We can all agree that photos are an important component for selling a home. Some of us believe short of pricing right, photographs are the most important element. Done right, photos can make a big positive difference. Done wrong, photos can turn Buyers away. So, how can you do it right? For the majority hiring a good photographer is the answer. You will learn here some things to look for when choosing a photographer. For the few of us that are DIY, taking your own photos may be option. Personally, I like to shoot my own photos. Being demanding about photos, taking my own is the answer.
Simple Do’s and Don’ts for the Do It Yourselfer with real estate photography:
Don’t use your smart phone. Smart phones are OK for sending clients photos of a property they are interested in or for doing a quick video. Smart phone lack the quality and control of a DSLR. Though their cameras are getting better. It’s not a good practice for Sellers to see you going around with a smart phone taking photos to market their home. It says something about quality of your service, or lack thereof.
Do use a DSLR camera. If you’re not familiar with DSLR cameras, getting familiar will make a difference. Practice, practice, practice. Nearly all professional photographers shoot RAW instead of JPG. RAW captures all the digital information for better editing. JPG compresses information within the camera. If you must shoot JPG, set the color setting to neutral. I prefer RAW with full manual control. Then I can go back and edit the massive amount of data RAW files have to get the best out of each photo.
Do use a tripod. Using a quality tripod makes a difference. Cameras can be leveled for a better photo. Shooting free hand invites unlevel, poorly angled photographs. For the way I shoot, I like to avoid speed lights (flashes) as much as possible. So, shooting 5-7 photos at different photos with different allowances of light for post editing into one photo. Using the histogram feature to measuring the amount of light. If your camera has HDR capability and you’re not proficient with shooting histogram, you can achieve a similar, lesser quality, result. You won’t have the full balance of dynamic range from room to room though (simply put, light to dark balancing). Any movement when shooting HDR will blur the photo since the camera is processing 3 photos to make one. Making the tripod imperative. When shooting night photos a tripod with a remote shutter release is best. Allowing you to hold the shutter open for a longer exposure. The remote eliminates camera shake.
Don’t aim the flash at the subject. Aiming a speed light at the subject being photographed creates what is called harsh lighting with shadows. When I must add lighting to the room I use off camera remote controls for one to several speed lights, adjusting the strength of each light. If you cannot do that, have an camera speed light that can be controlled and angled. If forced to using the cameras speed light, draping a tissue over the light to diffuse light is better than a direct flash. Aiming at the ceiling will help diffuse and spread light. Clouds diffuse the light of the sun, making shadows less harsh. When forced to use speed lights. I use Gary Fong diffusers, umbrellas, umbrellas with diffusers, color gels, and reflectors. It all depends on the subject and dynamic range of ambient (natural) light.
Do research photography books. Go to the library and check out a book on photography. Most cover modeling, portrait, wedding, and landscaping. The portion on landscaping is going to be the most beneficial. Real estate photography is similar, just inside. The biggest challenge will be the dynamic range of ambient light. Windows will be bright, rooms away from windows dark. Turning on all the lights in each room helps to a point. Plus lights make a photograph look better. Using the shooting style I like, using off camera speed lights, or a combination of both will result in awesome photos. One of my favorite e-books is The Essential Guide to: Lighting Interiors by Scott Hargis. Another is Enfuse For Real Estate Photography, by Simon Maxwell.
Don’t over saturate colors. This is the finger nails on the chalk board for me. I see luxury homes with highly saturated colors that are almost fluorescent with the greens, oranges, and yellows. Good for highlighting excerpts in a book, not good for marketing a home. Have you ever seen a highly saturated photo in a magazine? Why do it when marketing real estate? The only exception is a sunrise or sunset to pull out the colors or either (cautiously). Beyond that, toning down helps. I’d rather see a photo lacking some color saturation that creates a softer mood than an oversaturated photo that is hard to look at. Orange and some woods are hard to edit. For those photos, turning down the saturation a touch and turning contrast down low will balance the colors and contrast to make it more natural and appealing.
I hope this shines some light on better photography for real estate. Professionally appearing photos make a difference. Studies have shown that professional appearing photos can bring as much as 3.5% more to the sale of a home. On a $290,000 sale that could bump the sales price to $300,000. That might be approximately $300 more commission for photographs you paid $200 for. Not to mention, you got your return on investment (ROI) within 30 days instead of 180 days (where the price may require being dropped significantly to attract more Buyers. Resulting in even less ROI). I don’t only shoot my own listing, I shoot listing photographs for several Realtors in my area. An Agent was having trouble selling a listing, not even getting showings. I recommended hiring a professional photographer. She asked me. Within a short time the home sold. Proof that photos make a difference.