You know how competitive real estate can be. One quick Google search is all it takes to overwhelm a potential buyer with dozens of properties (and agents) to choose from.

So how do you get your listings to stand out from the crowd?

It’s not just about hitting the pricing sweet spot or choosing the highest-traffic listing sites. Selling more homes is about creating a compelling vision for future homebuyers. And if a picture is worth 1,000 words, your real estate photography skills (or lack thereof) definitely say something about the quality of your brand.

Consider this your complete guide to nailing your listing photos, even when your pro photographer unexpectedly gets the flu or goes on vacation.

Table of contents

  1. Why stellar photos are a must in real estate marketing
  2. Should you hire a professional or DIY it?
  3. A quick-and-dirty guide to real estate photography
  4. Next-level real estate photography tools

Why stellar photos are a must in real estate marketing

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100% of humans respond to visuals in a way that is extremely powerful.

From Cialdini’s ‘visual salience’ theory to 3M’s study proving visuals are 43% more persuasive, sales psychology pros have been studying this stuff for decades (maybe even centuries).

No doubt about it. The right real estate photograph can build excitement, anticipation and ultimately influence a buyer’s decision.

“Without a doubt, professional photography is the most critical element of your listing marketing strategy. 86% of homebuyers state that listing photography is the #1 reason why they decide to view a home, yet only 35% of Realtors use a professional photography solution,” says Michael Yates, Marketing Director at Virtuance.

According to experts like Michael, “Using professional photography is the #1 way to get your listing to stand out from the competition and puts you in the best position to get more showings, more offers, and ultimately a higher sale price.”

But why take our word for it? Here’s a simple example of why listing photos matter.

Consider this:

Source: Fix The Photo

Versus this:

Source: Aaron Huber via UnSplash

Which option would you choose?

“In real estate, there’s almost always a major life event happening at the time of the home purchase. Your client might be going through downsizing, upsizing, divorce, getting married, having a baby, etc.,” says Debra Beagle, co-owner and Managing Broker of Ashton Real Estate Group (which by the way, happens to be the #1 RE/MAX team in the world).

For rainmakers like Debra, it’s important for her agents to go above and beyond the role of Realtor to become professional problem-solvers for their customers.

Your prospect isn’t just thinking about spending $350K on 4-bedroom with a pool. They’re thinking about who they’ll become when they live in it. Maybe they want tobe the kind of picture-perfect parent who preps healthy meals for dinner every night, or the type of switched-on professional who wakes up refreshed and ready to follow the fast-track to the C-suite.

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Whatever it is, your real estate photos offer up the first glimpse into that vision.

Should you hire a professional or DIY it?

You can probably guess our answer to this one.

Whenever possible, yes. You should definitely use a pro to take your real estate photos.

Because in the words of famous photographer Ansel Adams, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

To put it in less poetic terms, there’s a whole heck of a lot that goes on behind the scenes to create a truly eye-catching photo. Photography is an entire skill in and of itself. And we’re guessing you’d rather stick to real estate.

But if you’re still undecided, let’s take a minute to weigh your options.

Pros of hiring a professional photographer

  1. Your properties will sell faster – Professionally taken photos have been proven to sell homes at least 32% faster. Just think about what that could mean for your bottom line.
  2. They know how to make every room look awesome – Some rooms can be small and tricky to photograph. Other rooms can be plain and lacking in depth. A professional will know how to work with any space and make the most of it. They’re trained to have a critical eye and can use lighting, angles and staging in ways you never imagined.
  3. They have specialized equipment and software – Professional photographers will have the camera, lenses and lighting equipment to handle any challenges a property may bring their way. They can also enhance the photos to make them look extra awesome through expert editing.

