If you are a listing agent, quality photography of the home that you are marketing to sell is critical. Imagine the couple that is ready to buy a home. They are browsing their choices online. Consider if there is an abundance of choices in their price range and the area that they are looking into. If your listing's photos are drab and lackluster, your potential audience may pass over rather quickly to the other homes. Are you missing opportunites?
Many agents opt for professional photography because of the special importance that quality real estate photos have. The first steps of home shopping happens online these days. So having the best possible photos is a wise investment and hiring a professional will certainly produce high quality marketing photos.
As you browse the MLS however, excellent photos may appear to be the exception and not the rule for many agents. In fact, I'm amazed at the terrible quality photos that agents often present. There is a middle ground in real estate photography that is also acceptible. It is possible to do your own photos AND have a quality presentation. There are so many factors involved to raise the bar and have your photos equal to the role that they need to play. Having a good camera is the starting point. Knowing how to use the settings on your camera is important (sometimes it helps to override the 'auto' setting) and using a tripod (gasp!) at times for longer exposure shots. Choosing the best time of day can help tremendously with exterior shots. Learning how to compose a shot also is essential (no we are not selling the bed or the couch here, we are selling the house!) There is one final element that is often overlooked that also can help kick it up a notch to make your photos stand out and that is in regards to photo editing or in other words a little post production processing.
Most shots can benefit from a little photo editing to pull out the hidden details. Your camera will choose an exposure for you that it thinks is the best for the shot you are taking. Often when there is a large dynamic range of brights and darks, this proves to create disappointing photos. Notice the exterior front shot of the listing below. In the "Before" photo, much of the detail is lost in shadowed areas. In the "After" shot, you can see how I used the various processing tools to bring out the hidden tones and detail. Now if this were the cover photo on an MLS search, which version do you think has the higher probablility of a click-through?
In the next example, let's take a look at an interior shot that I was able to rescue. The camera was using an exposure setting that was based on what what was outside the window instead of inside the room. The result was a completely underexposed interior shot. Not all interior shots like this one can be rescued, but this one happily had much of the tone details still intact. They were just hidden in the shadows and with the twist of an adjustment slider or two or three, they made their appearance!
Often with interior shots, the details of outside the window are lost because when the exposure setting is good for the inside, it is not good for the outside. (You may have heard of HDR, high dynamic range, photography. That is an advanced technique to handle the interior/exterior exposure dilemma. That sounds like a great topic that in future posts we can explore that in more detail.)
In the kitchen photo above, I had the outside detail to work with which was a bonus. As I adjusted the global exposure to better suit the interior, the outside details were getting "blown out". Fortunately, one of the tools in my editing toolbox allows me to set a mask for different settings for different portions of the photo. So I masked out the windows as having a different exposure setting adjustment than the inside so we wouldn't lose the view to the outside.
One of the things that helps in your post-production editing session is learning how to read a histogram. This is a graphical chart that represents the various brightness and darkness levels that are found in your photo. In an advanced photo editor's toolbox, there are ways not only to adjust the global exposure, but to selectively move around regions of exposure. For instance, you may very dramatically slide the exposure level but pinpointing only the shadowy areas. If you adjusted the whole photo as dramatically in exposure, the already bright areas would get blown out and lose their detail.
Another MLS-preparation task that can be handled in post-production is to crop to the aspect ratio that is optimized for the MLS. A common aspect ratio for real estate photos online is the 4:3 ratio. However, not all cameras (and especially higher value cameras like to shoot in 3:2 ratio; or perhaps your camera shoots HD format which is 16:9 ratio) If your camera does not match the MLS canvas and you don't adjust the crop, you will get dead space white areas (sometimes shown as black bars/called letterboxing. The color of black or white depends on the how the presentation site is set up)
In the examples above, you can see where post-production photo editing can really be helpful in taking your real estate listing photos to a higher quality level.
If you've followed my blog in the past, you may have seen various pre-recorded classes that I have offered. I am planning a new syllabus now to do a recorded class (for a reasonable tuition) sometime later this year in photo post-production editing for real estate listings. In the above narrative, I gave some clues to the types of things you (or someone on your team) would be learning how to do. If that is something you are interested in, be sure and add your name and email to my mailing list here so I can notify you when the course becomes available. (PS - If I see interest in this topic by many names, this will give added incentive to go ahead with this new production.)
If, on the other hand, you are the type to not want to attempt to figure everything out yourself (you have enough things going on already!), then you may be interested to outsource the work. If you want to consider me for the task, use the contact form on the upper right side of this page to see if I have availability in my schedule. I will do a set of up to 36 listing photos for a flat fee of $32.