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Taking Catchy Real Estate & Apartment Photos

During typical spring seasons, I'd be saying, "the sun is out, students are graduating, and folks are job hunting, it's time to start real estate photography!" With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, people are still needing to move in and out of residences, but the process of new-home-hunting is no longer romanticized. Interested parties are relying more on the photos provided in each listing, rather than viewing many properties in person, following stay-at-home orders. That's why it's so important to take high quality, well-lit photos with strong compositions. Real estate agents, tenants, and property owners will be able to showcase their properties and have more interested leads if they follow some simple tips, as photos are worth a thousand words.

Preparation and Planning:

  • If you're the tenant or owner, I highly recommend planning to take the photos on a very bright, sunny day. The more natural light, the better, so check the forecast and plan for sun. Ideally, you take the photos when light is flooding the residence, which may be the morning or afternoon depending on the direction the windows face. If you're unsure, plan for mid-morning, between 10-11 AM, which will be clean, white light, rather than sunset yellow or orange tinted light.

  • Prepare your equipment. I recommend using a light-moderate wide angle lens. Using a camera like a GoPro on the fish eye function will cause an absurd about of lens distortion, and you'll lose credibility in the listing (and make people's eyes hurt). There's no harm in using a camera phone - the more light available, the more high quality the photos will look.

  • Vacuum/sweep, organize papers, remove clutter, and cover up any scratches or holes in the wall. You may not think these amount to much, but potential customers like seeing what their home could be, rather than seeing reality of tenants living in a space. That's why we enjoy seeing Crate & Barrel catalogs - there are no messes or smudges to avert your attention, and you can imagine what those items would look like inside of your dream space.

Taking the photos:

  • Have a method to the madness, and a sequence to the photos. I recommend moving from the outside in, and from most to least important rooms.

  • Don't forget to take photos of the outside of the property. This helps answer questions about accessibility, whether the residence is in an apartment block versus a multi-family home, how large the land is, and what's currently on the land. It'll save you time answering questions about whether there is a driveway, handicap ramp, garden, etc. It will also allow viewers to disqualify themselves if the photos cover an overview of the neighborhood, yard, front and back steps, etc.

  • Once indoors, open all of the inner doors, curtains, and blinds - each room should allow light to fill it as much as possible. This is harder to do with basement or garden level units. With these situations, I recommend turning on every light available, preferably using LED bulbs. This will keep the light white and modern, versus yellow and old/dirty.

  • If the residence is occupied and there is a lot of clutter, making the room look small or busy, remove as much as you can. I recommend bringing a large tote and a blanket; you can put small items into the tote to de-clutter coffee tables, dressers, and other surfaces. You can use the blanket to store and slide furniture to protect the floors (if hardwood). Don't be afraid to utilize the space that isn't being photographed to shift home items out of the room you're photographing to create a clean, simple-looking space.

  • As you move from room to room, take lots of photos from all corners and angles. Use the doorways and corners to take wider shots to be able to show the interested parties a variety of viewpoints of the room. I recommend crouching to take some of the photos, as it makes the room look larger, and ceiling higher.

  • As you move into rooms that aren't as brightly lit, remember to turn on all available lights, open all blinds, and even bring extra light into that room.

  • Try not to take photos that are "top down" of any structures. Below, you can see examples of my own apartment. The very bottom photo of the bathroom, because it was taken from a high vantage point, makes the bathroom look short, small, and shallow. I should have stepped out of the bathroom doorway to take a photo into the bathroom, making it appear a little larger.

Post production:

By following the recommendations above, you shouldn't need too much work on the photos afterwards. If you do, here are some pointers:

  • Do not increase contrast more than 3%, and be wary of increasing brightness or exposure too much (you may over brighten the lights and windows, making it unappealing for viewers)

  • Lighten shadows by 3-5% to remove any deep shadows behind doors

  • Reduce highlights by 5-10% to remove any overexposed lights/windows

  • Do not watermark the images, unless the watermark is in a corner of the image. Watermarking the images reduces the viewer's ability to see the details of the rooms and the features of the home.

If you have any questions, or would like to hire Sacred Harbor Photography for real estate photography, please email us at Happy home photographing!


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