The single most important factor in selling a house, other than price, is having good photos in your MLS listing and online. Most buyers today search for homes online, and will rule out homes with bad photos or no photos at all. Make taking and posting great photos a priority.
This guide was written to save you time. It takes 5 minutes to read and understand how to get great photos, and your house will sell faster as a result. You'll also save time by avoiding the need of taking photos multiple times because they never seem to come out right.
Choosing a Digital Camera
If you don't already have a digital camera, GO OUT AND BUY ONE! You can get a good one now for under $200. Don't waste your money on the disposable cameras, and don't expect to get any decent pictures out of a palm pilot, cell phone, or other mini-camera. Camcorders/Video Cameras also fall short - the pictures are poor quality and tend to have a narrow angle. To help you choose the right camera for you, see Consumer Reports on Digital Cameras
The 3 most common photo problems
- Please don't send "vertical" photos (with camera tilted sideways); the photos will become distorted. Width must be the bigger dimension.
- Please don't send photos larger than 640x480. That's the largest they will ever appear anywhere online. See below for an easy way check size and how to reduce.
- Please don't crop the photos, unless you retain the 4:3 ratio.
How to shoot the best pictures to sell your home
The best photos of home interiors are with window treatments open, when the photo captures the room as well as the view outside the window.
The biggest problem with shooting a room with a window is that the camera will automatically adjust for the lighting based on the brightest spot in the photo, which is normally the light coming in the window. The room is normally not as bright as the window, so the camera compensates by adjusting for the brightest spot in the photo, making the inside too dark.
To overcome this, the light between the outside and the inside needs to be more equal. Take the photo when the outside is not so bright, at either sundown/sunrise, or when it's overcast. In fact, the best time is daytime in a thunderstorm, because the outside light is dim and diffused. Nobody will notice the rain outside in the final photo, especially since it will be small when viewed on the internet.
Normally, you will get the best photos with the flash on the camera set to OFF, and all the inside lights on. Most cameras give you the option to have the flash on, off, or set to automatic. Experiment and try some shots with and without flash. Sometimes a flash can overcome bright light coming in the windows, because the flash will brighten up the inside without affecting the outside. Cameras, rooms, lighting, and other factors vary, so it's best to experiment to see what gets you the best result.
As for photos of the outside, a sunny day with a blue sky usually gives you the best photo, providing there are no undesirable dark spots due to shaded areas. You generally want the sun behind you. If the front of the house faces North, it may be best to take that photo on a cloudy day, especially if it's a brick house or has dark siding. The bright areas of the sky versus the unlit dark front give you the same problem as inside photos with overly bright windows.
Which rooms to photograph
Concentrate on the main living areas. Bedroom photos don't mean much if they don't show much more than a bed. Unless there is something interesting like a pair of French doors with a view of a pool or something green, or a fireplace, or a nice sitting area, skip the bedrooms.
Bathrooms very difficult to photograph because they're too small and you can't stand back far enough. Even a beautiful bath is tough to capture because of mirrors and limited space, so it's usually best to skip the bathrooms.
Most important areas to photograph:
1. The front view
2. Living room
4. Formal Dining
5. Breakfast area
6. 2nd living area or different angle of living room
If any of the above either don't exist, or can easily be captured in the same photo (i.e., often a breakfast area can clearly be seen in the kitchen photo), then consider:
7. Backyard/garden/patio area
8. Foyer/staircase/entry – if noteworthy
9. Master bedroom if there is something interesting there
10. Any others are a matter of judgment as to what else captures the essence of the home.
About picture sizes and "Pixels"
Think of every digital photo as being a mosaic of little tiny squares of varying colors. These little tiny squares are called "pixels". The more pixels, the clearer the photo. Digital photo size is measured by how many pixels wide by how many pixels high. 640x480 is the absolute largest that is will ever be displayed on any MLS related website. In fact, most photos on the internet are no bigger than 320x240.
The problem is that high pixel cameras (5 megapixels and more) are getting more common, and most people think they will get better photos on the internet if they send us photos with the high megapixels. High pixel photos are good for enlarging to 8x10 prints, or even to poster size, with high clarity, but are pointless for the internet. All they do is create emailing problems
For example, someone may try to send several photos in one email that are over 3000 pixels wide by over 2000 pixels high, and wonder why it doesn't go through. One photo of that size is same size as over 20 photos that are 640x480, or 80 photos that are 320x240.
If your photos are a little larger than 640x480, it may be ok. Large photos (i.e. over 1280x960) are not likely to come through in your email, and definitely won't with a dial up connection or AOL. Most email services have size limits on what is allowed to pass through in an email.
There are 3 quick ways to find out what size your photo is: 1) If you're using Windows XP, you can simply move the little mouse arrow over the photo icon, and it should tell you the size (photo needs to be on your desktop or in a folder on your desktop, and not a "shortcut"); or 2) Right click on the photo icon and choose "Properties", then select the "Summary" tab; or 3) Double click on a photo to open it, then right click on the photo, and left click on properties. It should tell you how many pixels wide and high the photo is.
- Don't take photos with the camera tilted sideways. A photo that is taller than wide will end up either distorted, squashed, or shrunk when posted on MLS and real estate websites.
- DO NOT "crop" or trim down the picture after you take it, unless you know exactly what you're doing and what pixel dimensions you are ending up with. It's better to leave it alone and write us a note of what you want, and let us do it. It's a lot less work for us that way, because if you crop it, we will need to re-crop the photo to get the ratio correct.
- When emailing photos, it's best to send them in jpg or gif format. If you don't understand what that means, don't worry about it and simply email us the photos however they come out of your camera, and we'll convert them if we have to.
- Do not send photos in a format that requires downloading special software to access the photo. Kodak is a prime example. When their software is downloaded, it also downloads additional undesirable items that can cause problems such as slowing down one's computer, and making the computer more vulnerable to spyware and viruses. We will not download anybody's software to access a photo.
- Remember that good photos posted in MLS and Realtor.com is one of the most important factors in selling your home and getting a good price for it. Don't be impatient or cut corners when it comes to photos.
- Last but not least, don't expect to get great pictures out of a camcorder, palm pilot, cell phone, or disposable camera, no matter what the advertisement or salesman tells you.