The Importance of Taking Good Real Estate Photos

July 20th, 2014 · 6 Comments

Today I was featured in the Arizona Republic newspaper’s real estate section!!

Here’s a link to article; there’s a slide show at the top, and the article below.

Written by Gremlyn Waddell of the Arizona Republic (with my photo comments added in brackets [] ):

In his 16-year career as a Valley real-estate agent, Leif Swanson has seen some less-than-memorable images on online house listings.

There are depressing photos of dirty, cluttered spaces; the classic raised-toilet-seat-in-the-bathroom shots; and his pet peeve, the ones with a photographer’s reflection in the mirror.

Those kinds of photos, along with the ones featuring a cat’s litter box, a weed-filled yard or children mugging for the camera, astound the Realty One Group agent. He knows nearly 100 percent of today’s homebuyers look at online listings before they even call a real-estate office. So a seller may have only one chance — through attractive photos — to get a potential buyer in the door.

“A buyer may overlook a house that’s great just because the pictures were poor,” Swanson said. “And if you were putting a picture of yourself online for a dating service, wouldn’t you at least comb your hair? It’s the same idea with your home.”

In November 2007, he launched his uglyhousephotos.com website to educate sellers and entertain buyers. He posts many of the unbecoming photos he sees as a Realtor (along with his comments that veer from observational to a bit sarcastic), but he’ll often offer suggestions on how to improve the shots. He’ll also post before-and-afters of inspirational rooms.

“The goal isn’t to humiliate anyone,” Swanson said, adding that he blocks out people’s faces as well as addresses, license plates or any indication of sellers’ names. “I was just tired of seeing bad pictures, especially when I know there are easy solutions.”

Whether the seller or seller’s agent is the photographer, or even if the seller has hired a professional photographer or commercial service, Swanson said the following tips go a long way toward making photos stand out online:

The basics
• Take more photos than you think you should, then edit judiciously. “You don’t have to publish every picture you take, but while you’re at the home, you should preview your photos. Chances are that you’re shooting with a digital camera, so look right there and then at what you’ve taken and make sure you have something good.”
• Keep the camera still while shooting; blurry photos are not pretty. And keep those fingers away from the viewfinder.
• Exterior shots look best when the sun’s at an angle, so shoot during the early morning or late afternoon. Watch for shadows and try to avoid having them in photos.
• When photographing a room with a mirror in it, stand to the side (not straight in front of the mirror); otherwise your reflection will be in the mirror — and that looks amateurish. Same thing goes if you’re using a tripod; keep it out of sight.

[Just move a foot or two over to avoid the reflection, as shown here]

example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos bathroom mirror reflection   example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos bathroom mirror reflection

• For interior shots, turn on all the lights. It’s smart to bring an extra camera along to see whether you can get better shots with it, too. Swanson often shoots photos with his cellphone camera when the shots with his standard camera appear too dark.
• Remember to look for a room’s best feature and highlight it in your pictures. Is it the vaulted ceiling, the picture window or a fireplace? “Focus on the stuff that makes up the room, not what’s in it,” Swanson said.
• Think about what you’d like to see in listing photos. Do you really want to see the back of a chair or couch? You may need to try a different angle to get the best vantage point. Even moving a foot or two can make a difference.
• Don’t use a flash too close to a window or you’ll see mostly glare in your picture.

[With the sun pouring into the open window and no kitchen lights or camera flash, the kitchen looks dark.  I closed the window shades, turned on the kitchen lights, and used a flash.  An improvement, but a better option would be to take the photo earlier in the day when the sun was not at the window.]

example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos exposure too bright sun in window kitchen  example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos exposure too bright sun in window kitchen

Tricks of the trade:
• A straight-on shot of a still swimming pool looks boring and lifeless, so Swanson either uses a net or his hand to “chop” the water in a pool several times so it gets some nice ripples going. Then he grabs his camera and shoots. “Then I can call it a ’sparkling, clean pool’ in my listing,” he said.

example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos sparkling swimming pool still flat water vs. choppy waves  example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos sparkling swimming pool still flat water vs. choppy waves

• Even in a bare backyard, you can introduce a pop of color. Find a bougainvillea bloom or other plant, position it in either the bottom-right or bottom-left portion of the camera’s viewfinder and take the picture.
• Move cars off the driveway (or, heaven forbid, the yard) when taking photos. If cars are blocking the home’s exterior, move them down the street temporarily. If a neighbor’s nearby driveway is full of vehicles, try to exclude it from your shots.

