Updated: Feb 15, 2022
We have all heard the phrase, "A photo is worth a thousand words". That statement could not be more true than when it comes to real estate listings. With digital media, we have become used to having everything at our fingertips including cars, clothing, gifts, groceries and even homes. In the past, when you wanted to shop for a house, you would have needed to call an agent, schedule a meeting, discuss what you are looking for, then have the agent drive you around town while hoping to find that one house you love! You might only have time to look at five or ten houses and often, you would have to re-schedule for another day to continue your search. Those days are pretty much gone!
Now, you can browse fifty, one hundred, or five hundred houses all in a few days or less and all from the comfort of your home or office! This is such a game changer and it benefits not only the home buyers, but the agents and sellers as well. But still, as with anything you sell, presentation is absolutely vital! It is especially vital when selling the most important investment you have ever made; a home! Yet, in so many real estate listings, presentation is completely overlooked and that can be a huge mistake!
When you sell a used car, the first thing you do before listing it is to detail it, wash it, add tire shine etc. Why? because you want it to stand out! You want that first impression to grab the buyer! Why in so many cases does this not happen with homes? As I browse hundreds of homes online, I find that many agents seem perfectly ok with posting photos of homes that are less than flattering! Some are absolutely horrible! As a photographer, and a home buyer, this drives me nuts! There are some agents out there who actually ask their sellers to go around with a cell phone and take photos for them, or in some cases, the agents themselves will do it. Agents are supposed to be the professionals, and as professionals, they should have access to other professionals. They hire stagers, they hire gardeners, they refer painters, plumbers, etc., so why wouldn't they hire professional photographers? Trust me, It does not matter how nice of a phone or camera you have. If you do not understand photography, you are making a big mistake cutting that corner.
Not long ago, a home owner hired me to photograph his home which he was selling. He said he took his own photos and he told me he knew they were "terrible". After showing me the photos, well, he was right. But he was smart enough to recognize this and he knew better than to list the home using those images. The problem was, his agent actually tried to talk him out of hiring a photographer! Apparently the agent did not want to spend a few hundred dollars up front to help her or her client sell a $900,000 home. The agent actually let the home owner pay for professional photos because she did not want to pay for it. This home was not a home that was going to easily sell itself.
Now don't get me wrong, I know plenty of amazing agents who all understand this and there are plenty who would NEVER accept anything less that professional images, so I am not blanketing all agents here. I am simply pointing out that having bad photos of your home is the fastest way to get potential buyers to move on and look elsewhere! You may never know how many people skipped right over your home because of the sloppy presentation. I know because I have skipped plenty for that very reason. There are so many homes to choose from and It's just a matter of one click.
For potential buyers, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing a potentially beautiful home and then not being able to make out any details due to terrible images that are way too dark, way too bright, totally distorted, crooked, cropped, cluttered, or that have other people in the photos. The two photos below do absolutely nothing to make anyone want to buy this home, yet these were photos used in listings.
Photographing a house can be very problematic, even for professional photographers. You must pay attention to many issues and details. Most of these things go unnoticed unless the photographer is a professional. Things like distortion, exposure, color cast, vertical adjustments, shadows, horizontal adjustments, composition, lighting, focal points, de-cluttering and so much more can ruin the image and worse, it can ruin the sale of the home.
The exterior images are usually the first thing you see, they should make the buyer want to see more.
Let's take a look at the above image. As a potential buyer, when I look at this photo, I immediately lose interest. You can see it looks like it is leaning to the right or has structural issues, there is distortion which makes it appear as though the tree might fall on the house, it is dark and under exposed with no detail and no color pop. There is a big garbage can on the side and overall it looks as though there was no effort or thought in taking this image. It almost looks scary and uninviting. I would have no desire to look beyond the front door. No thank you, I'll pass!
This next image is a photo I took. Before taking this image, I made sure to move garbage cans and even removed some boxes that were leaning against the house. Believe it or not, the entire porch area was also very dark with heavy shadows due to sun positioning. Using off camera light and post processing, I was able to give it the exposure and pop it needed. The vertical lines are straight and there is little to no distortion. This home looks much more inviting.
If you look at the next two photos, you will see that in the first image, it is hard to decide what to focus on. I assume the photo was meant to show off the kitchen, but instead, you see that the fridge, which takes up most of the image, is cluttered with distractions and it is distorted due to being so close. In addition, the verticals are way off. If you look at the floor and the dining room, it appears the home is twisting. The floor appears to be tilting down while the ceiling appears to be tilting upward. It's hard to tell if they are selling the home or the refrigerator. You can also see a large package of napkins hanging over the top shelf and there are unmatched towels covering what could be a selling point, the oven. Not a complete deal breaker, but all of these details should be addressed before taking photos. Over all, this image does nothing to help sell this home. I again, would go on to the next house.
The kitchen is usually a huge selling point in any home. This is one area you really want to showcase! But in the image below, again you see extreme distortion and horrible exposure making this entire photo unnatural looking and in my opinion, completely unusable, but, it was used anyway. This could be a beautiful kitchen, maybe with a great view, but instead of showcasing those features, we underexposure, lacking detail, no window view, and terrible distortion. When I see photos like this, I just assume the listing agent does not care enough about putting quality effort into selling the home, so I generally move on.
As a photographer, my goal is always to help make the listing agent shine! The house below had a big, beautiful kitchen with an amazing window that needed to be showcased. Notice the vertical lines are straight, there is very little distortion and the exposure is well balanced. I took my time placing off camera flashes where needed to balance exposure. Using flash not only helps expose properly, but it also helps to represent the true colors and makes it possible to capture the exterior view as well as the interior. Compare the two photos and ask yourself, which agent would you trust?
In the second photo, you will notice the door windows are over exposed. I did this deliberately. The view of that little portion of the neighbor's home was not flattering and I generally will ask the agent if they want that view or not. If not, I will usually over expose it just enough. These are all things that you can not accomplish without thoroughly understanding photography and being skilled in post processing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When selling or listing a home, regardless of the asking price, remember that the very first impression is huge and it will likely be your online photos that make your first impression. Your first impression will be the difference between a buyer wanting to take a tour, or a buyer moving on and clicking to the next house. Do not make the mistake of taking shortcuts when it comes to photos. Real estate agents are professional people and as such, they should make sure every aspect of your sale is done professionally.