Photography can make or break your real estate listings’ online performance. A high-priced home with a poorly photographed kitchen won’t get many visits from buyers. Even a knock-down needs to be photographed in a way that enables buyers to see the site’s true potential if you hope to obtain full price.
Sadly, few professional photographers are properly trained to shoot real estate — especially in smaller and lower-priced markets. Here are the top nine things your real estate photographer needs to know before snapping the first pic of your listing.
1. Think ahead
Ask your photographer to plan ahead. A few minutes of forethought can make the shoot much more successful. You can help by telling him or her which direction the home faces. If the sun rises behind the house, the photographer won’t want to do an early morning, front, exterior shot. The bright sun above the house will cast the facade into shadow and ruin the photo.
If you haven’t got time to take a few photos with your phone to help the photographer plan the exterior shots, he or she should use Google Street View. The photographer can ask Google or ask Siri about the weather and the precise time of sunset and sunrise so he or she knows exactly when to show up for the best light and conditions.
2. Elevate the exterior shots
When taking exterior pics, a good photographer should get higher than ground level. That will give buyers a more appealing view of the exterior, especially if the house is above street level.
The simplest way to get an elevated shot is for the photographer to hold the tripod — with its legs fully extended — above their head. The photographer may look silly for a few moments, but he or she will also have saved the cost of buying a drone.
If your photographer doesn’t mind carting around a painter’s pole, he or she will get longer-lasting stability if he or she mounts the camera on that before tightly lashing the whole rig to the tripod. That will allow the photographer to time shots.
In most cases, there’s a limit to how far up you want your photographer to get. You seldom need a top-down view of the roof. A good rule of thumb is to go no higher than the upper windows.
3. Plan exterior lighting
When, and from what angle, your photographer takes the exterior shots will have a huge impact on the appeal of the photos. The best light is usually available shortly after dawn and before sunset.
To obtain the dusk photographs that are so popular in our industry these days, you may want to help the photographer choose the angle that will best show off the house. Then, ask your photographer to create balanced lighting in all the windows by adding lights to the rooms that need it. The result will be a gorgeous picture in which a partially darkened exterior is made more attractive by having all the windows shining bright.
4. Say no to candy colored skies
No matter what the sky looks like on the day of the shoot, photographers can easily use software to insert a different sky into the final image. It’s too easy, in fact. Do not allow your photographer to insert a sky that looks like a gorgeous sunset, wild storm system or distant nuclear explosion. (I’ve seen photos with all three.)
It sounds ridiculous to have to write this down, but this mistake is made all too often by inexperienced real estate photographers eager to make an impact. Instead of dramatic skies, insist on plainness. The perfect sky for your photos is attractive but not dramatic. Choose the barest hint of clouds instead of candy colors, and leave the buyer’s attention squarely focused on the house you are trying to sell.
5. Keep it real
Your photographer should be well-aware that, when retouching the exterior images, he or she must avoid removing ugly but permanent features such as power lines. If he or she does, you may be the one who gets in trouble — for misrepresenting the property.
6. Light the indoors
Photography is an art of light, and your photographer should show up carting plenty of lights. They should have a flash, at least two portable lights and light stands.
The flash will come in handy for smaller spaces, while larger areas may require the portable lights. Sometimes rooms with the most natural light still need artificial lighting to avoid dark shadows behind furniture and kitchen islands.
Don’t accept any pictures with unsightly shadows. To avoid these, your photographer should use multiple light sources from different angles. He or she can also try bouncing light into an area indirectly, for example, off the wall behind the camera.
7. Use a wide-angle lens
Any professional photographer who wants to shoot real estate will need a wide-angle lens. If you’re working with a photographer who hasn’t shot many homes before, you may want to remind him or her ahead of time to please bring one.
8. Pay attention to window blinds
One of the last things you want to see in a photograph of a beautiful room is a view through the window of some unsightly neighboring structure. Check what is visible through the windows from each room of the house to be photographed.
Ask your photographer to pull down the blinds or close the curtains whenever necessary. Try to do so in a way that still lets in the light, but blocks out the bad views.
9. Have a contract
Photographers need to know how to work a camera, but they also need to have their business in order. What they don’t know could come back to haunt you.
A contract will save hassle for your photographer, but more importantly for you. Make sure it is clear ahead of time what exactly is expected, how long it should take and whether cleaning and staging is involved.
Many photographers refuse to clean up the house they are supposed to shoot. By getting it in writing, you will avoid the embarrassment of telling your client the shoot couldn’t take place because you thought the photographer would clean up, but they weren’t willing to do so.
Also be sure to specify how fast you want the photos delivered, what file types and file sizes you want and which rooms or features you want photographed.
Those are the nine most important things professional photographers need to know. If they have these points covered, you can count on getting some great photos from their shoot.