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A cluttered property is the kiss of death for real estate photos. Messy rooms and overflowing closets are instant turn-offs for potential buyers browsing listings online. Decluttering your home before a photo shoot can make a dramatic difference in the appeal of your real estate images.
According to Jennifer Smith, a real estate agent in Austin, Texas, decluttering is one of the most impactful things sellers can do. "I've seen messy properties completely transformed through decluttering," she says. "Removing excess furniture, boxes, piles of stuff - it lets the beautiful aspects of the home shine through."
Decluttering creates the impression of spaciousness. When rooms are packed full of possessions, they look smaller in photos. By clearing away clutter, you give the eye room to roam and make spaces appear more open. This can help buyers visualize themselves living in the home.
It also allows the architecture and design details to stand out. "Decluttering draws attention to the home's assets - the high ceilings, the big windows, the charming built-ins," explains Smith. When clutter is removed, these attractive features take center stage.
Decluttering convey a sense of cleanliness as well. Too much clutter reads as dirtiness or lack of care. Streamlined, decluttered spaces feel crisp and well-maintained. This reassures buyers that the home has been properly cared for.
How extensive should your decluttering be? Michelle Davis, a professional home stager in Houston, recommends editing room by room until only the essential, visually appealing items remain. Take out at least 50% of accessories and decor items, and remove all personal belongings.
Be ruthless. If you haven't used it in a year, it's clutter. If it's broken or worn out, it goes. If it's not decor, it's out. You can move belongings back in after selling. For now, pare down to showcase your space at its best.
The magic of wide angle lenses is their ability to make small spaces appear much larger in photos. For real estate agents, these lenses are invaluable for showcasing cramped rooms, narrow hallways, and tiny bathrooms in the best possible light.
"I always use a wide angle lens when shooting condos, apartments, or any smaller homes," says Chris Lee, a real estate photographer in Chicago. "It really exaggerates the sense of space."
You do need to be careful about distortion with wide angle lenses however. Because they stretch the edges of the frame, they can make lines and edges appear curved or bulging.
Shooting from a higher angle downward can also minimize the bulge effect around the edges. Pay attention to doorframes, wall edges, tile lines, and any other straight lines that might look unnaturally curved in the photos.
Making a great first impression with the exterior of a home is critical to attracting potential buyers. Curb appeal refers to how attractive and inviting the front exterior of a property appears. Real estate agents emphasize focusing on maximizing curb appeal for exterior real estate photos.
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression," says Alex Cole, a Denver real estate agent. "Your home's curb appeal makes that all-important first impression on buyers browsing listings online. A house with poor curb appeal may never get a second glance."
Ensuring the yard is neatly landscaped and the walkway free of debris is a starter. Painting the front door a striking color and accessorizing the porch with pots of bright flowers also enhances appeal. Washing windows, sweeping porches, and pressure washing outdoor surfaces makes the home look freshly maintained.
"I shoot from low angles looking up to feature architectural details on a home's faÃ§ade," explains Cole. "Framing the front door down a walkway creates a inviting lead-in for buyers."
Cole recommends shooting exteriors at dawn or dusk when shadows are long and light is warm. "Morning and evening light flatters a home's exterior, especially showing off stone and brickwork textures nicely," he says.
He also stresses watching for distracting elements that diminish curb appeal in exterior shots: trash cans, hoses, yard tools, oil stains on the driveway. Remove or relocate anything detracting from the home's aesthetics.
Landscaping should look lush and vibrant. Cole recommends misting plants with water before shooting to make foliage glisten. If grass looks yellowed or patchy, he suggests different angles to hide flaws or reshooting after reseeding.
When listing a home for sale, showcasing its unique features through real estate photography gives buyers compelling reasons to choose it over the competition. As realtor Michelle Green explains, "Unique features create an emotional connection. They provide that extra allure that motivates a buyer to take action."
Photographing a property"s special attributes makes them stand out online. "With so many houses getting similar staging and looking homogeneous in photos, highlighting unique features helps your listing be memorable," says Green.
Many older homes possess charming architectural accents that lend character and historical appeal. Photographing gables, dormers, built-ins, moldings, ornate staircases and custom cabinets puts a property"s bespoke elements on display.
"I use wide angle lenses to capture the scope of ceilings with exposed beams or turrets with rounded walls," describes photographer Chris Lee. "Details like stained glass windows, textured wainscoting and restored hardwood floors tell the home"s unique story."
