In a tough real estate market which we are all facing right now, better photos makes your listing stand out – good photos gets more buyers’ attention and makes them want to go see the house in person, and you as a listing agent have a higher chance to get multiple offers for your seller. Spending a little time to learn how to take better photos is a small investment you can’t afford to miss.
I am offering to do a free one-hour presentation on “Real Estate Photography for Realtors” in different Brokerage offices around Santa Clara County. If you are interested to have me to present this class in your office, please contact me (Sabrina 408-859-5864 or firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can discuss in more detail. Or you can read through this article on my blog to get some ideas.
Let me tell you a little bit more about the class that I am offering. Basically, I am going to show you how you can take better photos with your point-n-shoot camera (not cell phones) just by knowing:
1. How to choose a good compact camera for shooting your listings,
2. When is a good time to shoot,
3. Which angle is better for interior or exterior shots,
4. What your camera can do for you,
5. What should be avoided when taking photos
The most important part is you don’t need to use photo editing software or lighting equipment. After just a one-hour class, your photos straight from your camera will looks ten times better.
Do good pictures matter?
Of course, especially when gas is soon to be $5.00 per gallon. The Realtors’ association survey found that when it comes to Web
features that buyers considered “very useful,” 83% cited pictures, 81%
cited detailed property information and 60% cited virtual tours. If most of buyers and Realtors search homes online, no matter which websites they are using, photos will be the key for them to determine whether or not they want to see it in person.
Santa Clara County’s MLS allows each home to have 9 photos and a link to the virtual tour, so out of curiosity I did a quick scan on current listings. I searched listings located from Palo Alto to Los Gatos (excluding San Jose), in the price range from $600K to $800K, single family house that are listed more than 60 days on the market, and it came out to 82 listings. By comparison, there are 39 houses listed between 3/1 to 4/30 that are now sold or pending.
Sold or Pending Still on market
within 60 Days after 60 Days
Only Map, no photo 13% 10%
Only 1 photo 9% 5%
2-5 photos 16% 3%
More than 6 photos 62% 82%
With virtual tour 10% 13%
Good photos 5% 21%
Basically, we have 22% of the listings that are not selling which have only 1 or no picture at all, that is almost 1/4 of all listing — no wonder they are on the market more than 60 days. Moreover, only 5% of all photos are really good, which is sad. When I say “really good” I am not talking about professional grade, I am talking about the rooms look bright; I can tell the color of the sofa in the living room; and I can see how the house looks like from the front.
I understand this is just an experiment and doesn’t have any scientific value but I also believe the relationship between a quick sale and long time on market has something to do with the photos. If you don’t think so, you can stop right here and no need to waste your time; otherwise, keep reading and let me show you how to make some changes. You need to do three things right in order to improve your photography skills — Right Tools, Right Time, and Right Ways.
You need a compact camera with 24mm wide-angle, because camera phone is not good enough. If your hand shakes or you want to take night shots, you might want to use a tripod so your pictures will not blur.
You might ask why a wide angle? If you want to make a small room look bigger, or you want to show a living style within a space, you need wide angle to do that; otherwise, your photo will looks like you are selling a piece of furniture or accessory.
Compare these two photos. If you use a non-wide angle camera, you would not be able to show off the whole kitchen (pic 1) and only show part of the kitchen. The wide-angle camera gives you the ability to capture everything in the kitchen, showing the space and the life style (pic 2). If your listing is a great home and nicely staged, wouldn’t you want to show it all to the buyers and other Realtors?
Don’t have a wide-angle camera? Don’t you worry! I did all the homework for you already. You just need to buy one from three I picked.
Wide Angle Compact Cameras for Realtors
Many Realtors use Camera phones to take photos for their listings; however, camera phones don’t have many control functions so the picture quality is not as good as compact cameras. Therefore, we still need to invest in a good compact camera if we want to have better photos. For Real Estate photos, wide angle is a must but there are not many compact cameras that come with 24mm wide angle capability. Luckily there are four pretty good ones, and three of them are new on the market to choose from.
Update (8/13/08): The newest camera with 24mm wide angle lens is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. It has F2.0 24mm ultra-wide-angle Leica lens, Large 3.0 LCD, Raw, HD Video Recording and slideshows, ISO 3200, approx. 2.5 shots per second, Face Detection (up to 15 faces). Optional items such as Wide Conversion Lens brings the maximum wide
angle to 18mm; ND Filter and PL Filter, aluminum External Optical Viewfinder (DMW-VF1), and the GN22 Compact
Flash. If you were consider Canon G9, you might want to take a look this camera because it can do about everything G9 can do and a 24mm lens without converter and under $500.
The second one is the Canon PowerShot G9 with Raynox HD-6600 Pro 58mm Wide Angle Converter), 24-210mm, $620. This is a alternative version of a DSLR because it has features like Raw, AP and TV modes, special scene modes such as aquarium, underwater, kids and pets, color accent and swap. It has 3.0 inch LCD, hot shoe for external flash, record movies, ISO 3200, f/2.8 and 12.1-megapixel. A new Face Select and Track function enables the user to manually select and track an individual face from up to 35 faces detected in frame. It has an in-built ND (Neutral Density) filter, AEB (auto exposure bracketing), focus bracketing and a live histogram display. The only drawback is a littler bigger (4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in) and heavier (13.1 oz).
