List my Home for Sale

Guide to PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR HOME

List your Home for Sale
The old adage "picture is worth a thousand words"ť certainly holds true when it comes to selling your home. For many potential buyers, the photographs are a make-or-break detail; if your pictures aren’t appealing, buyers are much less likely to visit your home in person.

In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that photos top the list of criteria home buyers consider when house hunting, underlying the importance of virtual curb appeal.

Some simple photography tips will help present your home in the best light and give your marketing efforts a boost.

Equipment

You’ll need a digital camera with at least five megapixels and a wide-angle lens. The camera in your smartphone might also work just fine, and you can purchase a wide-angle lens with a focal length of 14 to 24 millimeters for less than $20.

You may also want to borrow or invest in an inexpensive tripod to adjust settings and frames with ease and garner more professional-looking photos.

Set the Scene

Imagine you’re a house hunter; you’re looking at pictures of two homes in similar neighborhoods with comparable amenities, floor plans, features and asking prices. While one home’s photos show a cluttered house with unmade beds, evidence of pets strewn everywhere, and a straggly lawn full of toys, the other home’s pictures portray a clean, calm interior and a well-kept exterior. Which home would you be more likely to have interest in?

Just as you wouldn’t leave your home messy, cluttered and dirty for a home showing, you don’t want to present less-than-appealing images through your photos. Before snapping those shots, invest time and effort into cleaning, straightening, de-cluttering and organizing your home’s interior and exterior.

In photos, less is often more, so if an item doesn’t need to be out, put it away. Good staging is more about removal than addition, so move the garbage cans out of sight, take down the flags and holiday decor, and clear counters and surfaces. You may even want to pick area rugs up off the floor. As a bonus, you’ll be moving soon anyway, so consider this de-cluttering as early packing that’ll make your life easier in a few months.

Remember, potential home buyers aren’t looking at pictures because they want to see your furniture or your doll collection -- they want to see your home’s features and structural elements, and your photos should emphasize them. Your goal is to create open, welcoming spaces that sparkle with cleanliness and invite the viewer to come take a closer look.

To achieve this, you may have to rearrange furniture or at least move large pieces out of the way; yes, your grand piano is lovely, but it’s obstructing the fireplace. Ironically, empty rooms tend to look smaller, so if you’ve already moved out, consider placing something back in the room – such as a chair -- to show the space’s true scale.

Lighting

When it comes to lighting, more is better. Open the windows to let in natural light and turn on all of your lamps and lights. Exception: If the lamps are overhead fluorescents, leave them off -- they can create unappealing green or yellow colors.

Use your camera flash as little as possible, as it may cast shadows, odd reflections or “hot spots” that cause rooms to look much darker than they actually are.

Avoid areas of the house that are extremely bright or extremely dark, as neither looks all that great in photos. Instead, create a mix of natural and artificial light to create an open and bright, yet cozy, feeling.

When you’re shooting reflective surfaces, such as mirrors, try to capture them at an angle. Not only will you, the photographer, not appear in the shot, the perspective will make the room look larger.

If you’re having a hard time getting the lighting mix just right, see if you get a better image after adjusting the camera’s “white balance” settings. If you’re using a tripod, play around with long exposure times for more natural-looking light.

According to professional architectural photographers, the best time of day to take interior photos is when the natural light levels outdoors and the artificial light levels indoors are the same. Most of the time, that’s around twilight. For exterior shots, aim to shoot on an overcast day to avoid shadows. If this isn’t possible, snap a few shots at different times of day to see what looks best – and don’t forget to take a cozy snapshot of the light flooding from your windows about 20 minutes after sunset.

Angles and Apertures

The angles you use impact how spacious – or not – your home looks in your photos. As a general rule, tilted pictures look odd and can even make the walls look slanted, not a image you want to present to potential buyers. That’s why a tripod is a great investment.

While keeping the camera straight and level, take sample shots from a few different levels. Chest height tends to add a spacious feeling, especially when it allows just a bit of the ceiling to show. Spice it up with a few low shots, or stand atop a ladder for outdoor images. An object in the foreground adds depth to your image.

Shooting rooms from a slight angle makes them look bigger, as does only shooting two walls at a time. In fact, including three walls often creates a closed-in effect that doesn’t express that spacious, open feeling that buyers crave.

Photographers aren’t united on the subject of wide angle lenses. Some recommend them, noting that they can take in more of a room at once and create a spacious look. Wide-angle shots also help viewers understand how a house fits together by showing transitions between rooms.

Others note that wide-angle shots can easily take on a distorted look or fish-eye effect. Plus, if your rooms look much larger than they actually are, potential buyers may feel manipulated when they tour your home. If you use a wide-angle lens, avoid distortion by stepping back and not getting too close to any one object.

If taking clear, sharp shots of smaller areas is your goal, adjust your aperture. A smaller aperture – from f/8 to f/16 in a well-lit room – allows for attention to detail and produces a crisp, clean photo. This technique is especially helpful when you want to highlight architectural detailing, such a vintage mantel, wood carvings, ironwork, sparkling fixtures or mosaic tiles.

Progression

Though of course you’ll want to showcase all that your home has to offer, avoid those boring, standard shots that don’t really add value to your listing. No one needs to see where the corners of the extra bedroom wall meet the ceiling – unless there’s some spectacular molding up there. In fact, unless there’s an interesting, attractive detail in a secondary room, like French doors, a fireplace or a view, there’s no need to include it.

Instead, put yourself in the buyer’s position and imagine what you’d most like to see. You’re probably most interested in the main living spaces. Progress from room to room, capturing different angles and scenes in the:

• Kitchen

• Living room

• Family room

• Foyer, staircase or entryway

• Formal dining room

• Breakfast area

• Master bedroom

• Master bathroom

• Front yard

• Back yard

• Decks or patios

• Garage interior

A note of caution: Avoid taking pictures that show your valuables, such as large-screen televisions, computers, jewelry, tools, art or pricey cars. There’s no need to attract potential thieves through revealing images.

Overall, just keep snapping those photos; the more you take, the better the chances that you’ll capture some really great images. And don’t be afraid to experiment with lights, angles and settings. When you review your photos later, you can always delete the ones that don’t work.

Touching Up

Now that you’ve taken photos of your home, it’s time to review and edit. Pick the best images and, if necessary, make brightness, contrast or color adjustments with photo-editing software. Don’t change too much, though, as it’s essential to portray your home in a realistic light and not mislead buyers.

Video Walk-Though

In today’s age of You Tube, don’t overlook the importance of a video walk-through. This modern tool creates a virtual tour that potential home buyers can take online. All you need is a digital camera or your smart phone.

The experts suggest taking a slow, steady walk through your home, focusing on three to five of the property’s best features. Again, potential buyers don’t need to see every extra bedroom wall or the interior of each closet. As with photographs, focus on the main living areas of the home, as well as those extra-special features and upgrades that buyers love.

When it comes to videos, shorter is better. Try to keep yours between 60 and 75 seconds; any longer and viewers are more likely to lose interest. The same “less is more” principle applies to narration. You don’t need to state that “this I the bathtub. This is the kitchen.” Viewers can figure that stuff out for themselves; what they do want to hear is when that gorgeous granite was put in, how much storage there is in that finished basement, or how great it is to relax on the deck after a long workday.

Strive to keep it simple, to the point and classy. Music and graphic effects aren’t necessary and may even leave some viewers feeling manipulated. Instead, highlight the great things about your house that make it such as special place to live. Help the buyers understand why your home is the best choice for them.







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