11 tips to improve your property photos
Whether you’re advertising a property for sale or rent, you (and the landlord or vendor) will want it to look its very best, inside and out. The photos you take for your website, brochures and portal listings are the only opportunity to showcase the property in all its glory, so you need to make sure they look as professional as possible. So many websites use sub-standard photos to accompany property listings, and not only does it paint a poor image of the house but it may reflect badly on your agency. Put these few simple but effective tips into practice and avoid appearing on the Terrible Estate Agent Photos website which collates some less than attractive, very amusing and frankly unbelievable photos apparently used by property managers.
1. Get a proper camera
Everyone is a photographer nowadays, snapping away on their smartphone cameras all day long at everything whether it moves or not. There’s no disputing that the in-built cameras in mobile devices are great quality, delivering high contrast pictures with more megapixels that you can shake a selfie-stick at. But there’s a reason why amateur and professional photographers aren’t panicking in the face of the ever-present mobile snapper. A good quality digital SLR has superior interchangeable lenses for optimising light collection in all conditions and environments and fine-tuned control over settings like aperture for adjusting focus throughout the whole picture. Surely the mobile is convenient and portable, but a good SLR will pay for itself in no time with much better image quality. See this informative video which illustrates the difference in results.
2. Use a tripod
A photograph is all about collecting as much light as possible while maintaining the correct exposure settings. Indoors light is obviously not as abundant as outside so in order to capture it adequately the camera shutter needs to remain open for longer. The problem is that a shutter speed of less than 1/60th of a second is likely to result in some degree of camera shake. While the photos might not be blurry to the point of fuzziness you’ll notice a world of difference if you mount your camera on a tripod, switch to aperture priority (Av) mode to use a larger aperture of f/8 or f/12 (as opposed to a smartphone’s fixed f/2.2), use the highest ISO setting (100) and get a razor sharp image across the entire scene.Plus if the owner is watching you look more impressive too!
3. Make best use of natural light
You don’t need to be a photographer to appreciate the difference between the harsh light of midday and the soft light of early mornings and late evenings. Try to time your exterior shots at either end of the day depending on the house’s location for more flattering results. Inside the property work with the blinds and curtains to get as much natural sunlight into the room as possible but don’t shoot into the brightness or you’ll overexpose the shot. Turn on interior lights to warm the scene up and reduce shadows in the room, but avoid the camera’s in-built flash at all costs as it tends to wash out those items closest to the lens with no noticeable effect more than a few feet away.
4. Concentrate on composition
It’s no coincidence that professional photographers deliver top quality results each and every time. They are masters of their art and take the necessary time and care to studiously prepare and frame each photo. Photographers live by the rule of thirds which involves lining up the key elements of the scene with the lines in a 3×3 grid. All good images abide by this golden rule, and if you look at the examples in sites such as this you’ll see that the rule pervades all great photos more so than amateur handheld snapshots. Move around the room and continually overlay the grid to think about composing the image like a professional, even considering how you might lead the eye from one room into another to entice the viewer to subconsciously explore the spaces and the layout. You’ll start to feel like a pro also, grinning to yourself as it all starts to make perfect sense!
5. Clear or organise the clutter
We’ve all seen that almost perfect shot of a stylish living room ruined by a t-shirt lying on the sofa, child’s toys stacked untidily on the table in the background, or a crooked painting on the wall. And we’ve all seen or maybe even taken that shot with your arm visible in the mirror! Take some time to tidy up the room before you even switch the camera on. Using a tripod will afford you the time to slow down and carefully study the scene through the viewfinder looking for any stray objects which leap out from the framed photo but don’t catch you attention when you look at the room from your normal vantage point. Don’t make the scene look too staged, but add a vase of colourful flowers or a stack of neatly positioned high-brow books to add a touch of class!
6. Be snap-happy
Another secret of the professionals is to take as many photos as you can while on site to allow for all the inevitable duds. A professional photographer who shows off those 5 stunning shots has probably binned another 100 to get those 5 perfect picks. Storage is dirt cheap, so snap till your heart’s content and then sort them out at your leisure when you’re back in front of your computer afterwards. Take photos from different angles and directions, and move slowly through all the rooms snapping as you go. You’re betting looking at them than looking for them!
7. Try a different perspective
Ever looked at a magazine photo of a fairly standard kitchen or bedroom and wondered how the hell they make it look so attractive and eye-catching? Then you look back at your own photos and shake your head in despair? Often this is down to the perspective. Take the photo from lower down, about 4 feet from floor level, to make the viewer feel more in the photo. This is much easer with a tripod to avoid uncomfortable crouching and rushed, unsteady shots. In the bathroom where most of the items of interest are below waist height get down there and shoot from that level to eliminate all that dead space in the upper half of the room. Try not to tilt the camera up or down as this can result in “converging verticals” which make walls and ceilings look distorted. As mentioned above, experiment. It doesn’t cost any more to take 20 shots than 2, and then pick the best when you’re back in the office.
8. Post-process in an image editor
Contrary to popular opinion, “photoshopping” isn’t cheating. Unless of course you’re airbrushing out holes in the walls or cracks in the ceilings! Don’t think for a second that those classy magazine showhouse photos are straight from the camera. Virtually any good image will have some degree of post-processing performed on it using an image editor like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or online editor such as Pixlr, cropping the image down to size to eliminate clutter or to impose the rule of thirds in retrospect, fixing wonky horizons or adjusting the contrast to fix up over or under-exposed photos and achieve consistent lighting across the various rooms. One of the most effective tricks is to adjust the white balance to warm up the scene, boosting the colours in the room. Just don’t overdo it or photos start to look artificial and then people rightly doubt their authenticity and you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.
9. Look for inspiration
Everyone knows a good property photo when they see one, whether in a home magazine, on a competitor website or property portal, or just when browsing the web. Cut it out, save the page, or print it, and file it away in a folder of favourite photos. Then study it and try to reproduce the results in your own photos. It’s not cheating, it’s learning from the experts. Explore online resources such as Pinterest to assemble a digital scrapbook of quality property photos, and search for online tutorials on indoor photography to try to improve your technique.
10. Hire a professional
If this all seems too much like hard work or there’s too much time and effort involved for your liking, or if you simply think photography is not your thing, then why not hire a professional or at least a local amateur photographer who might have a flair or indeed specialise in shooting property or indoor images. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out it’s not as expensive as you might think, and when you consider that good quality photos will help sell or let your properties much faster then it’s money well spent. Maybe with a little practice with the techniques in this article you’ll even discover that you have hidden skills that you can turn into a nice sideline into the bargain!
11. And remember, don’t get carried away with image size
My camera has more megapixel thingies than your camera! When you’ve got your dream photos and you’re about to upload them into RentPro or your own property management software package for transfer to your website or property portals, or for inclusion in brochures, just remember that the image from the camera is most likely much, much larger than you require and will therefore take longer to load. Keep your originals safe, but prepare a smaller web version. A 20 megapixel camera produces a photo about 5000×4000 pixels in size. For brochure or print production 3000×2000 is more than sufficient, and for web purposes any more than 1500 pixels wide is a waste since it will be resized before it appears on your 1200 pixel screen.
If you already use some form of letting agency software within your business then start uploading your new and improved property photos now and see how much more professional your property listings appear. If you’re a new agency looking for property management software, or an existing agent unhappy with their current solution, then why not try RentPro’s 14-day no-obligation, fully functional trial to see how it can help grow your business?