With most people beginning their home search online, pictures have become your first sales pitch. The human eye is drawn to photos before it notices text so you have a great opportunity to sell your home faster and for the price you want just by putting in the effort to take quality photos. Use these tips to learn some of the tricks that architectural photographers use to get eye-catching, stunning visuals that highlight a home’s best features.
Choose your subject
Since the subject of an empty room is whatever you see in your viewfinder (excluding 360 degree shots, which are a good idea to take), the New York Institute of Photography suggests carefully choosing the room’s most interesting angle with an eye for visually engaging details like a vivid painting or solid oak desk. Just make sure to avoid photographing a bright window since that can distract the eye and lead to overexposure. An alternative is to shoot at twilight or to lower the curtains. For the exterior avoid focusing on the garage and play around to find your home’s best angle.
If you have a particularly nice feature like a chandelier or fireplace, you’ll want to emphasize it by filling the frame with it. To get viewers to really pay attention to a nice desk, place a vase with bright flowers on it and to exhibit a striking painting illuminate it with a lamp.
Renewable energy systems have some sizzling sales potential. Remember to take photos of your systems on a day when they’re working. For a wind turbine, use a longer than average shutter speed to capture the spin of the blades. Green home buyers like nature. Capture the natural beauty of your lot and the outside view. Even a photo or two of your wildlife neighbours would help (unless they’re bears!).
Decluttering is a big part of the staging process (from the previous step of this guide) but is worth mentioning again here. It’s imperative to remove clutter. Having too much stuff in a photo will distract the viewer. So remove furniture, pillows, waste baskets and surface clingers like phones and computers. And never include people or animals in your photos. You want potential buyers to envision themselves living in your home.
Crooked angles are a serious visual distraction. To correct the problem of unaligned walls, shoot straight on. Architectural photographers call it “one-point perspective,” which means the horizontal and vertical lines run completely horizontally or vertically. Do this by placing your camera on a tripod and aligning it so that it’s fully parallel to the wall that it’s pointed at. And shoot at child’s eye view to avoid getting too much ceiling in the shot. For most adults this would be between waist and eye level.
If you don’t have a quality camera, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs. You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment nowadays to get some nice looking shots. Basic consumer models that cost just a few hundred dollars can take spectacular photos.
Wide angle photos make a room look bigger than they really are. Standard point-and-shoot cameras can take a fairly wide shot, but they’re not the same as using a single lens reflex camera (SLR/DSLR) with a wide-angle lens. But be aware that wide-angle lenses aren’t always the best option. They do make a room look bigger than it is, but they can also distort images. In some cases it may be better to just take two images of a room instead of one. If doing so, keep one common element in the two photos, such as a painting.
One last piece of gear you’ll need is a tripod. As mentioned previously, they’re essential to lining your photos up straight.
Light ranks as the number one concern for photographers. According to How to Photograph Buildings and Interiors, the way light hits an object triggers intense emotional reactions in our conditioned brains. “Harsh, direct sunlight strongly emphasizes certain patterns and textures that can suggest boldness or power, while the diffused light of an early morning sky just before sunrise softens and embellishes whatever it illuminates.”
With the changing seasons, weather and time of day, light is in a constant state of flux. Two important variables to consider are cloudiness and time of day. Particularly for exterior shots, it’s worth waiting to photograph on a partly cloudy day to reduce the intensity of sunlight. Bear in mind that rooms will look better at certain times, so study your house over time so you can pick the best times to shoot each room. If taking photos of the view capture some blue sky and clouds to add contrast to your pictures.
Photographer Ken Rockwell suggests timing your photography session for the magic hour, which isn’t actually an hour, but 10 to 20 minutes after sundown to benefit from the nicest contrast and prettiest colours that nature has to give. “Show a home at magic hour and people want to live there,” Rockwell writes, suggesting the importance of timing. “Show it in the day and you lose that power.”
Wall Street Journal: How to Photograph Your For-Sale House
New York Institute of Photography: How to Photograph Interiors
How to Photograph Buildings and Interiors by Gerry Kopelow
Architectural Photography: Composition, Capture, and Digital Image Processing by Adrian Schulz