After attending a webinar yesterday for real estate photography I realized I am not alone in disliking really poor photographs on the MLS. There were some things I agreed with and a few pointers I learned. There also a few things I do a little different. There are a variety of cameras Agents can use. Not everybody has a budget for hiring a photographer like me to shoot high quality photos. That is understandable. We have all been there. I would like to expound on what the photographer who conducted the training said. Acknowledging the instructor/photographer first. Beth Adams in Phoenix AZ (928) 821-3289. So, if you need a photographer in the Phoenix area, give her a call.
What camera to use depends on budget. In a pinch with nothing else to use your cell phone can work if the lighting is right. There are editing apps that can help improve those photos to a degree. Definitely don't rely on you cell phone as your camera of choice. Point and shoot cameras are much better. Again, lighting needs to be right, so time of day may be critical. With a good DSLR and a few speed lights in the right hands you can take photos like a professional. It does take a lot of practice and there are good books out there to teach you. Be prepared to spend lots of time shooting photos to get the right one if using multiple speed lights. It is tempting to stand an shoot, it is better to use a tripod.
One thing Beth mentioned was making photos look natural. Some MLS photos look fake with over-saturation or over editing. Here is a prime example of an over edited over saturated photo. With the correct editing this could have been a decent photo with some added speed lights to fill in the shaded areas of the home. The greens of the trees and bushes are overdone. The sky looks unnatural. It almost hurt your eyes to look at it. Does this photo make you want to see more or look at the next home? Seller canceled the listing after six months and the price was close to market value.
Here is an example of a home that got an offer the day it hit the market. I went back to retake photos of a room the Listing Agent and Owner thought was good, but I wanted better. While in the home for re-shooting two rooms there were at least 4 showings. A few commented that they loved the pictures that were already posted. There was no real good shot with the bush in front. Capturing the mountains behind the home was impossible from the ground, and is what I wanted the front view to have. So, a ladder in the bed of my truck standing over the corner street sign got what I wanted. Sometimes you have to be creative, just be safe. Ladders are an under used tool. The inside was a challenge because everything was white. Including the cabinets. But with good editing software I was able to blend several pictures into one without using any speed lights. These are the types of photos a professional photographer or very good novice can do.
So how can you get decent or good photos by using a point and shoot or a decent DSLR?
First, timing for lighting is important. There is what some photographers call the golden hours which is an hour before sunset. That this hour will give you optimum lighting for taking photographs. For interior shots a cloudy day doesn't hurt since light is diffused and spread out through the clouds to remove harsh shadows the direct sunlight gives. For those outside shots depending on the direction the home faces you can shoot in the morning or afternoon. If the front faces west and the mountains are in the background, like the photo above, mid to late afternoon are perfect. Before going out to shoot photos think lighting.
Second, turn on lights and open window blinds and doors. The more natural light you can get the better. Turning on all the lights helps brighten the room. Keep in mind incondecent lighs give a yellow tone to photos. Most point and shoot and DSLR cameras have a white balance correction for this. Make sure you use it. In fact take some shots with different light settings and pick the one that looks best if you don't have editing software.
Third, angle of photos are important. Most Real Estate Agents stand and shoot at eye level. Pretty much standard. However, there are sweet spots for shooting. Which is between waist high and your chin. Imagine the view homeowners see while sitting down? That is a good level for photos. For kitchens low enough for a good angle without photographing under the cabinets. Level with the bottom of wall cabinets is a good angle.
Fourth, remove clutter. The photo should be for the feel of the room not the objects within. If you want to sell trinkets, then sell trinkets. Just don't try to sell them when selling a home. The only exception is if the home is historical and there is a feature of the home, like a knocker or door handle, that accentuate the home you should capture that unique feature. Market the feel of the room.
Post editing can correct a lot of things or make things worse. Sometimes it is best to leave things alone. After you have sot enough photos you will find sometimes the original is the best. Too much saturation creates an overwhelming brightness of colors. In a colorful home, sometimes turning down the saturation will make a photo look better. With the right software you can take a wide angle picture and make it look more natural. Of course if you stand over a couch and use a wide angel lens, the best post editing software won't help.
Wide angle lenses can be a friend or enemy. Some MLS photos have over use of wide angle shots. If a room is small and you feel the need to show more of it, try different settings on the wide angle lens. Some mobile phones have 3rd market attachments to help. For the iPhone there is the OloClip that has wide angle and fish eye. If using it, don't over use it because everything will look unnatural. For a DSLR a 10-22mm wide angle lense will be your main lens. 17-20mm are the sweet spots for most rooms. For those small bedrooms 14-16mm works. Rarely should 10-12mm be used unless you are experienced enough to try and create an effect. If shooting next to a couch with a wide angle lens the couch arm nears will look 4 feet wide, while the one at the other end looks 2 inches wide. Smae thing with tabels, counters and other furniture. Not every shot needs a wide angle lens.
Practice makes perfect. You are going to make mistakes. They are to learn from. Pinterest is a great source for samples of what to do. I like to use it to post my photos so when a Realtor calls me for a photo shoot they can see my work. Not to mention sellers can review them too. If on a budget, do the best you can. If you can afford it, hire a photographer. But check out samples of their work first. You're the boss, so make sure the photographer gets the shots you want. I once read that professional photos of a home can bring as high as 3.5% more in sales price compared to homes without. That means more commission as well.