So I was clothes shopping online the other day when I ran across what might have been a cute pair of shoes. I don’t know because the site had no picture for them. What? Why would I be interested in buying something that I can’t see first, right?

This is what your potential buyers are saying when they run across your listing online and it has one basic front photo, or even worse, no photos. Photos help get buyers in the door and if you’re not taking good photos (no, I don’t want to see a blurry breakfast nook), then you’re not only doing a disservice to your client, you’re damaging your own business.

OK, so let’s assume you’ve never taken photos before and I just convinced you it’s crazy important to do that and you have to go out tomorrow and get started…but where do you start? Take a look at the rest of this blog post. This are a few tips to get you started. It’s not an all you need to know list, but it is enough info to get you a few good photos for your next listing.

Get comfortable with your camera. I absolutely recommend getting at least a point and shoot digital camera. A DSLR is better and adding a wide angle lens is even better. However, just because the idea of great wide-angle photos has you excited doesn’t mean you should run to the store and buy all that expensive equipment.

Much about the quality of your photo is going to depend on your level of comfort with the device. If you get a DSLR and only ever shoot in automatic mode, that’s a waste of your money. So, what I’m telling you is that whatever photo-taking device you have, know how to use it. Get familiar with it. Get comfortable with it.

Also a couple of cautions about using a wide angle lens. They are great for getting more of a room in your photo but watch out for the dreaded fish-eye. Beware of extremely cheap “wide angle” lenses. They will most likely fish-eye your photos. This type of distortion makes it very hard to get a real impression of what the room you’re shooting looks like.

The second potential issue is making your shot look too good. Wide angle lenses will get more of the room in the shot, but be sure the room doesn’t look more spacious than it really is. What you’re going for is the best realistic portrayal of your property. If you present a photo that is unrealistic to get potential buyers in the door, you lose reliability when they see the property and realize all was not what it appeared to be.

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I’ve used a Canon Rebel for two years now. This is the newer model I got for Christmas.

Move your body. Anybody can put a camera up to his eye and mash a button. That gets you a picture, but not necessarily the picture you need. Getting the right shot means moving. Usually the best spot is in doorway or corner of the room, but you have to try some unique things. I’ve taken shots while standing on bathroom counters, crouched in closets and I’ve even opened a window and shot a room from the outside for one really uniquely laid out room. Don’t be afraid to take shots from over your head, on your knees, and any angle that might get you the look you’re going for. As any professional photographer will tell you, it takes hundreds of photos to get a handful of good shots.

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This is what I mean by move your body. What a great shot of the living room that I would not have gotten if I hadn’t wandered up and down the staircase finding the right stair, which just so happened to be 3rd from the top.

Set up your shots. I hope it goes without saying that you should make any room you’re about to take pictures of look the best it can. Don’t be afraid to tell your clients that some things need to go. Be sure to check for things you might not take notice of every day, but that would stick out in a photo, like those speaker wires draped across the walls.

Also of note, don’t be distracted by the furniture in a room. Yes, it’s there and (hopefully!) it looks great, but remember that you aren’t photographing the furniture. You’re photographing the room. You can make the furniture work for you, but a picture of a bed in a corner isn’t giving potential buyers any idea of what that room looks like.

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What a cute bed…but I’m trying to buy the house.
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Ah, now I can see the room!

Once you have the room set up, take a look at your lighting. You want as much natural light as possible. Trust me on this, it just looks better. If natural light isn’t available, be sure to get some good lighting in the room so you’re not depending wholly on your flash. Flash can create some very harsh shadows. Also try not shooting directly into (across from) your lighting source.

Ah, natural light. Everything seems brighter and clearer. My main light source is to the right, a nice big window. Remember, don't shoot into your lighting source. This room was laid out just right, thankfully.
Ah, natural light. Everything seems brighter and clearer. My main light source is to the right, a nice big window. Remember, don’t shoot into your lighting source. This room was laid out just right, thankfully.

Keep in mind shooting outside is a bit different. You don’t want harsh sunlight, so try shooting during the magic hours, about an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset, or on an overcast day. The bright light that helps you inside isn’t quite as helpful outside.

Taken mid-morning, the bright light is casing some very dark and heavy shadows.
Taken mid-morning, the bright light is casing some very dark and heavy shadows.
This was taken on an overcast day. See the more balanced lighting here?
This was taken on an overcast day. See the more balanced lighting here?

So there you are, a few quick and easy tips to get you started on your way to great photographs. Don’t take for granted what photos do for you and your listing. They simply cannot be overlooked.

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