[I had a corporate relocation listing interview with the house on the left.  I sent this photo to the relocation department to let them know buyers might be turned off by the neighbor’s parking lot.]

example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos too many cars vehicles parked on neighbor's driveway

• If the house has incredible sunset views, take some photos at dusk to showcase them. Highlight any desert or mountain views as well.
• You may love your pets, but don’t include their evidence — cages, food bowls, litter boxes — in your pictures. Buyers will assume the house smells, Swanson said.
• Don’t include family photos in online pictures, and limit or entirely exclude political and religious paraphernalia. Would-be homebuyers want to imagine themselves in a home, not be reminded about the sellers and their preferences.

A few parting thoughts:
• Remember that sellers are ultimately responsible for, and have final approval of, any listing photos of their homes.
• Tacky posters in your teen’s bedroom or an exceptionally cluttered guest room? Not every single room in the house has to be photographed.
• Pictures are a wonderful tool for selling a home, but there can be too much of a good thing. Most folks get “photo fatigue” after looking at 25 or 30 photos, Swanson said.

[Final example:  taking a house photo straight on.  It can make a house look boring.  Try stepping to the side and taking the photo at an angle.  It might add some excitement to the photo.]

example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos exterior shot front yard view straight on vs. at an angle  example of good bad real estate photography pictures photos exterior shot front yard view straight on vs. at an angle

→ 6 CommentsTags: Phoenix Homes

Before & After Bungalow Renovation

July 19th, 2014 · 5 Comments

Before Living Room.  1930s-1940s bungalow.  2 bedrooms, 1 bath.  Was purchased in poor condition as a short sale for $39,900.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture living room bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Living Room.  The wall to the kitchen was removed.  Once the house was renovated, it sold for $97,000.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture living room bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Living Room.  Here’s what buyers see when they enter the house.  Buyers love open spaces and being able to see long distances.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture living room bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Living Room.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture living room bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Kitchen.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture kitchen dining area bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Kitchen.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture kitchen dining area bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Kitchen.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture kitchen dining area bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Bathroom.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bathroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Bathroom.  The size of the bathroom was doubled.  Not sure where they found the extra space.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bathroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Bathroom.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bathroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Bathroom.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bathroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Bathroom.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bathroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Bedroom One.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bedroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Bedroom One.  Because the walls are brick, it was difficult to add electric wiring through the walls.  They had to add electric conduit along the back wall.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bedroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Bedroom Two.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bedroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Bedroom Two.  New windows.  But no electric outlets on two walls.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture bedroom bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Front of House.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture front exterior curb appeal bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Front of House.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture front exterior curb appeal bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Back of House.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture back yard bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

After Back Yard.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture back yard bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Roof.  This home had gas heat and evaporative cooling before.  Regular air conditioning and a new roof were added during the renovation.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture roof rusty damaged evaporative cooler bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Before Basement.  Sorry, no after photo available.

before after renovation remodeling project photo picture basement bungalow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

→ 5 CommentsTags: Flooring · Curb Appeal · Bathroom · Living Room · Kitchen · Bedroom · Remodeling · Phoenix Homes · Back Yard · Before & After · Basement

Real Estate Photo Turn-Offs

July 18th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Buyers start their home searches on-line and they judge houses based on photos.  Sellers only get one chance to impress and entice buyers.

Buyers don’t want to see fingers in real estate photos.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture two fingers Phoenix Arizona home house for sale

Buyers are turned off by over-exposed photos.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture over-exposed too bright Phoenix Arizona home house for sale

Buyers are also turned off by under-exposed photos.  Yes, these are actual photos used to promote the sale of houses.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture too dark all black Phoenix Arizona home house for sale

Buyers do not like panoramic photos, especially if several photos were stitched together.  Look at the uneven floor.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture panoramic uneven floor stitched Phoenix Arizona home house for sale

Unless it’s a view of mountains or a golf course outside the back yard, panoramic photos indoors should not be used.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture panoramic uneven floor stitched Phoenix Arizona home house for sale

Buyers do not like fish-eye photos or peeping Tom photos through fences or in bathrooms.

poor bad amateur real estate photography photo picture through a fence fish-eye lens Coolidge Arizona home house for sale

→ 4 CommentsTags: Phoenix Homes · Other Arizona Cities · Poor Photography

Ten Minutes & 3 Boxes

July 18th, 2014 · 5 Comments

Please let us tidy up this Mesa, Arizona home.  We’d only need ten minutes and some empty boxes.  You can time us.  1, 2, 3, go!  Remove the prescription bottle.  Remove everything on the kitchen counters.  Remove everything off the front, side, and top of the refrigerator.  And then remove all of the family photos in the next room.  Done!  Total cost: $0.  Benefit to the seller:  more buyers interested in seeing the home and higher offers.

cluttered messy kitchen counters refrigerator magnets prescription medicine bottle family photos poor bad home staging Mesa Arizona house

→ 5 CommentsTags: Staging · Kitchen · Clutter · Mesa, AZ Homes · Refrigerator Magnets · Family Photos

Too Hot To Get Out of the Car?

