Monday, April 8, 2013

How Not to Photograph Your Home

Your home's profile shot has to win buyers from the get-go.
When people shop for a home, they usually begin their search online, either on their own or with a Realtor. 

If your web photos don’t do your home justice, you could be out of the running before buyers even check out your curb appeal with a drive-by.

Have you looked at your web listing?

You’ve worked hard to get your home in good shape, organized, cleaned, and staged. 

Do the photos capture all the major selling points of your home, or do they skip some of its best features? 

Do they show your home in the best way, or are there some slip-ups?

Here’s a checklist of what can go wrong when your home is photographed.

Out-of-season picture 

Although you may prefer the colors in your autumn profile photo, it’s springtime now. The message an off-season shot gives buyers is that the home has been on the market a long time. Buyers assume there must be something wrong with it. If your realtor won't take a new photo, perhaps you have or can take an image of your own that is current or season-less.

Duplicate shots 

This is a common mistake and I don’t know why. A listing will include three photos of the kitchen, or four photos of the backyard. Hello? Buyers don’t have to see a room from multiple angles. 

Choose the photo that flatters the room the most. Your photos should be complete, yet tease buyers to come and see more.

Notice how the photographer shot this kitchen from the
height of the counters. This means you can see both
the floor and the ceiling. Photo: BHG

Missing rooms

Buyers want an overview. Give them a room-by-room sampling as best you can. Omitted rooms are a red flag to buyers. Some Realtors have to pay extra for extra photos, so if you are forced to choose, choose the important rooms: kitchen, living room, dining room, baths and master bedroom.  Always include an exterior picture.

Flash

If a professional photographer takes your photos, he’ll have the camera to do the job with natural light, in-home lighting, or lights he brings to the job. If you or your Realtor take photos, turn the flash off. A flash illuminates only a few feet in front of the camera, and it leaves harsh shadows.

The flash is not your friend. If you are working with a point-and-shoot camera, you might need to do some simple photo editing to help the pictures along after uploading them.

Wrong angle

Good lighting and the proper angle are the two most significant ways to make your home photos look better. 

Inside, the most common mistake amateurs make is to shoot from too high a level. Crouch down to get a more interesting view. 

Outside, move around your home’s front and shoot multiple times. Shoot high and shoot low. Shoot from the left side of the house and from the right, even at different times of the day, and then choose the picture that makes your home look the best.

This split level home looks okay in the photo, but a little too boxy, small, and dull.  
But when I moved to one side to take another picture, the building looks more interesting.

People or pets in room

The message buyers get when they see people relaxing in the home is that you were in such a rush to get your house photographed that there was no time to ask people to step aside. It’s an affront to the buyer. 

Home buyers do not want to see people in these rooms. Pets in photos are a distraction as well. This apartment listing on Craigslist went viral because the owner's dog photobombed every shot, but I can't recommend that approach to get people noticing your listing!   

Empty room

Of course, this blog is about home staging, so I never recommend a home be shown with empty rooms. A photo of an empty room is sad. Usually, it’s all flooring and blank walls and windows, giving no indication of size or the possibilities. 

DIY home staging is not rocket science and does not need to cost you big bucks! Stage your rooms.

What's wrong with this picture? For starters, the photographer is reflected in
the mirror. Also, she's using a flash. The picture is crooked. It's not cropped.
The room's not staged, and the lid is up!

Signs of ordinary life

It’s appalling how many MLS photos show laundry, toiletries, stacks of paperwork, garbage cans, and cars parked in the driveway. Tweak your home for its photo op. It takes only a moment to stash the pool toys, hide the cosmetics, and put the lid down on the toilet!

Unprepared

There is a website that features bad MLS photos. It’s a primer for what not to do. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you the basics of good home staging. Just be ready when your photo shooting takes place by reviewing the crimes I’ve listed here.

How to Fix

Does a review of your online listing tell you that the photos fall short of what they could be? If so, you have a few options.

Talk to your Realtor about improving the images. If you are selling your own home FSBO, replace the offending photos with better ones. Whatever cost and effort it takes is worthwhile. Your photos are your front line salespeople. They can be deal breakers or what gets people excited to see your home.  

Replacing poor photos could mean that you need to spring for the cost of a professional photographer. What that will cost depends on where you live, the experience of the photographer, and how many photos you need.

Or, you might have a friend who has the camera, the eye and the experience to do the job gratis. If you take the photos yourself, edit them. I use Picasa for all my photos and the simplest techniques always improve them. So straighten, crop, brighten the colors, and increase the contrast as necessary. It’s easy. Get help if this editing task is overwhelming.

Maybe your listing has enough photos of your home to whet the appetite of home buyers, and you still have the opportunity for additional photos. Great! Don’t be shy about adding photos from other online sources. If you can grab a photo of your charming downtown, or the community pool, the local golf course, an annual festival, or whatever makes your town or neighborhood special, go ahead. Stay within bounds, however, because too many generic shots will make it appear that your home itself has little to offer.

Photos speak louder than words. Make sure your photos tell buyers how desirable your home is.

For more tips on making your home attractive to buyers, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It’s one sure way to be successful at staging your own home. 



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