real estate industry real estate business

Lookin’ Good: Why Photos Can Make or Break Your Listings

By Todd Sumney on January 15, 2019
Todd Sumney

National Association of Realtors (NAR) research found that 87 percent of homebuyers found digital photographs “very useful” when learning about a property. As an agent, you need to make sure that the “very useful” information pictures deliver doesn’t tell homebuyers to steer clear of your listing …

There are uninspiring real estate listing photos, and then there are terrible real estate listing photos. Kenley MacLeod keeps a Pinterest page with the worst, and many must be seen (and, alas, possibly never unseen) to be believed.

Needless to say, the quality of your real estate listing photos must be top-notch in order to get homebuyers interested in a property and liking what they see. And though some homes are challenging to visually highlight, many bad photos can be prevented. Moreover, sellers are relying on you to do everything possible to make the sale—don’t let them down by marketing their homes with poor pictures.

Following up on a recent HomeSmart podcast, here’s a closer look at why the pictures you take and post can make or break a listing:

Go Professional

Hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listing is an extra expense, but can deliver a return on your investment and then some. One study found that house listed with professional photos sell 50 percent faster and 39 percent closer to the original listing price than those without high-quality images. Almost as important, a professional photographer saves you time shooting, sorting through, and touching up dozens of pictures before you upload them, thus allowing you to concentrate on other strategies for turning a listing into a sale.

Of course, some scenarios might preclude you from hiring a professional photographer; it might not be in the budget, or it might just not make sense for the listing. In these cases, you might try to shoot the pictures on your own. That’s fine, but you must be smart about your strategy. Invest in a good camera with a wide-angle lens (avoid shooting listing photographs with your smartphone), and learn how to properly use it. Taking great pictures requires more than simple point-and-click.

Shoot This, Not That

Whether you hire a professional for your real estate listing photos or take your own pictures, the home must first look appealing. Just as you would stage a property for a showing or open house, you should prepare homes for the photo session, keeping in mind that the resulting images will be seen on the MLS, your website, your social media accounts, flyers, and more. Before shooting photos, consider the following steps:

  • Cleaning

  • Landscaping

  • Decluttering rooms

  • Moving furniture around to create more perceived space

  • Proper lighting, especially natural lighting

  • Adding splashes of color

Take plenty of photos from multiple angles. You won’t use every one, but going overboard gives you plenty of options when you narrow down to a few dozen for the listing. Also, use a tripod—you’ll be surprised how much better your photos turn out with the stability.

Some things to avoid when shooting pictures include:

  • Raised toilet seats

  • Any cleaning supplies or old towels around sinks

  • Getting yourself in the photo (be wary of reflections in mirrors, windows, and other surfaces)

  • Any part of the property that looks grungy or unkempt—even if it’s “clean”

  • Dark areas that even a flash won’t brighten up

  • Pets

  • Crazy angles (e.g., too low or from the ceiling)

  • Exterior shots obstructed by trees or snow

Improving Your Photos

Even with due diligence and best practices, the photos you take won’t be perfect. Pictures may turn out too dark, you might not have been able to remove all the clutter from a room, or maybe there was no way to avoid the dry patches of grass in the front yard. Careful editing can address minor problems before you post real estate listing photos.

Basic editing tools and software can help with brightness issues, but some things may require a more professional hand. One service we like is, which allows you to upload a photo and have it returned touched up as directed, from making lawns a uniform green to removing unwanted items from any shot to changing exterior sky from gray to blue with puffy clouds. What’s great about is not only its ease of use, but its price—basic enhancements start at just $1.60 per photo, and day-to-dusk edits or item removals start at $4. That’s a great value to maximize the impact of real estate photos and drive more interest in your listings.

Immediate Action

The strategies we’ve put forth here aren’t just good for future clients—you can apply them to current listings, too. Take a look at the photos you already have online. Are they too dark? Do you notice the clutter? Would you be impressed if you were a prospective buyer? Don’t hesitate to edit or even reshoot existing photos to boost a current listing. With 95 percent of homebuyers (and 99 percent of millennials) researching listings online, the pictures they see must be impressive. There’s no excuse for using mediocre photos that don’t show everything a home has to offer.

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