July 18th, 2014 · 2 Comments

It does get very hot in Phoenix in the summer.  Photographers sometimes take real estate photos from inside their air conditioned cars.

poor bad amateur photographer real estate picture photo taken inside a car too lazy to get out Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Sellers, please ask your photographer if she/he will go the extra mile for you.  Well, at least an extra ten feet.

poor bad amateur photographer real estate picture photo taken inside a car too lazy to get out Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

And if that’s not possible, at least roll the window down!  Tell the photographer you’ll pay for the extra gas; all that precious cold air going out the window, you know.  [By the way, this is the only photo available for this house]

poor bad amateur photographer real estate picture photo taken inside a car too lazy to get out Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

→ 2 CommentsTags: Phoenix Homes · Poor Photography

Fish Fry

July 17th, 2014 · No Comments

A new trend we’re seeing in Phoenix:  placing a fish tank or aquarium or terrarium in front of a fireplace.

ugly dirty fish tank placed in front of blocking a fireplace family photos cluttered room Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale photo

This house has two tanks by the fireplace!  And two barbells!

ugly dirty fish tank placed in front of blocking a fireplace cluttered family room Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale photo two barbells

→ No CommentsTags: Staging · Clutter · Fireplace · Phoenix Homes · Fake Plants & Flowers · Family Photos

Lurking In the Shadows

July 17th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Real estate photography tip:  Be careful with shadows.

poor amateur bad real estate photography picture photographer's person's shadow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

If you see your shadow in a photo, either move to a different spot or take the photo at a different time of day.

poor amateur bad real estate photography picture photographer's person's shadow Superior Arizona homes houses for sale

The time of day makes a difference.  The shadow dominates the photo.

poor amateur bad real estate photography picture tree shadow Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Another example of too much shadow and too little house.

poor amateur bad real estate photography picture tree shadow Glendale Arizona homes houses for sale photoshopped real estate sign

Real estate broker signs are not allowed in MLS photos, so this photographer photoshopped over the sign with grass!  Wouldn’t it have been better to take the photo from a different angle?  And different time of day?

poor amateur bad real estate photography picture tree shadow Glendale Arizona homes houses for sale photoshopped real estate sign

→ 4 CommentsTags: What Were They Thinking?!?! · Phoenix Homes · Other Arizona Cities · Glendale, AZ Homes · Poor Photography

Bedroom Bedlam

July 16th, 2014 · 3 Comments

This bedroom could use a lot of help.  Carpet cleaning.  Removal of clutter and the fishing pole.  And so on.

cluttered messy disorganized chaotic bedroom dirty soiled carpet fishing pole poor bad home staging Phoenix Arizona house for sale

→ 3 CommentsTags: Staging · Bedroom · Clutter · Phoenix Homes · Dirt, Dust, & Filth

This Is Why Buyers Don’t Like Fixer-Uppers

July 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Unusual tile patterns, odd structural changes, and/or amateur remodeling can scare buyers.  Because they know it will require lots of work and dust to change it.

unusual floor tile pattern orange color half removed renovated concrete floor exposed fixer-upper bathroom Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

Today’s buyer would rather pay more for a house that is remodeled or in good/clean condition than a house that requires finishing a project.

unusual floor tile pattern orange color half removed renovated concrete floor exposed fixer-upper bathroom Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale

→ 4 CommentsTags: Tile · Bathroom · Remodeling · Phoenix Homes · Fixer-Upper

Patio Pleaser

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Covered patios are highly desirable home features in Phoenix.

ugly bad patio roof needs replaced weeds back yard neglect fixer-upper old tires Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale real estate photo

So are new roofs.

ugly bad patio roof needs replaced weeds back yard neglect fixer-upper old tires Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale real estate photo

And nice landscaping.

ugly bad patio roof needs replaced weeds back yard neglect fixer-upper old tires Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale real estate photo

But in Phoenix, any shade is good shade.

ugly bad patio roof needs replaced weeds back yard neglect fixer-upper old tires Phoenix Arizona homes houses for sale real estate photo

→ No CommentsTags: Roof · Patio · Phoenix Homes · Back Yard · Garbage and/or Junk · Weeds · Fixer-Upper