Photographing your home

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I’ll make a confession right now: I am incredibly nosy about homes for sale. If I spot a “for sale” sign in my neighborhood, particularly if I like the exterior, I will go home to fire up my laptop and look it up on the realtor’s website. I love to look at the interior of homes partly to see the layout and size of the house, partly to check out the decor. I’m not even in the market to buy a home right now but I still troll the local listings at least once a week just for fun.

For Sale sign on front lawn of house

What never fails to make gnash my teeth and rend my garments while weeping (or, you know, something like that) is seeing real estate photos that look like they were snapped by a five-year-old with a cellphone camera. If you want beautiful portraits you need to put some thought into what you’re doing and your home is no different.

Here are some basic tips for photographing your home. If you just want to have some pictures to show friends and family who live far away, you’ll be more proud of the results if you take a bit of care. If you’re actually looking to sell your house (or sell a house for someone if you’re a realtor yourself) then your new photos could make or break the interest level people have in booking an appointment.

1. Clean up first. This seems like the most obvious tip in the world but you’d be amazed how many people post photos of living rooms and bedrooms that are piled high with clutter, unfolded laundry, even food. It may be your reality on a day to day basis but people don’t want to see your reality. They want to see a tidy, beautiful room where they can imagine themselves in the future. Take the time to dust, vacuum, and de-clutter first and THEN take the picture.

Photo credit: Ed Bierman

2. Beware the mirrors and windows. While it’s probably not going to be a deal breaker it looks pretty silly if you show up in your bathroom mirror in the real estate listings. Shoot on an angle to avoid catching your own reflection.

3. Let there be light! No one can appreciate the details of your kitchen if it’s dark. Not only that, a too-dark room can look unwelcoming. It might be beautiful and well-lit on a regular basis but your photos are speaking for you in this case so make sure they represent your home. Turn on some lights, open the blinds, and consider using a flash if you need to. If you aren’t pressed for time, wait for a sunny day rather than shooting on a dark, stormy afternoon (or even worse, at night). If using a flash, try lowering the brightness or using a diffuser to avoid harsh lighting; also remember my tip about mirrors and windows – avoid aiming your flash right into a mirror. You’d be amazed how many flash reflections I’ve seen in home listings!

4. Use a wide angle. Have you ever seen a photo of a bathroom that only shows the toilet and the corner of the counter? While I’m always relieved to see that yes, this home does indeed contain a toilet, it doesn’t give much of an idea of what the whole bathroom is like. Since your average bathroom can be notoriously difficult to capture, try using a wide angle in order to show off not only the toilet but also the sink, counter space, and tub/shower.

Thinkstock single image set

5. Take multiple shots. Going along with tip #4, if you can’t capture everything in one photo, feel free to take more than one. Unless you’re limited to how many photos your listing will allow, there’s no reason why you can’t take two photos of your living room or den if it’s large.

6. Use light to your advantage outdoors. Wait for the right light to bathe the front (or back if applicable) of your home so that you can show it off just right. Magic hour light is always a nice appealing way to light up your house for the exterior shots.

Swimming pool and landscaped yard alongside modern home

7. Remember de-cluttering means outside too. While you might still live in your home, don’t park your car in the driveway and pick up any odds and ends before photographing the outside of the house. Remember that people who are looking to buy a home want to be able to picture themselves living in it and seeing all your belongings strewn across the front lawn destroys that illusion. Avoid capturing tools, garbage bins and recycling containers, toys, and other bits of flotsam when you snap the exterior.

They’re all very simple and straightforward but they’ll make a big difference in creating beautiful photos and they’ll likely make your home look much more appealing.

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