Preparing Your Home
Here’s an overview with lots of tips on getting your home picture-perfect for the listing photos. It’s important to be prepared before your photographer arrives so your photo shoot goes smoothly.
The Most Important Shot: The Front of the Home
For most listings, the front view of the home is the first image home shoppers will see, and therefore, the area where you should spend the most effort on getting the best shot. This front shot will be the one that displays predominantly on the MLS, flyers, virtual tours, and other marketing materials. Here are some secrets to getting the best main shot:
Photograph the front at a time of day when the sun will be mostly facing the front of the home. However, if you have large trees that will cast shadows on the home, you may want to schedule a different time of day. This will allow you to get a more even exposure, without having your sky look blown out or making the front of the home look too dark. Best times of day vary depending on which way the home is facing, but are usually are as follows:
- East Facing Homes: Morning
- West Facing Homes: Afternoon
- South Facing Homes: All Day
- North Facing Homes: Early Morning or Evening
- Even if we aren’t able to schedule your home shoot for it’s prime time, we have some great photography and editing skills that can still make your home look great.
- It the listing really needs to stand out, consider a twilight or sunset shot
Here’s how to make a home ready to be photographed. Following these steps will also make it ready for potential buyers to see it in person.
- Understand the camera’s perspective. The camera’s eye is very different from the human eye. It magnifies clutter and poor furniture arrangement. To make a home shine online, make sure it shines on the day of your photo shoot.
- Make the home “Q-tip clean.” Because the camera magnifies grime, each room must be spotless. Don’t forget floor coverings and walls; a discolored spot on the rug might be overlooked by prospects during a regular home showing, but that stain becomes a focal point for on line viewers.
- Pack up the clutter. If you wish, you can leave three items of varying heights on each surface. For example, on an end table you can place a lamp (high), a small plant (medium), and a book (low). You might consider bringing in a professional stager for assistance.
- Pare down furniture. Identify one or two pieces of furniture that can be removed from each room to make the space appear larger.
- Rearrange. Spotlight the flow of a space by creating a focal point on the furthest wall from the doorway and arranging the other pieces of furniture to make a triangle shape. The focal point may be a bed in a bedroom or a china cabinet in a dining room.
- Re-accessorize. Include a healthy plant in every room; the camera loves green. Energize bland decor by placing a bright vase on a mantle or draping an afghan over a couch.
- Keep the home in shape after the shoot. You want buyers who liked what they saw online to encounter the same home in person.
Strategically choose what to feature online and what NOT to feature.
Online images should entice potential buyers to visit the property. Unless you’re listing a fixer-upper or showing a property to an out-of-town buyer, you’ll want to carefully select the home’s best features for the online listing. You do not have to show every room, or every flaw. Note, however, you cannot “photoshop” a repair or structural change that will not be part of the finished home.
Listings generally include the following shots:
- Front of home
- Be sure landscaping is freshly maintained (trees/shrubs trimmed, lawn mowed, rocks raked, etc.)
- Sweep walkways, clear any debris, remove garbage cans from sight
- You might consider removing sun screens, as homes generally photograph better without them. Remember to have the windows cleaned.
- Main living areas
- If you have children or pets, you’ll want to put toys, pet beds/bowls, and any clutter out of site for the photo shoot. Stored in a pile in the room will still look like clutter to an online viewer and make the home look smaller or as having limited storage.
- Fluff and arrange throw pillows. Limit decor and remove personal items. Store remotes, games, magazines, etc., out of sight.
- Remove everything from countertops, even small appliances. You may leave one small appliance and one decorative item, but more empty counter space makes your kitchen look larger and more spacious. Clutter makes everything look smaller.
- Clear off refrigerator, and clean counter fronts and fronts of appliances. If you have under-counter lights, replace any burned out bulbs.
- Make sure your faucet and sink sparkle. Even if the rest of the kitchen is clean, if there are water spots or particles in your sink it will not look clean.
- You can set the table with nice place settings if desired, and/or add a centerpiece to the dining area.
- Beds carefully made (creases and wrinkles in bed coverings show glaringly in photos). Place pillows, clear off night stands, remove any personal items.
- We generally do not shoot the inside of closets, but if you want an inside closet image, please organize carefully, and do let us know that you’d like to show it.
- Remove soaps, shampoos, wash cloths, tooth brushes, etc., and store out of sight.
- Put fresh, clean folded towels on racks, or remove all together.
- Remove old bath mats, or anything that doesn’t look clean and fresh.
- Laundry Room
- If your laundry room is amazing, clean, and organized, we’ll take a photo. Otherwise, it’s OK to leave this out of the listing.
- Back Yard
- All landscaping freshly maintained, lawn mowed, trees/shrubs trimmed, yard debris removed
- Lawn furniture cleaned and arranged
- Open umbrellas, or store out of sight
- Clean BBQ’s and remove covers, or store out of sight.
- Store children’s toys & bikes out of sight.
- Sparkling pool (leaves and debris removed, and if possible, also remove the pool cleaner and chlorine dispensers, just for the photo). If you have a water feature, we can photograph with the water on.
- Sweep out any ashes from fire pit. If you have a gas pit, we can photograph it with the fire turned on.
What we do NOT usually include in the online listing:
- Inside of closets, garages, or any place where personal items are stored.
