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quick photography tips

As professional luxury real estate photographers, we can help you take GREAT listing photos! We're happy to share our Quick Photography Tips with you. Great real estate photography is all about conditioning buyers to fall in love with the most flattering aspects of the home. Create an emotional response with photography and you'll have many interested buyers. Homes with online curb appeal sell faster.

Create Instant Online Curb Appeal
All on its own, your Flash Gallery Tour will create instant online curb appeal! But wouldn't it be great to learn to take better listing photos to put in it? Now you can! This is the simple skinny on equipment, preparation, and techniques. Read these Tips before you start shooting, and you’ll guarantee yourself the best listing photos you’ve ever taken!

Getting Started
First, properly prepare for the photo shoot by scheduling a date and time after you've reviewed the tips below. It will impress your sellers, save you lots of time, and avoid the embarrassment of returning to the property to re-shoot. We'll prepare you to look like a professional photographer, so smart and savvy!
Special note: If its been three months or more since your last photos were taken, or the blooming season has changed, re-shoot! Be sure your photos are an accurate representation of the property for a buyer coming to see it today. Remember, you can change your photos in your Flash Gallery as often as you like for free, so keep it fresh!

Most important features to look for in a camera
The larger the lens, the more light can come in, and thus, the more color. This single feature above all else determines the color quality in your shots. Pay less attention to megapixels. You will likely never need a photo larger than 1 MB for your marketing needs, unless submitting a magazine cover shot, so look for the lens with the largest glass surface area. This will provide the best color and detail.  Special note: my personal favorite for high quality color is the Canon Powershot Series. The Vivid mode will knock your socks off. Set your camera to shoot at a Medium or Large setting: 1600 x 1200, or 2272 x 1704.

Wide angle
You will want a camera with a 28mm lens, which comes standard now in most compact cameras, because it will allow you to fit an entire room into one single shot. This is by far the best way to convey floor plan. Try to include all doorways and hallways and hints to where they lead. But be careful with lens accessories. You really don't need them. I’ve noticed that I get a “barreling” effect (edges curving) with my 24mm lens. The smaller the number on the lens, the wider the shot, but the more barreling.  Special note: Virtual tours use a circular "fisheye" lens, ranging between 8-16mm, so they only take two shots of a room to capture 180 degrees in each direction. This short cut, however, creates the extreme barreling effect which causes the spinning and disorientation commonly associated with virtual tours, and outright avoided by more and more buyers today because, nausea aside, it fails to give them an honest view.

When it comes to the zoom, the optical zoom number is the most important. Pay less attention to the digital zoom, which kicks in artificially after the optical zoom range ends, and tends to make the photo blurry and pixelated (spotty dots). Avoid the digital zoom. I recommend getting closer to your object of detail, rather than zooming, and if you do zoom, do not exceed the camera’s optical zoom function. Real estate photos should first capture wide angle, landscape views, so the buyer may take it all in, but you may want to add close up details of special amenities or private views that may be missed in the “big pictures”. These shots add an “artful eye” and draw viewers deeper into the picture. It can also give them a better sense of what it feels like to be there.  Special note: To keep the viewer oriented in the home, be sure these detail shots follow a wider angle view photo that contains the feature you are drawing attention to. This is very helpful for selecting the photo order for your Flash Gallery.

Use a good flash
Cameras that allow for external mount flashes are best. An external mount flash allows you to control the direction of the flash, so that it doesn’t get blocked by the length of the lens. Either way, always use a flash, but try to angle it away from windows and mirrors so you don’t get a flash spot in your picture. Also, the flash helps in rooms with little natural light to prevent blurry photos due to underexposure. If a room is already very bright, the flash may be overkill, so test the shot with and without the flash on to strike the most natural color balance. Special note: To override the camera's "programmed" instinct to fire in low light, you may have to find the icon on your camera that has a lightning bolt with a line through it in order to manually turn off the flash. Another tip: If you still get bright flash spots reflecting off surfaces, such as shiny wooden cabinets, you may want to try a flash diffuser. We recommend the Gary Fong series. Its an attachment you place over the flash to soften its effect while still achieving the brightening effect you need. (Great for shooting portraits, too).