Cons of hiring a professional photographer

  1. False expectations – Sometimes the photos don’t depict the reality of a home. For instance, if a certain room is small, a professional photographer may use a wide-angle lens to capture the whole room in one shot. But this may also result in the room appearing to be larger than it really is. You run the risk of disappointing potential buyers when they see the property in real life.
  2. Quality photos take time – When you hire a professional photographer, you’ll need to schedule the shoot and you may also need to wait a week or two to allow time for editing. This isn’t ideal if you’re under pressure to sell the property ASAP.

Pros of taking the photos yourself

  1. Fast results – Obviously, it’s much quicker to take your own photographs. There’s no major scheduling involved and no need to wait on the photographer to edit and send them back to you.
  2. Cost effective – If you take the photos yourself, you can definitely save some cash that would have otherwise been spent on a pro photography service.
  3. Image ownership – Some photographers want to keep the rights to the photos. In those situations, you post the pics only for your listing, and they protect their work so that no other photographer can use the images for their benefit. If you DIY your photos, this is a non-issue.

Cons of taking the photos yourself

  1. Image quality – Unless you’ve had some photography training, you won’t be able to get the same image quality that a professional would. You just won’t.
  2. Takes time away from your other tasks – This is the killer. Yes, taking the photographs yourself means you’ll have the end product quicker, but it also means that you’ll have to set aside some time for the shoot and editing your photos—time that could be spent following up with your database and closing more deals.

How much does a professional real estate photographer cost?

Depending on where you are in your real estate business, price can be a deciding factor on whether to opt for a pro photographer. As much as you would like to hire a professional, can you afford it?

Real estate photography rates range from $100 to $500 per shoot, depending on factors such as:

  • The location and/or type of property being photographed
  • If you’d like to include drone images and/or a virtual tour
  • The time of day the shoot occurs

You’ll also need to consider the fact that some photographers may need a full upfront payment, others require a deposit and some may accept payment upon completion.

Source: Fix The Photo

How do you find a photographer?

One place to look is your local board of Realtors. They usually have a database of vetted photographers or photographers who pay to advertise their services.

Word of mouth is also a great way to get an awesome photographer. If you spot a gorgeous listing, simply reach out to the listing agent and ask if they’d be willing to share the name of their photographer. Just make sure you identify the photos that not only grab your attention, but also have a style that aligns with your unique brand.

And of course, many photographers choose to market themselves through social media. Hop onto different social networks and search for real estate photographers near you to see what comes up.

With Instagram and Pinterest in the mix, most photographers will have their portfolio right there in front of you. You’ll get a clear picture of what the photographer’s style is so you can vet them in advance.

Questions to ask

Once you’ve identified your top photographer candidates, there are few key questions to ask before you enter into an agreement:

  • Do you specialize in real estate photography?
  • Do you offer a full range of services? Drone images or videos? 360 virtual tours? Can you shoot exterior twilight images?
  • What’s the turnaround time? How long will it take for me to receive the end-product?
  • Who will own the rights to the photographs?
  • Do you have the necessary professional equipment?
  • Do you require a deposit before the shoot?

Source: Realty Boutique

A quick-and-dirty guide to real estate photography

Okay, we’ve all seen the hilariously bad listing photos.

We know we need a pro photographer to show off our properties’ true potential and get the best possible deal for our customers. But there are times when, for whatever reason, you just have to roll up your sleeves, pick up the iPhone and snap your own listing photos.

Here are our tips for going the DIY route and still getting great results.

1. Tips for shooting great listing images

  • Declutter. Clutter is the common denominator in so many bad real estate photos. Make sure you take the time to create as blank a canvas as possible, so your prospect can see themselves in it. (More on this in a minute.)
  • Let the light in. Open the curtains or blinds and get as much sunlight into each room as possible. Natural lighting looks great in DIY pics and unless you’re using a professional flash, it’s downright crucial.
  • Aim for a natural height. Photos taken from an awkward height just look amateur. You don’t want to go too low as this will likely reveal too much of the furniture. You also don’t want to go too high as you’ll get too much of the ceiling.

