What I learned in Matthew Finlason's Advanced Home Staging Training - YES! Even I still learn new stuff!

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team

There is so much to share about what I learned from Matthew Finlason in his Advanced Home Staging Training course.  While much of what he had to share I already do, what I really learned were some key differentiations.  I've focused on staging for demographics, buyer demographics and psychographics for years now.  I have all kinds of aesthetic shots in my marketing and have even taught webinars on portfolio photography. 

I've been in business for 6 years now and run a very successful company.  Still I have much to learn.  I don't necessarily measure upgrades in my education by learning completely new skills, but rather on creating slight differences that can radically improve my marketing ability, language, and business skill sets.  I've been working with Matthew for months on helping direct, edit and pull this class together into an incredible value for the staging industry.  Perhaps what I didn't expect is that as I sat in on the first class, held in New Jersey a few weeks ago, that I would still manage to pick up tidbits of value and direct upgrades to my current techniques.  Personally, I learned enough that if I had really been a student in the class that I would have felt my money was well spent - and I had already edited both the power point and manual as well as spending dozens of hours with Matthew on Skype working on the project. 

While I can't really elaborate too much on the things I learned, I thought it might be interesting to share one of the little moments of clarity - an Ah Ha! moment, if you will.  Many of you have seen my close up shots that I always use to showcase my staging work, as opposed to the standard full room shot that we use for agents.  To the right is an example of one of them.

It's an OK photograph.  Honestly it's not one of my favorites, but it actually does appear in my portfolio.  I have dozens of these shots.  I try to take at least 4-10 in every home I stage.  I've been of the opinion that clients always want to know WHAT we are putting in their homes, not just how the end results turn out.  They want to see what we use that will appeal to the right buyer. 


Enter Matthew Finlason's new Advanced Staging techniques.  Matthew spends a fair amount of time explaining clearly about demographics and psychographics.  He helps you hone in your research and then pulls it all together by teaching about optimal and alternative floorplans and creating a company aesthetic (or many of them - so you have a portfolio ready for each type of property or client that you stage for).  He talks about exactly HOW he creates some of the photography that creates so much emotion in his portfolio.  

staging photographsToday I needed to swap out some bar stools for a home that team member David Moon was working on.  Neither of us were particularly happy with how they looked, even though we both agreed that they would work in the house originally.  Sometimes this happens.  What's important is that you fix it if you don't love it.  Since I was in the house & taking photos of the swap out, I thought I would take a moment and try out some of these techniques.  Now I'm not a photography genius.  I don't own an expensive camera.  As a matter of fact, I'm kind of embarrased to say that I still photograph my staging jobs with a coolpix point and shoot camera.  I'm telling you this because I want you to know that you can still have great photographs, even if you don't have an expensive camera.  You can still learn these techniques! 

What I love about this particular photo is the fact that the background is out of focus and the details in the actual staging props are clear.  You are focused on one specific thing, not the entire grouping.  To me, this made the photo far richer.  Why did I not think of this in all of the years that I've been doing these photos?


Here's another one.  It was a simple bowl of cherries on a table.  It's just in front of a window that has an amazing marsh view.  Is this about the house? Not at all.  Does it create an emotion about our staging?  Yes, I think it does!

dining table

Even this simple photograph of a napkin & ring on the dining table (yes, we set them here in Charleston - it's a town built on entertaining) is far more alive and interesting than the shot of the tulips above. 

So the big question is, "How does this help my business?"  Better photographs, ones that create more emotion and show off our actual work, help us get more clients.  Not only that, but we can command higher prices than our competition because we come across as more professional & cutting edge.  You aren't hiring "just" another home stager.  You are hiring someone who is concerned with every aspect of the staging job.  You are hiring someone who understands your buyer and will play up their stage with the right pieces to draw them in. 

For more information about Matthew Finlason's Advanced Home Staging Training class, please go to http://stagingandredesign.com.   

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 Author Bio: Melissa Marro, Home Staging Industry leader, Realtor, and entrepreneur offers a unique perspective on New Home Construction, Resale Residential Real Estate, and Home Staging

For more information on buying or selling in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, or Jacksonville, area, visit StageListSellNEFL.com or call Melissa Marro (marro.melissa at gmail.com), Keller Williams First Coast Realty, for more information (904-466-2093).



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Rose Osman
John Aaroe Group - Sherman Oaks, CA

Melissa, I love the photos!  They bring a richness to the house.

Mar 18, 2011 04:58 PM #1
Geri Sonkin
Douglas Elliman Real Estate 516-457-7103 - Merrick, NY
Long Island Real Estate & Staging Expert

I love your photos, the last being my favorite.  It certainly does evoke emotion.  Though I take shots like that sometimes, I will do it more in the future.  Wonderful.

Mar 18, 2011 05:08 PM #2
Kristine Ginsberg
Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC - Short Hills, NJ
NJ Home Stager

Melissa - Love your photos - those all important emotional connection points and will definitely look into Matthew Finason's Advanced Home Staging Training - after all - I plan on always remaining teachable!

