Here are 10 essential principles that you can use to give your real estate photos maximum effectiveness:

1. The primary purpose of real estate marketing photos is to present the features of the property.

Make sure that each photo visually supports this purpose. Any visual distractions that divert the viewer’s attention from this purpose need to be eliminated. Items 3 through 9 below are the most common distractions that pull the viewer’s attention away from the purpose of the photos. Also, photo composition is all important because it controls the viewer’s attention and focuses it on the purpose of the photo.

2. Use a wide-angle lens to shoot interiors.

Wide-angle lenses increase the feeling of space in interiors. What’s a wide-angle lens? For interiors, a lens should have a 35mm equivalent focal length of between 14 and 24mm. Lenses with a wide enough angle of view to shoot interiors don’t usually come with off-the-shelf or point-and-shoot cameras.

3. Remove clutter and stage interiors for best results.

It’s a well-known fact that staging homes pays off. Homes sell faster and for a higher price when they are staged. Most lived in homes have too much clutter. Photos will look better and show more of the home if clutter is reduced and furniture is staged by a trained home stager.

4. The primary exterior shot is THE most important photo.

Spend extra time, money and effort to get a “knockout” front photo because this is the photo that will be seen most and first by prospective home buyers. Online thumbnails of this photo must entice the buyer to look closer at the property. Many homes benefit from an elevated front shot where the camera is 10’ to 20’ above street level.

5. Render interiors light and bright.

Bright interiors are upbeat and make a more positive impression on the prospective buyer, so you want light and bright photos. Amateur cameras often underexpose. Special lighting equipment or photo editing techniques must be used to get interior photos to come across light and bright. Lighting, along with controlling window brightness, is probably the most challenging aspect of real estate photography. The two common approaches to interior lighting are to shoot bracketed exposures or to use multiple small flash units to light interiors.

6. Vertical lines (walls etc.) must look perfectly straight.

We live in a world where we unconsciously know that all walls are perfectly vertical. When a viewer sees a room where the walls are not parallel with the side of the photo, the viewer is visually distracted and disoriented. A voice in their head is saying, “This is not right”. Verticals that are not perfectly straight with the edge of the photo is the first indication of a non-professional interior photographer. Compare the two following photos and notice the visual tension in the first one where the walls are not vertical and the horizontal ceiling line is not horizontal.

7. Remove lens distortion.

Wide-angle lenses cause lines near the edges of photos to curve so special efforts and software must be used to remove distortion.

8. Properly expose for windows.

Unless special lighting or photo editing software is used interior windows will tend to look too bright so the view out the window is not visible. It is always possible to show the view out the window if the view is an important selling point of the property. However, special work by the photographer may be required to make sure the exterior view is clearly visible. Bright windows distract the viewer’s attention because the eye naturally moves to the brightest area in the photo. Sometimes the view outside is not important, while other times, with view properties, being able to show the inside and the view out the window is critical.

9. Don’t let color casts distract.

Strong color casts (typically a strong orange color) distract the viewers’ attention. Use lighting and editing techniques to avoid unnatural color casts.

10. The way photos are presented online has a huge impact on the overall effectiveness of marketing a property.

Photos have the most impact when presented large and in a smooth, easily controllable slide show. Real estate sites typically do not present photos in the most effective way possible. One of the purposes of a virtual tour or slideshow is to maximize the impact of marketing photos.

You can hire a photographer that uses these principles or you can use these principles to shoot photos yourself if you are technically inclined or have support staff that shoots your photos. But either way, you are the listing agent in charge of marketing a property, so use these principles to produce, select and present your marketing photos for maximum effectiveness. Since these are well accepted photographic principles, most experienced real estate photographers follow them without being told, but there are some that won’t. It’s easy to think because you have a digital camera that you can be a professional. Remember, you are the marketing expert, it’s your job to make sure the marketing is effective. If it isn’t, ask questions.


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