Time of Day
Determine the direction the front of the house faces. If it faces east, the best time to shoot will be in the morning when the sun is shining directly on the front of the house. If it is facing west, it will be later in the afternoon. You may consider shooting a beautiful west-facing backyard in the afternoon or early evening to emphasize the sunset. You may opt to shoot different areas at different times. Plan areas to shoot based on the time of day when the sun is to your advantage. Natural light is always the most flattering. It gives an truer sense of how it feels to be inside the home. Watch for times of the day when there's both light and shadows present in the natural landscape, such as sun rays streaming through a kitchen window onto the hardwood floor. This will create contrast, mood, and ambiance.  Special note: When in doubt about directions, or when its a very shady property with tall trees blocking the light, shoot at high noon.

Schedule your shoot time to be free of interference
Its best to request beforehand from your sellers that the home be unoccupied during your scheduled shoot time. Ask for a solid hour, in case you need it. This will allow you to take your time and concentrate. It will also keep others out of your shots. With wide angles lenses, no one can hide, especially with windows and reflections. Be sure there are no Open Houses, showings, house cleaners, inspectors or landscapers scheduled during the time you'll be there to shoot.

Do a thorough walk through before you begin shooting
Walk through every room in the house. Inspect the front and backyards. Check that all light bulbs are working and replace where necessary.

Prepare the shooting area
Secure pets, small children, and any other moving objects that may interfere with your shoot, this includes turning off TVs and computer monitors. As much as you may love dogs and cats, most buyers do not want to see them in the pictures. Move all parked cars, ladders, and unsightly or brightly colored objects like trash cans, garden hoses, and other debris out of the shooting area. 

Clear all clutter
Put all personal effects out of sight, including family portraits, toiletries, shower bottles, soaps, magazine & paper piles, toys, unnecessary counter items, etc. Either put them in drawers or closets, or move them into other rooms while you take your shot. If your sellers still reside in the home, please remember to return items to their previous location after shooting.

De-personalize, tidy up, and remove distracting items
Buyers want to imagine their own things in the home, so try to conceal signs of the current owners’ personal tastes, preferences, hobbies, and family relationships so it won't distract attention from the home itself. For example, hide all family photos. Scan each room for brightly colored objects that may clash with the overall decor, or distract from the high beams, archways, or beautiful fireplace. Do your best to emphasize the structural elements of the home that will be there when the home is vacant. In tidying up, straighten pillows, bedspreads, rugs, dish towels, and hanging pictures. Sweep decks and walkways.

Turn on all lights
Everywhere. Every lamp and light switch you can find, turn it on. Especially those over the stove, and under cabinets.

Bring the outside in
Let in natural light for better exposures. Open all curtains and blinds, doors and windows, especially those that lead to the outdoors. Open both sides of the French doors that lead out to decks and backyards. Open the sliding glass door all the way, with the screen, to reveal the green lawn and colorful plants outside. Crank open the windows and maybe pop off a screen if it shows the blue sky, or lawn, and flowers beyond. You want buyers to imagine birds singing and a cool breeze coming in on a warm day.  Special note: Avoid pointing the camera directly at the light source. It’ll cause the photo to be washed out. Instead, point it at a piece of furniture and hold your shutter button down halfway until you get the green indicator that its in focus, then re-center the frame, and snap the shot. Check your playback to see what you got.

Watch for your own reflections
Be sure to look for yourself in windows and mirrors. Often this can be avoided by changing your position or lining yourself up in the middle seam where two mirrors or sheets of glass come together. You can also use a tripod, move out of the room and fire the camera using a remote. This is especially helpful with bathrooms.

Crop with your eye
Practice makes perfect. Get used to taking your time to carefully frame each photo. Composition is everything. It will actually save you time later as you perfect your shots. Check to be sure that you want everything that’s appearing in the frame. If not, shift your position or move an object out. Watch for straight lines like door and window frames, beams, refrigerators, furniture. Sometimes wide angle lenses can make these lines seem slightly tilted or angled. If they don't look straight in your camera lens, zoom in a bit to crop your shot to just inside these lines.

Maximize the value of each shot
Stand in the best corner of the room, the one that captures the most interesting features all in one shot. For example, find the corner that will include the fireplace, the big windows, the ceiling fan, the wood beams, and the entry into an adjoining room. This helps to reveal size, scale, dimension, and floor plan.

Keep it eye level
Upward and downward angles are disorienting to a buyer. Hold the camera flat, at normal eye level, and be sure to get everything in from floor to ceiling. This may mean you have to squat down a little to ensure the mid-point in the room is in the middle of the photo. Your photos should truly represent how a person would see the room while standing in it.

