If a picture says a thousand words, can a thousand pictures sell a home?

OK, maybe not a thousand pictures, but what about 10-20 great real estate photos? Half of buyers, according to NAR, use the internet to find their homes. Stunning digital pictures that show off and enhance a property can pique a buyer’s interest enough to want to learn more. Get them in the door, and you’re that much closer to a sale.

A key to this strategy is ensuring the pictures are indeed stunning. Unfortunately, not every agent excels at this. Real estate photography is tricky—for example, the same room, staged the same way, can look brilliant and big or small and dingy, depending on how it’s shot. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider when taking real estate photos for your listings.

DO Stage the House for Photos

Staging homes for showings and open houses is already on your radar once you become the seller’s agent, so staging for listing photos may only require a few additional steps. The house must be clean, with any spots/rooms that need painting painted. Make sure landscaping is in order—those weeds stick out to prospects who are more than just walking by them. Keep cars out of the driveway. Address all clutter from the house, and don’t go overboard with color schemes. Fix the beds, close closet doors, and take down kids’ artwork from the refrigerator. In the bathrooms, remove bath mats and other small area rugs so you can see the floors better and put the toilet seats down. Finally, turn on all the lights in the house for a more inviting feel.

DON’T Use Your Smartphone to Take Pictures

The cameras on smartphones and tablets have come a long way over the years and are great for taking spontaneous pictures to text to buyers or to post to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. But for listing photos, which will appear on the MLS, your website, and even on flyers, your mobile device (no matter how recent it is) can’t replace the capabilities of an advanced camera with a proper flash and mounted on a tripod. Besides delivering better photos, a good camera is more efficient and will get the job done faster.

DO Get Low When Shooting

If you take your own photos, use a camera with a wide enough lens and be sure to shoot low—about 3-4 feet off the ground—so that the resulting picture gives the appearance of looking at eye level. Believe it or not, taking shots from your actual eye level gives the appearance of looking down on the room. Keep the camera level so vertical lines in the room, such as corners and windows, remain straight.

DO Emphasize Natural Lighting

Well-lit photos improve the perception of a real estate listing photo and can even make clutter look less, well, cluttered. Natural light achieves this benefit better than lamps. Open all the shades and let the sun shine in, but be cognizant that too much sun can create shadows that are distracting in photos. Dusk is a great time for outdoor shots.

DON’T Get Anything Extra in the Photos

Even after staging and decluttering, little things you don’t want in your photos can find their way in. This could be anything from a raised toilet seat to a stack of mail left on the counter to the family cat. Although these accidental extras may be innocent and a little folksy, that’s not what you want to convey in real estate listing photos. It can be irritating when miscues sneak into your shots, but it's better to put in the time to retake the photos than to use the imperfect ones. Or you can take our next piece of advice …

DO Use a Service to Improve Your Pics

Photoshopping imperfect pictures is one way to get them to listing quality, but that takes time and requires some expertise with a photo editing application—and a badly edited pic can be worse than having the cat in the shot. A better alternative is to use a service geared toward real estate operations that will edit something out or in. We like BoxBrownie.com for retouching. It’s inexpensive, simple to use, and offers more than just basic editing—you can turn a day shot to dusk, make grass greener, make skies blue, and brighten rooms.

DON’T Be Too Artistic

The architecture of a listing might be beautiful, your sense of aesthetics may be flawless, and you may want to see what your expensive camera can really do. That’s great for a gallery showing, but not so great for the MLS. Avoid crazy angles, extreme closeups, funky lighting, or anything else that doesn’t present the clearest, most direct and impressive view of the home you are showcasing.

DO Shoot in High Resolution

In photography, 300 dpi is considered high resolution. Shooting at this pixel level helps photos pop off an MLS page, no matter what website or device a user is viewing them on. Hard copies at this resolution, say for full-color flyers, also stand out. If you aren’t sure how to set the dpi on your camera, simply set it to medium or large mode. Note that large photos can slow your website’s load times, and you may need to reduce the size. Better to shoot big and shrink if needed (your local MLS might have its own size requirements) than shoot too small and end up with uninspiring pictures.

DON’T Hesitate to Hire a Professional If You’re Clueless

Not everybody is great at taking pictures. Nothing personal if you are an amateur photographer, but some agents are just better at understanding lighting, focus, angles, and not getting a thumb in the picture than others. If you’re finding that your listing photos are disappointing, or if you simply can’t figure out your camera, hire a professional photographer who specializes in real estate pictures. Although you may need to help with the staging, a good photographer can determine the best ways to shoot the house and bring the technical expertise to deliver great pictures. DON’T settle for anything less!

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