Everyone understands the need for professional photographs for a wedding, but what about when listing a house? Is it really necessary to pay someone who specializes in real estate photography to take pictures of your kitchen and bathroom?
We did the dirty work for you and figured it out. Here's a guide to real estate photography: if you need it, how to tell good photography from bad photography, the cost, and how to do it yourself—even if you don't have real estate photography experience.
Do I need a real estate photographer for my real estate photos?
To sell a house in today's online age, you've got to have some serious marketing. That's because more than 90% of buyers start their real estate search online. They scroll through photo after photo until they find a house that they like. But do they really not like the other homes, or did the other homes just not have professional photography?
Before we go any further, let's talk about why professional architecture (building) photography matters.
While you could get the same photographer that took your infant's photos last year, you're going to get a different product. People who specialize in photographing people are going to approach architecture photography similarly, missing key elements that make your house pop.
Beyond that, those who specialize in real estate photography rely less on photo editing than other types of photography.
What is real estate photography exactly?
We've all seen those videos where they compare an original photo to one that has been redone with Photoshop or Lightroom to make the image more (or less) than it really is. That is not what real estate photography is.
While real estate photographers can still Photoshop in furniture for virtual staging, remove that stain on your carpet, and lighten up some shadows, they usually keep the house exactly the way it is.
Real estate photographers know how to capture your house in the best lighting and take the photo from just the right angle to show off the best features. While many homeowners take pictures of corners and tight bathrooms, photographers know how to capture the entire bathroom in just one shot—without getting a piece of them in the mirror.
Making your home listing look like a curated Instagram feed may not seem like it's worth it, but when a potential buyer is looking, interior and exterior photos make all the difference. They'll be able to picture themselves living in the house before even walking through it.
Still not convinced? A recent study by PR Newswire shows that homes with professional photos on the listing sold 36% faster than other homes. The average time for those homes were 89 days on the market, compared to the 123 days of other listings.
Good vs. Bad Real Estate Photography
There are a few ways to tell good real estate photography from a bad one. Here are a few indicators.
The first way to separate the experienced photographers from the less experienced is to check out their equipment. Your photographer should have a full frame camera.
Anything less and your photos will look distorted, which is a major turnoff to buyers.
Photographing Tiny Spaces
Good real estate photography should be able to capture tiny spaces with ease. On the other hand, bad real estate photography will divide tiny spaces into multiple photos.
Potential buyers love seeing half baths and laundry rooms, but if those rooms are split into multiple photos, it can make it difficult for buyers to visualize the house.
The Pictures that Matter
The exterior photo can be some of the most difficult to capture, but also the most important. Good exterior real estate photography should capture the entirety of the house without washing out any of the features.
On the other hand, bad real estate photography will have long shadows covering windows and features like the hardware and accent woodwork.
It's not just on the exterior, either. Good real estate photography will make the most of natural light in the most looked at photos of the interior: the kitchen, master bedroom, and master bathroom.
Bad photography will only capture a few of the rooms with the natural light before the light begins to fade and the other rooms are cast with shadows.
While staging your home is a great idea, it's probably best to do so after you take your photos. The decor might draw potential buyer's eyes to the art rather than the mantel on the fireplace or the built-ins.
It's best to have the room as empty as possible, and definitely free of clutter, garbage, and personal items such as family photos.
Good photography will line up the vertical lines correctly. Cabinets in kitchen photos, the pillars on the house and the staircases all need to have crisp and aligned verticals.
Bad photos, on the other hand, will have the kitchen, pillars, and staircases all at a slight angle.
A good photographer will have a portfolio filled with photos featuring these elements and principles. Well-lit photos, clear accents will stand out where they're supposed to, and they'll capture rooms in their entirety.
Ask to see the photographer's portfolio. You should be able to piece the house together, see the best features of the rooms, and not have any discoloration.
How much does real estate photography cost?
Most independent real estate photographers will charge between $100 and $500 depending on the house size. While you could find a photographer for as low as $50, they typically use Lightroom presets on all of the photos, meaning they don't always take the time to polish each picture individually and make the house features shine for potential clients.
Is real estate photography worth it?
Many people wonder if they should get real estate photography. Brandon Hays, principal broker of Stellar Realty Northwest and Clever Partner Agent, says real estate photography is needed for a quick and profitable sale. "If I had to choose a few things that I can point to that are responsible for a quick and profitable sale," Hays says, "I would start with the French term mise en place meaning everything in its place. It all starts with the paperwork. All the T's crossed, and all I's dotted. Then schedule the photos and pay for a good professional photographer. I promise it's worth it!"
DIY Real Estate Photography
Let's say you don't have the budget for a professional real estate photo session and want to DIY instead. While there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to sell your house, real estate photography is one element that you won't want to skimp on.
Unless you have photography training and experience or want to learn enough to purchase the equipment necessary for a quality photo shoot, you might do your house a disservice.
However, if you really want to try, when all is said and done, a few great photos is all it will take to get a buyer to visit your house. The top rooms you'll want to take your time making the pictures look really great are:
- Bathrooms (especially the master bath)
- Master bedroom
- Exterior of the house
- Main/great room
Make sure these rooms shine, and there isn't anything in the photo that would distort or obstruct the view, such as a foggy day or a pet.
You'll need to time the photos so they have the light facing in a way that doesn't cast shadows. You'll also want to utilize as much natural light as possible, so throw open those curtains!
When you are taking your own house photos, tour your house as an outsider. Notice anything out of place or that looks a little off. Make sure you take the time to remove personal items and clean up clutter. You want potential buyers to picture themselves living there.
Real estate videos have risen in popularity over the last decade, and for good reason! Potential buyers can now get a feel for the property with a virtual tour to see if the layout and house design is right for them. Many virtual tours also include the neighborhood!
If you are considering including a real estate video here are some pros and cons to be aware of:
- Gives potential buyers another view
- Adds appeal to your listing
- Gives out-of-area buyers a better look
- Added expense
- While nice to have, not necessary
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