Source: Terrible Estate Agent Photos

2. What images should be in your shot list?

Create a predetermined shot list so you can arrive at the property knowing exactly what you need and waste no time taking awkward pictures of the bathroom sink.

  • 1-2 photos of the front of the home (try to get different angles)
  • 1-3 photos of the backyard
  • 1 photo of the bathroom
  • 2 wide shots of the kitchen, bedroom and living room
  • 1 shot each of any additional features around the home

Of course, each property has its own unique selling points.

One property might have an amazing fireplace in the living room, while another might have a breathtaking pool area. It’s OK to take a number of photos and choose the best of the best later. Just make sure you have your shot list on standby so you know the must-have photos you can’t leave the property without taking.

3. How to stage for stellar images

In order to make each room of the property appealing, you’ll need get serious about staging.

  • Eliminate all clutter. We’re not kidding about this decluttering thing. You may need to go as far as to empty the kitchen sink, clear the counter tops and remove any other unnecessary items that may be distracting.
  • Remove personal or controversial items. These include items that indicate political affiliations, sports teams and family photos.
  • Consider people’s pet peeves. Fridge magnets, dirty mirrors, wrinkly sheets, toilet seat up, etc. Make sure the property looks as close to perfection as possible.

Once you’re done staging each room, remember to have a full walkthrough before beginning to shoot. Ask yourself: Is there anything that can turn a potential buyer off the property? Is there anything to add?

Remember, you’re selling a lifestyle. Go ahead and set up a dining room table for two, add some candles, fresh flowers or anything else that can make your prospects see themselves living there.

Source: Solomon Rogers via Pixabay

4. Type of editing software to use

If you made it this far, you might be thinking this real estate photography thing is no big deal after all. But don’t be fooled.

The editing process is major. And it’s where pro photographers really work their magic. But lucky for you, there are a number of tools that can make editing accessible for those of us with no formal photography training.

For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to concentrate on the one must-have: HDR (High Dynamic Range).

In essence, HDR photography takes different photos of the same image (one light, one normal, one dark) and then merges them to create an incredibly dynamic photo, using the contrasting shades of light from the different images.

This software has been around for years in the world of photography and was recently introduced for iPhones and some Android devices.

Here are the top three HDR editing software programs for real estate photography, according to Skylum:

All of the above have their strong and weak points. For instance, Adobe Photoshop allows you to merge the different exposures into one image and edit every little detail of an image, but it can also be pretty complicated to wrap your head around.

If you’re new to this, you may have an easier time with Aurora HDR or Adobe Lightroom.

Next-level real estate photography tools

You probably already know about the jaw-droppingly cool AR and VR tools out there, but you might be surprised to find out that some of them are much more affordable than you think.

Here are some of the high-octane options you can consider to make your listing photos even more powerful.

  1. Virtuance– Virtuance is one of the leading real estate photography companies in the country. They don’t only provide still images, but also HD virtual tours of the property. Pricing ranges from $150 to $570 depending on the number of images you require, your location and whether the shoot will happen during daylight or twilight.
  2. Floor Planning Online– Floor Planning Online creates still images, videos, aerial videos and 2D and 3D floor plans to help you market your property. Costs for their virtual tours range from $29.99 per month to $69 per month.
  3. Tour Factory– Tour Factory provides a variety of tools and accessories to help Realtors market themselves. They also offer annual broker packages that include creating premium property websites for all your listings and a YouTube channel to help you extend your reach. Costs vary depending on size of property and number of listings.
  4. Matterport– Matterport creates 3D and virtual reality models to help buyers digitally experience a home. You’ll need a subscription for their service and to purchase a camera. Their monthly subscription plans start at $9.99 and camera costs start at $375.

In this day and age, bad real estate photos just aren’t an option.

Your potential buyers are online, looking for their ideal home and a trusted advisor to help make the next phase of their life as amazing as possible. More often than not, your listing photos are your very first digital handshake with your future customers, so follow these tips and make sure you put your best foot forward.

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