Real Estate Photo Editing - Making Your Listing Stand Out

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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?

good and bad photo examples for real estate main photos

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?

compare before and after


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! 

real estate photo edit underexposure correction


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.

fine tuning adjustments allow different rules for different areas of the photo


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.

understanding a photo's histogram will allow you to see the kinds of edits that are possible

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)


aspect ratio for your MLS


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.

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Dick Greenberg 01/26/2016 06:02 AM
  2. Praful Thakkar 05/22/2016 07:00 PM
Real Estate Technology & Tools
Real Estate Technology
photo editing

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Show All Comments
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

For a change, Craig Daniels I had to take pictures myself instead of my regular 'go-to' guy and have to upload them in MLS soon! And they are just okay - not the best (after all I am less than an average Joe when it comes to photography!)

So I'd say, this is such a timely post for me. Thanks for being there for all 'Rainer...always.

May 30, 2015 11:11 AM #15
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Craig some of the hi def photos are not a good representation of the property. Rooms are distorted and they appear larger than they are.  I am taking my own photos because they are a better representation of the property. Any suggestions are appreciated.

May 30, 2015 01:31 PM #16
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Craig - There is a lot of important info for those who don't higher professionals to to the photos.

May 30, 2015 04:01 PM #17
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

This was very informational - thanks fo sharing.  Great pictures really do make a huge difference in appointments.

May 30, 2015 08:23 PM #18
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Craig, Thank you for the tutorial. I will bookmark this post and read it again.

May 30, 2015 08:59 PM #19
Lisa Friedman
Great American Dream Realty - Essex, VT
30 Years of Real Estate Experience!

A picture tells more than a thousand words when it comes to marketing a home. The difference in photo quality between good or bad could mean the difference between a home having a fast sale or lingering on the market for months, or even years.


May 30, 2015 09:10 PM #20
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Craig Daniels Excellent post for enhancing real estate photos. Big difference between good photography and a snapshot.

May 30, 2015 11:39 PM #21
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

ME: I just want to point and shoot my cell phone and get on with the show.

MY CURRENT CLIENT: That will never do. He wants professional pics for the home

May 30, 2015 11:39 PM #22
Carolyn Crispin
Keller Williams Tri-Lakes - Branson, MO
Crispin Team Sells Branson Homes Land & Commercial

Thanks for the wealth of information of picture quality and over and underexposed and how to get the photos to look great.

May 31, 2015 12:10 AM #23
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
A moving experience!

I learn something new each and every time I visit your posts.

May 31, 2015 12:18 AM #24
Barbara Altieri
Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Craig Daniels I am SO bothered by bad listing photos. Sellers pay a lot of money to have their property represented in the best way possible and what I see out there is awful. I am particularly interested in your using masking for getting rid of blowouts. They annoy me. Do you take two then overlay and mask?  I have gotten around this by taking during the day when light equalization is best, but that is difficult sometimes. Have signed up on your list. Thanks for these tips and keeping this issue at the forefront.

May 31, 2015 07:44 AM #25
Michael Blue
Home Smart Realty West - Encinitas, CA
REALTOR - 760-889-8877, Encinitas/Carlsbad

Unfortunately, the kitchen pic is not composed well. The proper Lens and not the camera is of importance here. The shot is unflattering, all angles have to be looked at. I take my own these days, it was not a cheaper alternative to hiring out however but I enjoy the hobby.

May 31, 2015 10:59 PM #26
Bill Kennedy
Keller Williams Realty - Greenville, SC
Homes For Sale Greenville SC

Thanks so much for sharing! 

Jun 01, 2015 01:24 AM #27
Craig Daniels
Tech Training for You! - Staten Island, NY
Technology Instructor/Project Consultant

Barbara Altieri - very happy to see you on the list :)
we'll be exploring that topic in class! see you soon with an email notification when the class is ready

Jun 01, 2015 03:10 AM #28
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Craig, always great information on photos to share...on my higher end homes I outsource now to ensure they always come out works for me due to the way I have to show houses...there is no time for post production here!

Jun 06, 2015 09:26 PM #29
Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint
Sandpoint, ID
North Idaho Real Estate - 208-255.6227

hello Craig.  I come via repost of Dick Greenburg.  Worth the trip over to say thank you and follow you.  Mark

Jan 26, 2016 12:40 PM #30
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Amazing difference in the photos!  If an agent isn't willing to learn how to do this, they should be paying someone to take their photos!

Jan 29, 2016 10:39 PM #31
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

What soft-wear you use to create your inserts with arrows? This post presentation is excellent!

Mar 12, 2016 03:24 PM #32
Scott Pope
Nautical Properties - Panama City Beach, FL
You Can't Live Without Water™

Thanks for all the great tips Craig. 

May 22, 2016 08:55 PM #33
Dan Tabit
Keller Williams Bellevue - Sammamish, WA

I'm late to the party but Praful Thakkar just reblogged this and it's a great post.  I do some basic HDR and found it really helps with the inside/outside balance.  I try not to make it look too crazy though, sometimes agents and photographers get carried away with it. 

May 23, 2016 02:06 PM #34
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