- You may wish to designate a spare room as a storage area for items during your home sale. If you do this, we will not include this room in your photo shoot.
- There is no need to show the insides of closets or garages if they are full of personal items. It can make your home look like there is not enough storage.
- Very small bathrooms/powder rooms
- Sometimes, in small bathrooms, all you get is the shot of the mirror or toilet. No one EVER bought a home based on the toilet photo! People will generally assume that indoor plumbing comes with the home. So if we don’t include this shot, don’t worry. it’s just because it didn’t photograph well and it’s better in that case to not show it.
- Expensive items or items that may compromise the homeowner’s or agent’s safety.
- If you have an expensive or irreplaceable piece of art or painting, you may wish to remove it prior to the photo shoot. (Note: please alert photographer if there is a priceless item that you may not wish to be photographed but can’t be removed. Also, while we will always be very cautious in your home, you may want to alert us if any items need extra care taken.)
- Safes or firearms – Your home listing is online for anyone to see, and includes your address. It’s best not to advertise that these items are in your home, and where in your home they can be found.
- Children’s photos, vinyl or decorative names on the walls, etc. – It’s OK to show a child’s decorated room, but best not to advertise the actual child’s image, name or identity, for the safety of the children.
- Pet items – it’s generally best not to show pet bedding, toys, and food/water dishes (or the pets themselves) as some home buyers will be wary of looking at a home that has pets.
Make Small Spaces Bigger: 5 Ways to Show Off Space.
Size does matter when it comes to the perception of space in a home. That’s why it’s important to make sure you show off every square foot of your listing so that buyers can visualize enough room for all of their belongings.
However, home owners often crowd spaces with oversized furniture, bulky accessories, and piles of clutter that wind up making a room look much smaller than what it really is.
So how can you show off that space in your listings? Besides the obvious of removing clutter, try these simple ideas from Norris.
1. Scale down the furniture: By having too many large pieces of furniture in a small room, a space can feel more cramped, Norris says. Select smaller-scale furniture over large, chunky options. A good choice: furniture with wooden legs or unskirted chairs, so that you can see through the furniture to the floor underneath to open up a room.
2. Beware of overly busy patterns: Too many bold patterns in a room with fabrics and accent pieces can make a room feel smaller, Norris says. Big prints, bold plaids, and large floral patterns can be too busy for a small space. Stick to solids and use texture in fabrics to add interest.
3. Lighten Up: Dark colors absorb the light making small rooms look even smaller. “The general color rule for small spaces is lighter is better,” Norris says. Lighter colors on walls — such as creams, light blues, light greens, tan, and soft yellows — help expand the room. Plus, softer, cooler tones are soothing and relaxing, she adds.
4. Add height: Bring in anything that is tall to show off the height of the space. Whether it’s a piece of furniture such as a bookcase or an object like a tall tree, the height of the object will draw the eye upwards. Also in a house where you want to show off the height, hang the curtains above the normal window top level, Norris says. To widen the window, tie the curtains back with a rope tieback to show off the windows.
5. Use the reflection: Hang mirrors on walls to help add visual space. “When the room is reflected in the mirror, it can make us feel like there is more space as we see ‘another room’ in the mirror,” Norris says. “Mirrors can also reflect light and views, which will help lighten up the room and make it feel open and airy.”
- Make sure it is not waste disposal day. You don’t want to feature garbage cans on your listing photos.
- Have your lawn service do the yard the day before the photographer is scheduled.
- Cancel any construction work on the day of the photo shoot.
- Do not schedule home walkthroughs on the day of the photo shoot.
- Park all cars out of the driveway and away from the front of home, either down the street or in the garage.
- Put away clutter, toys, pet beds, cloths, and bedding. If you hide it under the bed make sure they are not visible.
- Clean off counter tops and the top of the refrigerator / cabinets. Put away appliances, dishes, pots and pans, and food. You do not want others to think you do not have enough storage and / or counter space.
- Remove all magnets, photos and items from the refrigerator and clear off the top of your fridge as well.
- Make the bed and spruce up the pillows or quilts.
- Remove all spider webs.
- Remove Dog and Cat bowls and containers.
- We will not move furniture. This prevents an injury to the photographer and or potential damage to property.
- If you are concerned about photos of your family members take them down the day before the photo shoot.
- If you are concerned about expensive possessions or paintings being photographed remove them. We can digitally cover large paintings for a minimal fee.
- Make sure your pets and children do not zip through the area while the photoshoot is being conducted.
- Provide the photographer with the gate code or the phone number to call from the gate or meet him there.
- Fix all problems before you list your home.
Lighting Check List. Everyone likes a bright home.
- Make sure all lamps and lights work. Turn lights ON and fans OFF on when the photographer arrives. In some cases, we need to take shots with the lights off, so if they are on a remote or tricky to turn off, make sure we are able to do so.
- Disconnect any night-light timers.
- Replace all burned out bulbs.
- Replace fixtures and lamp shades if they are damaged.
- Make sure all fixtures are clean.
- Add dimmer switches to areas that need mood lighting.
- Add task lighting to your kitchen – most people don’t have enough. Mount halogen pot lights under your cupboards for optimal counter lighting.
- Clean the sky lights.
- Clean all windows and pull back the curtains so the sun can shine in.
Make your images sparkle.