Keep it straight
Crooked photos are a drag. Before you shoot, look inside your camera’s viewfinder and make sure the vertical lines of the walls are parallel to the sides of your viewfinder, and that the floor line is perpendicular to any straight vertical lines from the walls, furniture, or door jambs.  Special note: most floors in homes are not level and many homes do not sit on perfectly flat, level ground. Rely on your eye to tell you what’s straight, not the leveler on a tripod. You may have to tilt the camera a little to make the objects in the photo come out straight.

Reduce overwhelming ceilings

Homes without high ceilings or open beams can tend to look and feel really cramped in photos. Try getting down closer to the ground to reduce this effect. A tripod is best to keep it level. It'll draw more attention to the objects in the room and create balance between the floor and ceiling.

No more blurry photos
The digital age is indeed a blessing when it comes to taking photos today. You can instantly delete blurry photos, but how do you avoid taking them? Blurry photos are caused by camera shake when pressing down the shutter button and from low light conditions. The trick is a steady hand. Support the camera body with your free hand to keep it still while shooting. For best results, use a tripod. Look for the tallest expandable one you can find. You'll realize how helpful this is when shooting front exterior shots, because its so important that the shot is level and not tilted back to get it all in. This is also a great reason to have a camera remote because once the tripod is taller than you, you won't be able to see through the lens or press the shutter.

Always see green before you fire
The green indicator in your viewfinder is your best friend. Depending on your camera model, it will appear as a green dot, square or rectangle. This lets you know when your photo is in focus. Before taking a photo, determine the most important object in the photo, then press and hold the shutter button down halfway so it locks its focus on the object. If its yellow, red, or doesn't beep and turn green, its not in focus. Don't shoot. There's not enough light. Your photo will be blurry or underexposed. Change your position, try another angle. If its green and it beeps, you're all clear. Fire awaySpecial note: if you just cannot get a green indicator, try focusing on another object until you get the green, then turn your camera back to the main object and fire.

Shoot bathrooms only when necessary
Unless the bathroom has exceptional features such as Jacuzzi tub, bay windows, granite counter tops, or upgraded fixtures, leave them out. Most bathrooms are not incredibly impressive and are narrow in size, so they don’t photograph well. If you do shoot the bathroom, make sure the toilet seat is down!

Romancing the home
If the home is vacant or sparsely decorated, try adding some small touches of color and symbols of ambiance: a vase of fresh cut flowers on the dining table, candles around the bathtub, or a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen.

Experiment with night shooting
A technique you’ll rarely see, which can really help your home stand out, is the use of night shots. For example, your home may have a deck that looks incredible at sunset. Set out a table and a few glasses of wine to create ambience. You can also try amber lighting at the dining table with place settings and candles. Turn off the flash, hold the camera very still, or use a tripod to avoid the common blur due to low light conditions, and shoot. You may be pleasantly surprised. If the home has nice recessed lighting on dimmers inside, or well appointed lighting around the home’s exterior perimeter, capture that as well. Experiment with capturing these qualities. Buyers love to imagine how their new home will look, day and night!


*Barreling effect: wide angle lenses can cause a bending or “barreling” effect, noticed by wall lines and edges that seem to curve out and are not perpendicular to the floor line. If this happens you can use cropping to trim the edges off.  Special note: Use minimal cropping as it will cause you to lose resolution and clarity when it stretches what’s left to fill the original photo size. It’s best to learn to crop with your eye and keep it level while shooting. The less you have to fix later, the better.

*Crooked photos: If you notice it after the shoot, use the straightening tool in your photo editing software.

*Photo editing: Be careful. Its easy to get out of control with photo editing software. Before you know it, none of your photos look alike. Common mistakes: over-saturation (too hot, notice reds and orange tones), under-exposed (too dark), and over-exposed (too light, washed out). The goal is to be sure all corrections achieve a natural look, not an embellished one. They should all look consistent and even in color tone.  Advanced note: If you have Adobe editing software, learn to run a “batch” edit on your photos after you have edited one photo to your liking. This feature will record the changes you made to the the first and apply the exact same changes to all the rest.

Whatever you do, PLEASE DO NOT RE-SIZE your photos. Our intelligent uploading system will do this for you to maintain their highest quality in your Flash Gallery. If you re-size before you upload to our system, you'll diminish the detailed resolution of your original shot, and we don't want that. So just shoot, upload your original photos, then sit back and admire your Flash Gallery.

You're a star!