The third one is the Ricoh Caplio GX100, 24-72mm $440. It has Raw, AE and AP modes, 1 cm macro mode, Exposure bracketing, f/2.5 to f/4.4, and hot shoe for external flash. If you want wider than 24mm, you can purchase 19mm DW-6 Wide Conversion Lens and HA-2 Adapter. The only drawback is that it’s 10-megapixel images sensor is pretty noisy above ISO 400 but I don’t see it is a problem for Realtors. (4.4 x 2.8 x 1.7 inch, 9.2 oz) (Update 08/13/08: New GX200 is 12-megapixel, $599)
The last one is the Samsung NV24HD, 24-86mm $350. Other than wide angle, its Face Detection technology can detects up to nine faces and automatically adjust focus and exposure to ensure better composition and image quality that makes taking pictures of family and friends a snap. By utilizing Face Detection technology, it automatically detects the user's face, adjusts focus and exposure, and will only allow a photo to be taken if the subject is centered in the frame. Additionally it includes the ability to shoot at ISO 3200 and 14 scene modes to choose from. (Update 03/21/09:
Samsung has three new 24mm wide-angle compact cameras in 2009 – HZ10W,
HZ15W, TL320, and they all come with Live View function).
You can buy these cameras on bhphotovideo.com or Amazon.
Timing is very important for taking good picture because lighting is everything in photography. A sunny mid-day is usually not a good time but that is the time most Realtors take photos, so if you have choice on when to take your photos, do take advantage of it. The best time to take photos is Early Morning, Late Afternoon, or a Cloudy Day, and this also applies for landscape, flower and portrait. Why? Because these three times of the day give you enough light but much softer lighting so the subject you are shooting will be clear and prettier.
Look at these two photos. The first one is taken with a regular camera in the early afternoon. The sun is behind the house so you can’t really see the texture in the front side of the house because the shadow. By comparison, the second is taken with wide-angle camera in the early morning. I stood right in the front of the lawn to take this shot. You can clearly see the color of the exterior wall, the landscape, the green grass, the garage doors and the driveway.
The third one is taken about a half hour before sunset that gives you soft and warm light and brings out the color in the trees, flowers and grass.
Before you take the shot, make sure you turn OFF on-camera flash and turn ON all indoor lights including lamps because on-camera flash is not powerful enough to light a room and the flash light is a “cold” color anyway. Turn On all indoor lights and shooting in the right time would provide you enough lighting.
Most of the time you want to avoid to shoot into a window because it will make your room look darker (if you don’t know how to compensate your exposure on camera). Normally you want to shoot with the light, meaning, you stand on the window side and shoot inward so the room will be lit by the window light.
If you know how to use exposure compensation on your camera, you can make the room look bright but blow out the window. But sometime you want to under expose to show the outside window view when there is a garden or a deck.
Read your user Manual
The compact cameras today are very smart and powerful and the problem usually is the person behind the camera. So the first thing for you is to read your camera user manual to find out the settings for Manual mode, ISO set on 200-400, file size set on Large and Fine, and most important thing is the Exposure Compensation.
If you have to shoot in a mid-sunny-day, you will need to use the exposure compensation to help you; otherwise, your photo are more than likely to be too dark without other lighting source.
Look at this kitchen. I shot in a mid-sunny-day because I have no other choice. By using exposure compensation, I can dial up +1 to make the room look brighter without using a on-camera flash (it won’t help anyway). The normal setting looks ok too, but I like it brighter.
Watch what is in the frame
When you look thought your viewfinder, take a look what is in the frame. Try not to cut into a subject such as a table, a chair, an art piece, a window, etc. You want them either in your frame or out, not partial usually. Also, you want to make sure the wall or a window or a door is straight with your frame. You don’t want to tilt the camera but you can lower your position. If you tilt the camera, the photo you took won’t be pleasing in the eye.
Try Different Angles
Don’t just shoot from a doorway and run. You want to try to take from different angles too. It’s digital, you can pick and choose later but you definitely don’t want to regret you didn’t take enough the first time. The first photo is from the doorway, the second photo is from the other side of the room, the third photos is from diagonal of the room. So now I have three photos of this master Bedroom from three different angles to choose from.
I understand Realtors don’t have the time to edit the photos you just took, but in case you do want to do some light editing, you can try Picasa (a free and easy software from Google). Picasa's Basic Fixes are buttons that make it fast and easy to crop, remove red eye, fix the contrast and color, and enhance your digital pictures.
If you are interested in Real Estate Photography, you can check out the Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) – the blog owner Larry is based in Seattle and he helps his Realtor wife shoot all of her listing. His original target readers were other Realtors but recent surveys have shown that the majority were Photographers, which surprised him. He also started a PFRE Flickr group, where people from all over the world could share their experiences and opinions.
By now, you should have the confident to take better photos. I would love to see you share some of your photos with us. Although taking professional grade photos involve a lot more skills, knowledge and understanding on photography, by knowing some basics it should help you improve your photos noticeably. If not, you can hire me. 🙂
– Making Every Pixel Count from New York Times
– Taking Home Photos That Will Draw Buyers from WSJ