What Makes a Great Real Estate Photo?

We’ve seen the bad real estate photos, but what separates the mediocre ones from the Great ones?

In plain language

1.  The photo should show the space.  How the picture is framed along with what is left in and what is left out, effects our opinion of the photo.  Height of the camera, angle of the view into the space and width of the view of the space.  A wide angle lens helps get more of the room into the space of the photo.  Humans have a wide field of vision (up to 200 degrees horizontally).  Unless a wide angle lens is used, it is difficult to make a room look like it would to a person walking into it.  When it comes to exterior photos, they may benefit from an elevated view, especially in hilly settings.  There is a lot of potential information that can be contained in just one photograph.  The more space that can be pleasingly packed into a photo, the more the story of the space can be told  – without words.  Pleasingly is a key word here.  There can be a point of too wide where the space becomes overwhelming or distant items become indistinguishable.  Sometimes part of an item shown in a photo can tell enough of the story for the viewer, such as showing a portion of the refrigerator to the side of a photo, instead of the entire refrigerator.  No one wants to be overwhelmed by a photo because then you’ve lost the positive feeling of the viewer.  Care in composition should be at the forefront of the photographer’s mind when crafting each photograph.

2.  The features of the property should be easily visible (not other stuff).
 Buyers want to see the house they are considering.  The house.  Not the stuff in the house.  If photographing a bedroom, the bed is not the most important part of the room. Viewers want to see the windows, light fixtures, flooring, walls, closet and end up with good idea of the layout/size of the room.  The bed plays into the room in some regard as it gives the viewer a reference point to gauge the size of the room, but it is far from the most important part.  Part of highlighting the features is to not have extra things getting in the way of the view.  This is where preparation for the shoot is important.  The spaces should be de-personalized, valuables put away, surfaces clear, furniture arranged, excessive furniture removed, surfaces clean, and visually harmonize with less patterns and more neutrals (if possible).  Then there are the little things: toilet seats down, towels and bedding straightened, light bulbs working (same color temp if possible please! see #4), wires/cables hidden, and items on shelves straightened.  All of these things can distract the viewer if they are not done.  Don’t let anything get in the way of viewing the features you really want them to see.

3.  The space is well lit.  Light and bright spaces are what viewers want to see.  Dim and dark?  Sorry I can’t tell what I’m looking at.  Use of flash is key here.  Off camera flash to be specific.  It takes skill and experience to walk into a room and understand how to best light the space while reducing shadows.  Bouncing flash off the ceiling or wall is typically best, but sometimes an umbrella or reflector need to come into the mix.  Photography is all about harnessing light.  And in real estate, it is about creating a light and bright photo that shows the space while highlighting its features.  Showing a bright space is not limited to the indoors.  Photos also need to take in account the light outside.  If there is a pleasing view out the window, that should show in the photo as well.  For goodness sake, DO NOT have real estate photos taken when it is dark outside.  The dark window will look creepy.  When planning the exterior photos, the sun should be considered.  The front of a house with the sun shining on it will look much better than when it is sitting in the shadows.

4.  The photograph must imitate real life.  After spending most of our lives in and out of buildings, people know that walls should not be curved or slanted.  It just isn’t natural.  The photo should be a true representation of the property, so the lines and colors should be correct.  Why would a normally vertical wall end up looking slanted or curved?  Well, the use of a wide angle lens creates distortion in the outer areas of the photo.  Editing programs can remove most of the distortion, so that the space looks natural.  The photographer understands and plans for this.  On site, the photographer should also level the camera to get the lines correct as well, but even if leveling isn’t done on site, a good editing program can fix the issue.  The key to knowing if a true professional took the photos is if the vertical lines of the space are also vertical to the edge of photo.  Color is also important.  The color of items in the room that develops in the camera may be different than what a live viewer sees.  The type of light sources in the room can be tricky to deal with – especially if there are mixed color temperatures.  The variety of lightbulbs available today – yellow tungsten, white fluorescents, and LED with all sorts of color temps  – complicate the environment.  Use of a gel over a flash may be needed to balance out the different color temperatures.  It all comes down to getting the different color temperatures the same so that the white balance in the camera can deal with one color temp.   If it is a bit off, the photographer’s memory of the colors of the room can assist in making sure the photo is accurate and fixed as much as possible in post-processing.  Use of an editing program is essential to professional quality photographs.  The key to every great real estate photo knowing most photos won’t be perfect out of the camera, so editing will be necessary.

05HalfBathFoyer5100Greenwood5.  The viewer wants to see more!  A collection of photographs that influence contact are the greatest real estate photos.   Once the potential buyer’s geographic area is determined along with price range, beds, baths, lot and other features, it is the photographs that will influence which houses to visit.  A viewer is converted into a potential buyer. They put the house on their short list and get a showing time set up.  Nothing is better than this!