good photograph looks like might be more beneficial.

We owe it to clients to do better

Studies show that professionally photographed homes sell for more money. We owe it to our clients to do everything we can to make their property look amazing. It is our job. It’s called marketing.

Homeowners apparently don’t see the horrible pictures of their home on the internet, or maybe they think it is all right. It is all wrong, and they deserve better service.

Brokers apparently don’t see the pictures, either — because if they did, they would say something. They would not want their brand to look bad, and they must know, as brokers, they can have and enforce standards even though their agents are independent contractors.

Last winter, I got to preview some new technology for virtual tours, and I have to say it was impressive, but the photography in the demonstration was done by a software developer, and the photographs were horrible.

I am seeing other examples of photography being about technology instead of about capturing compelling images — or at least interesting images.

Photography can and should be used to market homes on the internet. Amazing photographs make homes look better on any website. They make listing agents and even real estate companies look good, too.

The bad photographs in the MLS, Zillow and other places give the general public a great reason to ridicule real estate professionals. They make us look really bad — and stupid, too.

There are whole websites dedicated to making fun of real estate pictures. If we all used only commercial quality professional photography to market homes, it would be a simple way to raise the public opinion of real estate agents — even if it means hiring a photographer.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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