Mar 18, 2011 05:08 PM #3
Susan McLaughlin
Keller Williams Realty - East Monmouth - Red Bank, NJ
Monmouth County Real Estate

I have also tried vignette photos rather than whole room pictures in listings.  It's more like how a house appears in a magazine.  Great post, thanks!

Mar 18, 2011 05:10 PM #4
marti garaughty
garaughty.com - Montreal, QC
a highly caffeinated creative type...

branding, abstract art, WordPress design and consultation

Mar 18, 2011 06:16 PM #5
Kathy Nielsen
http://atlantahomestaging.net - Marietta, GA
Atlanta Georgia Home Stager

Please send me those tulips. I can email you separately and let you know my address. (smile).

In all seriousness - I love that photo of the table setting. It looks like it came out of a magazine.

As for capturing those types of photos - it's one of my most favorite things to do at the end of the staging. Here's one of my favorites.

Close up of floral and candle sticks

Mar 19, 2011 12:51 AM #6
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Thanks for sharing this very useful information, Melissa. I sometimes do take vignette photos, but usually I'm in such a hurry, I don't take the time to photograph. I'll pay more attention to this in the future.

Mar 19, 2011 04:01 AM #7
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I love this photography and although I don't always get a lot of "after" shots because I have been doing mostly consults lately, I always try to get a few of this type when I can.  Funny, I had to take a second look at your cherries, I thought they were apples, LOL!

Mar 19, 2011 05:20 AM #8
Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

Brilliant - I have got to get more clever with my photos!  Thanks so much for sharing.  Julie

Mar 19, 2011 08:28 AM #9
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

Melissa, I think it's a brilliant idea to use close up photos to promote our business. I didn't think about it this way. You are so right about emotional aspect.

Mar 19, 2011 10:33 AM #10
Janet Jones
Just Your Style Interiors, LLC - Kihei, HI
Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Melissa--This is such a great idea.  I don't usually take the close up shots, but I can see from your post that it really would add a lot to one's portfolio. As you say, we never stop learning. 

Mar 19, 2011 10:46 AM #11
Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

These photos do inspire and evoke emotions!!

I never want to stop learning!! Thanks for sharing Melissa!

Mar 19, 2011 01:48 PM #12
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Hi Melissa - I skimmed this post yesterday - I was rushing out to stage a tired, west coast contemporary home.  When I was taking after photos (with my Nikon Coolpix!), I thought I'd try Matthew's photo technique that you described.  I'm not sure if I was successful - maybe I need to be even closer, but here it is.  Thank you!  I'll keep practicing, and keep my fingers crossed that Matthew comes to Seattle at some point.

Home Staging North Vancouver - Before & After Photos

Mar 20, 2011 06:03 AM #13
Anne Lok
Blue Elephant Realty Inc., Brokerage - Toronto, ON
Toronto Modern Real Estate

Melissa- thank for sharing your insights. Very interesting blog.  Picking the right subject matter to evoke emotion is definitely an art.

Mar 20, 2011 06:15 AM #14
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

(I really do wish the AR gods would see fit to make this site ipad compatible!)

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and thank you Kathy & Sally for also including some of your photos!  Last night he gave me another tip, so I'll be trying a little more editing with some of the photos above too!

Mar 20, 2011 11:00 AM #15
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

This was a huge takeaway for me Melissa from Matt's class and I'm going to be utilizing this in my updated website.  I think he's spot on with the emotions it creates in the minds of our clients (and ourselves) I know I am drawn more to a photo that tells a story than one that leaves me with nothing to imagine.

Here's a recent shot that had me thinking differently:


Mar 20, 2011 11:53 AM #16
Debra Landy
StageTwoSell LLC - Horseheads, NY
PA and NY Home Stager

Thanks so much for this post!  There is SO much poor RE photography.  Staging and these great photos are changing everything.

Here is a photo from a recent staging job.

Mar 21, 2011 02:25 PM #17
Stephanie Stringer
First Choice Loan Services NMLS#210764 - San Antonio, TX
Mortgage Loan Originator

I love looking at the photos of the great work you stagers do.  Very impressive.

Mar 22, 2011 06:46 AM #18
Marianne Cherico
Interiors by Marianne Cherico - Foxboro, MA
Home Stager -Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Melissa-This is a great post. They say that "God is in the details" and these pictures show that. I am going to pay more attention to how I photograph pictures and make sure that I spend time on taking some pictures that evoke an emotion. I agree that this is the kind of artistic and interesting visual marketing that will set us apart. Thanks for getting me to think outside of the box on this! Here is one of my favorite staging pictures!  The look we were going for was"upscale beach chic".I think that I will try to zero in even more next time!

Interiors by Marianne Cherico

Mar 25, 2011 11:31 PM #19
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Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging
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