An agent’s guide to capturing quality listing pictures. By Jay Luebke

If a buyer makes quick decisions based on listing photos, your photos better be up to par.

It pains me to see listings that have terrible pictures — 99 percent of the time, online listing photos are going to be a buyer’s first impression of the home. If you have a crappy front picture on a “gray skies” day, what is going to make a buyer want to buy the house?

It is unbelievable how valuable your listing pictures are.

So, here are a few tips to improve your listing photos.

1. Make sure that the exterior picture is reflective of the season.

I live in South Carolina, where we don’t get snow very much. It kills me when I see a listing picture in the middle of March with a picture of a pile of snow in the front yard. It snows maybe twice a year in South Carolina. If you live in the Northeast, this is an entirely different story, but you get my point. Update your pictures to be reflective of the season. No snow when it’s 95 degrees outside.

2. Outdoor pictures have to have blue sky.

This policy is one that we have adopted in our company. We will have blue skies in the picture. No ifs, ands or buts. Check the weather the week before you list. If you know that it’s going to rain, find a day where you can get a sunny picture. You want the home to show in the best light, literally and figuratively, and I promise it doesn’t when it’s gray and raining.

3. Use a wide-angle lens.

If you are going to take pictures of your listings on your own, that’s great. But make sure you have the right equipment to do so. I shoot with a Nikon D7000 and a 12mm-24mm wide-angle lens. You don’t need to have the most expensive equipment on the market; you just need to know how to use it. Shoot from a lower angle in the corners of the room with a wide-angle lens. It will make the room look larger and more open.

4. Not one person cares about the inside of the closet.

Some of the worst listing photos I have ever seen have showcased pictures of the most unnecessary things in a home. A buyer doesn’t need to see the inside of the hallway linen closet or the garage.

This is especially true when there is a restriction on the number of pictures you are allowed on the MLS. Buyers will see those features once your pictures pull them in, and they set up a showing. Buyers need to understand the main features of the house: the living areas, bedrooms, front and backyard, etc. What good does a random picture of the hardwood floors (with the agent’s feet in the picture) do to help sell a home?

5. Make sure your clients clean their house.

I love my overly nitpicky clients. You know, the ones who follow you around the house while you take pictures, making sure that there isn’t a book out of place? Although it can be frustrating, having the client be uptight about cleanliness makes for better pictures. And, ultimately, this will help them sell their home. If the client won’t clean their home, have them hire someone to clean it for them.

6. Turn on the lights and turn off the TV.

The brighter the house, the more inviting it feels. I don’t mean that you should overexpose your pictures so much that the listing looks burnt orange, but there should be plenty of lighting. I tell our clients that I will pretty much turn on every light in their house as soon as I walk in the door. I also tell them to turn off the TV. I don’t care what team they root for or what news outlet they prefer to watch, but buyers might. Not to mention, it doesn’t look professional. Turn the TV off.

7. Get the cat out of the picture; or the dog; or the kid — or you.

“Aww, look how cute their dog is” is not something that is ever going to come out of a buyer’s mouth when they look at listing photos online. If anything, they’re going to have an issue with it because their brother’s wife’s sister’s mother-in-law is allergic to dogs, and that’s going to be a problem for the one time that said individual comes for a family reunion. Don’t give buyers anything to find a problem with (that you can quickly solve, at least). And please, whatever you do, don’t take a picture of a bathroom with you, the camera, and the flash in it.

These are just a few rules of thumb that you can follow when it comes to taking pictures of your listings. Better pictures lead to happier clients, and better pictures lead to more buyers, which lead to more sales.


Jay Luebke is a residential sales specialist and the visual coordinator with The ART of Real Estate in Columbia, South Carolina. You can follow The ART of Real Estate on Twitter @TheARTeam


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