Skylights, sunrooms, bay windows and atriums impart a brightness and elegance that makes a house feel special. When shooting such naturally well-lit spaces, lighting expert Nadia Simms advises, "Compose to highlight the room"s amazing ambience. The glow from overhead skylights or multi-paned windows is Instagram eye candy."
For sunrooms, she sets up near large windows right before sunset. "The golden hour light flooding the space looks incredible and warms up the entire interior"s ambience in photos."
From cozy balconies to expansive decks, outdoor spaces expand a home"s livable square footage. Photographing patios with built-in seating, mature trees providing privacy, screened porches and sunken hot tubs emphasizes a property"s enviable indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
Landscape Designer Alicia Soto uses drone photography to showcase sprawling decks and fully-equipped outdoor kitchens. "I shoot from above to reveal covered lounge areas and unique water features like koi ponds or infinity pools that make backyards feel like luxury resorts."
Floor plans with multiple access points to the outdoors also attract attention. "Doors from the family room, kitchen and master suite leading to one fabulous patio illustrate seamless indoor-outdoor flow," Soto adds.
Ingenious storage solutions, from window bench cubbies to under-stair drawers, increase functionality in meaningful ways. To highlight such features, Green zooms in for detail shots. "I love capturing how a vintage secretary desk provides office storage and display. Unique storage shows off savvy use of space."
Proper lighting can make or break real estate photos, especially in dark rooms that fail to showcase a property's best attributes. When rooms lack sufficient natural light from windows, artificial lighting techniques become essential for brightening up dim spaces in an authentic way. As photographer Chris Lee explains, "You want to make darker rooms appear naturally bright in photos, not obviously lit with artificial lights."
Lee relies on bouncing light to illuminate shadowy rooms and prevent a flash-lit look. "I position a strobe with a bounce card to reflect light off walls and ceilings. This disperses it for soft, even illumination." For bounce lighting, neutral toned walls help avoid colored cast on subjects. To supplement, Lee places accent lights behind furniture. "Backlight picks up details that can get lost in dark conditions."
When shooting kitchens, strategically placed strobes enhance the room's focal points. "Bouncing flash off the ceiling highlights the range hood area while cabinet lighting illuminates the counters," Lee describes. Dark hallways benefit from clamp lights with diffusion filters to distribute light. For a gallery wall effect, Lee mounts individual mini LED spots on paintings.
Real estate agent Jennifer Yu had trouble showcasing a contemporary home's open floor plan because the great room lacked light fixtures. "With no overhead lighting, photos came out gloomy and indistinct," she recalls. She brought in floor lamps and sconces to brighten up the expansive space.
In rooms with dated ceiling fans and flush mount fixtures, pendant lights lend character while directing light downward. "Hanging drum pendants over a dining table highlighted the wood grain and made the area inviting," Yu says. For a room with track lighting but dingy old bulbs, she upgrades to brighter, whiter LEDs.
When the entire home's lighting scheme feels dreary, she brings in plug-in sconces, table and floor lamps to enliven each room. "Varying the light sources and directions avoids a flat, dull look in photos." She may also supplement with battery-powered puck lights on shelves or cabinets.
Virtual staging has become an invaluable tool for real estate agents to make listings stand out online. With the vast majority of home searches now happening digitally, creating wow factor with virtual staging helps properties attract more clicks and attention.
"Staging a home virtually allowed us to turn a vacant, outdated house into a modern, welcoming dream home at a fraction of the cost and effort of physical staging," says Mark Davis, an agent in Phoenix, AZ. "We were able to add virtual furniture, art and accessories that showcased the home's potential and appeal to today's buyers."
Rather than investing thousands in purchasing and placing furnishings, virtual staging can transform empty spaces in minutes. Popular virtual staging company Colossis charges as little as $8 per image to insert life-like CGI models of furniture, art and decor.
"It's amazing how real the virtual furnishings look," Davis says. "You can change paint colors, rearrange furniture and add stylish accents to create a fully decorated look tailored to today's trends."
For outdated interiors, virtual staging also enables freshening up aesthetic elements that turn buyers off. "We digitally removed the ornate wallpaper, switched out a clawfoot tub for a sleek frameless shower and added clean lined cabinetry and fixtures to modernize a 90s pink bathroom," he explains.
