According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nine out of 10 house hunters initiate their buying experience on the Internet. Twenty-five percent admit that online real estate photography led to the acquisition of their current house. Second only to price, quality real estate photography is the most important part of selling a home. It has never been more important to portray property in a visually aesthetic light that serves to promote its best assets. Capturing the essence of a home is not an easy task, but those who do so correctly may be rewarded with a timely and profitable transaction.
Studies indicate that quality real estate photography is more likely to generate a higher price per square foot. According to information provided by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $935 and $116,076” more than those that neglect to implement the necessary techniques and technology. Enlisting the assistance of a professional real estate photographer, and their DSLR camera, may result in the following advantages:
- Receive an average of 61% more views than their peers across all price tiers.
- Have a 47% higher asking price per square foot.
- Have an increased likelihood of selling homes priced above $300,000.
- Stay on the market an average of 10 days less.
Real estate photography is a surprisingly influential tool and has the power either to lure in potential buyers or drive them away. Use it to capture a location’s personality and showcase its true character. Doing so is the key to a timely and profitable transaction.
Exterior Lighting and Positioning
Lighting techniques are perhaps the most important and influential aspects exhibited by quality real estate photography. Appropriate lighting sources can serve as the difference between a visually pleasing piece and a disaster. In regards to residential developments, the time of day and the direction the house is facing will determine the best lighting possible.
It is imperative that the photography session is conducted on a day/night that has a clear sky. Doing so will eliminate the risk of unwanted elements in your photos and capture curb appeal as it was intended. A quality image of the exterior will not only increase traffic, but it will demonstrate a propensity for professionalism, further facilitating any transactions that may occur. House hunters will appreciate the time and effort you put into marketing your house.
Those looking to take daytime photographs of their property’s exterior will require a polarizing filter to clearly define the elements (sky and landscaping) that frame the home. Proper polarization will diffuse harsh lights and reduce contrasting reflections, resulting in the saturation of all colors. The resulting picture will be infused with vibrant colors and therefore become much more appealing to those who view it. Done correctly, polarization may be all that is required to catch the attention of a would-be buyer.
Consider which direction the house faces when scheduling a time to shoot, as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Daytime photos will require the camera to be positioned between the property and the sun, preferably preventing harsh light from entering the shot all together. With the camera in place, keep the aperture small so the depth of the field is deeper and more of the property will remain in focus.
Camera positioning is subjective and is often determined by environmental factors (unmovable signage, flagpoles, fences and trees). However, by placing the camera higher and slightly to the side, as to suggest a sense of three-dimensionality, photos can be greatly improved. Keep in mind that the parallels must remain straight. Line up horizons with gridlines on the camera. In conjunction with a tripod, this technique will ensure a balanced shot.
While each house exhibits certain features that must be expressed through real estate photography, the criteria for a good shot are constantly changing. Therefore, techniques may vary from photographer to photographer. As a result, the following advice should serve as a guideline to creating a unique photo that identifies the house’s selling points:
- Refrain from using a wide-lens up close, as you may lose the roofline and experience perspective distortion.
- Use a tripod to keep the camera parallel with composition lines. Crooked lines denote poor technical skills. Tripods also allow you to use different shutter speeds, counteracting bad lighting while avoiding blur caused by camera shake.
- Include some perspective by shooting a little bit of the side and not just the façade.
- Include the roofline in the photo, moving the viewpoint back or up if need be.
- Minimize the less attractive aspects of the house – the garage, any permanent signage, fences (by whatever means necessary).
- Don’t photograph until the yard is presentable (garage closed, clutter and eyesores removed, vegetation maintained and curb appeal improved).
Internal Lighting and Positioning
Real estate photography, in regards to interior shots, is better suited for the middle of the day. This is for two reasons: color balance (which can be particularly blue in the morning and evening) and contrast (to avoid excessive direct light on and around the windows). The most difficult aspect of interior real estate photography is achieving optimal lighting. Obtaining the best balance between the flash and the ambient light made available can be an arduous task, but those up to the challenge may be rewarded with the perfect shot.
Every interior is unique, but each is typically dark in contrast. Most cameras respond by initiating a form of flash. However, done incorrectly, a flash can result in an unwanted fade. Objects near to the camera are too vibrant, while those further away are relatively dark. In addition, stark contrasts result in windows that are ‘burnt out,’ too vibrant or lacking intricate detail.
You will be hard pressed to find one individual technique that resolves these potential problems. Different environments will call for individualized styles. However, making the best use of natural light is generally accepted as the standard for real estate photography. Sunlight is expected to sell the image.
Once the appropriate lighting has been determined, it is important to establish the home’s best features. Remember, you are trying to capture the attention of a prospective buyer, so show them something they want to see. Use the following compositional tips to accentuate the best feature of your interior:
- Utilize the room’s perspective to your advantage. Window lines, arches and stairways make for a dynamic shot.
- Avoid large areas of nothing.
- Use tabletops and their settings to lead into the rest of the room.
- Keep the camera parallel in both directions, unless visible lines permit otherwise.
- Remove clutter from the field of vision to convey a sense of space and cleanliness.
- Shoot into a visually appealing corner to increase depth and make the space appear larger.
- Clean up any debris and make sure rooms are appropriately presentable (beds made, pillows fluffed, distractions put away, etc.).
- If rehabbing a property, provide before and after shots to illustrate the improvements made.
- Using a wide angle lens (18mm minimum) allows you to capture the entire room in one shot.
The Composition of Real Estate Photography
Composition is a key element to real estate photography. Incorporating various design compositions will allow photographers to maximize their exposure and highlight the house’s best assets. The following outlines compositional elements that you may want to consider when photographing a property:
- Pattern: Emphasizing and highlighting patterns on the property can lead to striking shots.
- Symmetry: A symmetrical shot with good composition, fixated on a strong point of interest, can frame the house’s strongest assets.
- Texture: Texture helps to emphasize particular attributes when lighting elements are included.
- Depth of Field: The depth of field will portray an isolated asset of the house.
- Lines: Architectural lines can play a beneficial role when portraying a particular property. Use them to your benefit.
More is Better
Prospective homebuyers want to be introduced to a myriad of visually appealing photographs that reflect the house’s true character. It is important to include a high quality picture of every feature you are trying to sell. This includes individual photos of the living room, kitchen, dining room, family room, master bedroom/bathroom, backyard and any additional feature worth revealing. Showcasing additional assets, such as locational aspects, may benefit the seller and draw interest from prospective buyers. Include any views your property may have of the beach, a lake, mountains, a golf course, and any other selling point.
For condos and apartments, include shots of the amenities made available. This may include, but is not limited to: the pool, a tennis court, the gym, safety features and the clubhouse.
The final aspect of real estate photography should always include some form of editing. A variety of programs have been made available to those who wish to improve on the quality of their existing photos. To achieve the best picture possible it is imperative to use some form of editing software, as it will allow you to:
- Correct color
- Add light to photos that are too dark
- Intensify and saturate existing colors to facilitate the appeal of desirable aspects
- Make virtual repairs to distressed features
- Hide flaws
- Remove unwanted items from the field of vision
- Preform virtual paint touch-ups
The extra time it takes to digitally edit a photograph is well worth it. Prospective homebuyers will gravitate towards the properties that display the best photographs. Those that have been enhanced certainly have a better chance of capturing the attention of a buyer, and sometimes that is all you need to do.