First impressions matter. For the majority of potential home buyers, digital photos are the first thing they’ll see when searching for a new property. Great photos of your home are key to selling your home fast.
“Photography is critical. It’s the most important money I spend,” says Amy McGee, a Houston-based realtor-associate with Caldwell Banker. “I spend more than almost all realtors on my photography. I make no bones about, and I have absolutely no regrets about doing it, and my listings sell faster because of it.”
Having high-quality photos could potentially boost your home’s value.
“Decent photographs might get you a buyer. But they’re not going to get you a good buyer. They’re not going to start a bidding war,” says McGee. “Do you want to make top dollar or maybe get decent money?”
Here are some of most relevant tips to make your home listing stand out, leveraging professional photography. We’ll also highlight what you should be looking for when finding a qualified real estate photographer, and what you should keep in mind before and during the photo shoot.
What to look for when hiring a pro
Professional photographers have the equipment and expertise to capture high-quality, attractive pictures of your house that your phone camera or pocket point-and-shoot can’t match.
Kirk Krien, a real estate photographer based in Phoenix, says at the bare minimum a photographer should have a high-quality DSLR camera that’s at least 12 megapixels and a good wide-angle lens. Some photographers might have special lighting equipment.
The photographer also should shoot on a tripod to get clear images. A shutter cord or radio trigger is another good item to have so the photographer doesn’t have to push the shutter with his or her finger, potentially shaking the shot or having to maneuver around shadows, among other challenges.
A resume that lists experience shooting real estate, and the photographer’s portfolio, are a good way to assess a photographer, McGee says.
When it comes to evaluating the images on the photographer’s website, McGee suggests looking for the following:
- Images that are crisp, cropped well, and well lit
- Use of wide-angle lenses, not fish-eye lenses that distort the house
- Small rooms that look almost spacious in photographs
- Attention to details like turning off fans, closing toilet seats, and clearing counters
“Things that take 60 seconds to 3 minutes to do, but make an infinite difference in the quality of the photograph and the appearance of the photograph—that’s the sign of a good photographer,” says McGee.
You’ll also want someone who shows up on time, communicates well and is respectful, says McGee. Talk to the photographer’s references. They should return your phone calls and emails within a 24-hour period during the business week. Krein advises speaking with the photographer over the phone to help ensure a good match.
Krein also suggests finding a pro who is insured with a $1 million general liability policy. If he accidentally breaks something in the house or if someone trips over his equipment and is injured, Krein is covered.
As for rates, they can vary widely depending on driving distance, how many photos you want and how much editing is required, as well as the local market and a photographer’s experience.
Tucson-based real estate photographer Greg Saffell estimates a shoot with a decent photographer will cost from $125 to $175. Top rate in the Tucson market costs roughly $300. Krein says you should expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $300. McGee says she pays about $300 to $320 per shoot.
How to prepare your house for its close-up
All three say a photo shoot will probably take about an hour, depending on the home size. You’ll want to have your home staged before the photographer arrives to get the best shots.
“Buyers need to walk in and see their new home instead of a seller’s old home,” says McGee.
She suggests doing the following to prep your home:
- Paint with neutral colors
- Remove clutter from the bathroom and kitchen countertops
- Remove personal items and photographs, unless there’s only a few displayed that are artistic in nature
- Replace all light bulbs with ones of the same warmth and strength
- Open blinds at the same angle
You’ll find more useful tips in our post about how to prepare your home for sale.
What matters most during the photo shoot
The most important rooms to shoot are the master bedroom, kitchen, and master bath. McGee says she rarely, if ever, will shoot the powder room or a master closet, unless the closet is luxurious. McGee says she’s had as many as six angles of the same room photographed, but no more than six since you don’t want to bore a would-be buyer with images of the same room.
The master bathroom is among the most important rooms for a home photo shoot. (Photo by Greg Saffell)
She advises posting as many photos as the listing will allow to give the buyer a complete picture of what their potential home will look like. If the site you’re using will allow 32, use all 32, McGee advises. If the property is a small one-bedroom condo, try shooting the surrounding neighborhood, grounds, and nearby shops.
Saffell says photographers should shoot small details that might make the home stand out, such as special door handles, beautiful wood, or a tiled bathroom sink. An average shoot should net 12 to 20 images, depending on size and listing, Krein and Saffell say. A homeowner could pay for more to max out what the listing will allow.
As for when to photograph, McGee advises shooting photos during dusk,the so-called “golden hour,” roughly the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The lighting is usually diffused and warmer, considered ideal for photography.
For large properties, some owners and agents have started considering drone photography to get the full lay of the land. Drones can fly with a camera attached, shooting landscape photos from a bird’s eye view.
They should be used for farm and ranch properties when sellers are trying to showcase the expanse of the land says McGee. But it’s not an easy shot, and controlling the drone takes additional skill. Krein recommends hiring a professional drone photographer.
As much as a photographer needs to draw out what makes the home naturally appealing, you don’t want to misrepresent the home. If there are power lines by the front yard, the photos should reflect that. Photos should be appealing, but they can’t replace an in-person visit.
“Photography is intended to get you in the front door, it’s never going to replace the importance of getting you in the front door,” says McGee. “We don’t need photographs and the Internet to be all things to all people.”
Featured photo by Kirk Krein.