Exteriors likewise benefit from virtual staging. Curb appeal can be amplified by adding lush landscaping, outdoor furniture on patios and architectural accents. "We had virtual planters and pots overflowing with flowers placed along the entry walkway and front porch," Davis describes.
Landscape designer Michelle Hill relies on virtual staging to quickly test out ideas before investing in permanent upgrades. "I stage different patio layouts, pergola styles and pool designs virtually to determine what scheme maximizes the property's livability."
She uploads photos of the home along with images of design elements she's considering incorporating. "The virtual staging team inserts the different 3D elements into the exterior shots to bring the renderings to life," Hill explains. This allows her to experiment with scale and placement first.
"Recently, we decided against a large stone fire pit for a small backyard patio after seeing how oversized the virtual version appeared," she says. The virtual staging saved them from an expensive mistake.
For vacant rentals, virtual staging makes empty spaces appear warm, inviting and move-in ready. Property manager James Lee finds blank rooms a turn off online. "Seeing fully furnished spaces helps prospective tenants envision themselves living comfortably there," he explains.
Rather than the hassle and cost of furnishing empty units, Lee relies on virtual staging. "We simply send floor plans and photos, then receive realistic images showing furnished living rooms, dining areas and bedrooms tailored to our rental."
The key is making sure virtual furnishings suit the target demographic. For a dockside condo, waterfront-themed furniture and coastal color schemes project lifestyle appeal. At family-friendly suburban complexes, staging reflects resident ages.
Real estate agents know that emphasizing a property's best outdoor features is key to enticing nature-loving buyers. When listing homes with sprawling yards, scenic vistas or lush landscaping, smart framing techniques can make landscape elements shine in both still photography and video walkthroughs.
"Framing is how you control what the viewer sees in an outdoor shot," explains James Hill, a real estate videographer in Denver, CO. "You want to highlight the most eye-catching parts of the surroundings."
For homes with views of mountain ranges, forests or bodies of water, Hill captures panoramas from patios or picture windows. "I frame wide to include as much of the vista as possible. This immerses prospective buyers in the full scope of the wow factor view."
When shooting at sunset, Hill frames the home in the foreground to silhouette it against dramatic skies. "This shows off the property and the sensational sunsets it offers," he says.
For homes abutting golf courses, Linda Chang, a real estate photographer in Atlanta, frames both fairways and greens. "I get low shots highlighting the undulating terrain of the course, emphasizing scenic holes and water features," she explains.
Chang captures golfers mid-swing to animate the setting. She also frames clubhouses in the distance to convey the lifestyle. For homes along beaches, Chang frames the surf crashing on shore. "I include the water to play up the soothing sights and sounds that draw people to oceanfront living," she says.
When shooting spacious yards, Chang looks for ways to showcase features that enhance enjoyment. "I'll frame a pool peeking through trees for intrigue, or shoot young children playing on a swingset while keeping the home in the background," she describes.
Real estate agent Michelle Green frames homes to spotlight impressive landscaping. "I like to shoot down a winding garden path to reveal a secret zen garden, with the walkway guiding the eye through the scene," she explains.
Green captures fountains, ornamental ponds and fire pits framed by flowerbeds and shrubs. "Using careful compositions and framing makes a landscape feel like an extension of the home itself," she says.
Including people enjoying the backyard also enhances a sense of lifestyle. "Happy owners barbecuing while kids play on a trampoline conveys the special moments a private backyard facilitates," Green adds.
With the rise of digital photography, editing photos has become an essential skill for real estate agents to make their listings visually appealing online. Simple editing tweaks can transform dull, lackluster property photos into images with maximum visual impact.
"Editing allows me to take good listing photos and elevate them to great," explains Chris Lee, a realtor in Denver. "Just brightening up exposure and saturation makes a dramatic difference in attracting buyer interest."
When underexposed images come out too dark, increasing brightness in editing reveals details lost in shadow. Adjusting contrast makes faded, flat images pop. And boosting color saturation intensifies dull hues.
Retouching eliminates small flaws and blemishes. Clone stamping can cover up stains on floors or walls by replacing them with duplicate image texture. The spot healing brush seamlessly removes clutter and dust.
Photo editing enables color correcting a home's interior or exterior paint colors to appear more attractive. Changing beige walls to a soft grey blue can lend a cooler, more modern vibe. Altering exterior paint colors can update home styles.