Article Image - Stamp Out Drive By Shootings!

Stamp Out Drive By Shootings!

  • January 30, 2017

I never cease to be amazed at the poor quality of many real estate photographs. Are you aware that the picture for many properties for sale is literally taken from the driver's seat of a car!? For only an extra 30 min. of your time, or $100 paid to a professional photographer, one of the most expensive products you will ever market can go from an "also available" to "schedule a showing today!" As a serious amateur photographer for 50 years, I've learned a few things that make a big difference. Let's take a look at some common mistakes that are made and how to easily rectify them.


For starters I recommend a DSLR (digital single reflex camera), such as an entry-level Canon Rebel ($300 used to $900 new). A point and shoot can take very fine every day shots, but this is not an every day sale. A DSLR allows for better lenses, filter attachments, an external flash, and what you see is what you get because you view the scene through the same lens and filter that shoots the picture. You can still set the camera to a point and shoot automatic mood and don't have to know anything complicated.

A Wide Angle Zoom Lens: (can be purchased with the camera or alone for about $200). The lens should be at least 18mm minimum (or 28mm equivalent to the old 35mm film cameras). Wider is even better but 18mm is acceptable. It should zoom to at least 50mm. Most starter DSLRs come with this lens as the defacto standard, so they are readily available.

95% of point and shoots simply do not have a sufficiently wide a lens to show all of a room. Period. Wide angle is the only substitute for when it is impossible or not practical to get farther back. I am flabbergasted at the number of ad photos that only show the toilet and a corner of the tub, or the nice family room with fireplace but don't let you see that it is attached to the kitchen for a wonderful “Great Room.” A wide angle lens solves this problem. 

Polarizer ($20-$50 at any camera store; the cheap one is just fine): A polarizing filter attaches to the front of the lens and is used to cut glare and reflections. I rarely take a picture that includes sky, water or through a window without a polarizer. The front element rotates until you see that the picture has the least glare, and best contrast and saturation of color. It works best when you are perpendicular to the angle of the sun or rays. The improvement in the picture is dramatic.

External Flash ($50-$200): The built-in flash is minimally acceptable, however, an external flash (attaches to the metal piece on top of the DSLR called a hot shoe) helps to fill in the shadows at the side of the scene taken with a wide angle, can fill a deeper great room with light more fully and evenly, and can be aimed up so that you don't get harsh reflections from the bathroom mirror and other reflective surfaces.


Views: First of all, pretend you are the buyer. What would you want to see in addition to the typical pictures? The neighbors' homes, the street, the back yard, the local park, the development entrance, etc? Then include them in your portfolio of pictures! Consider framing some shots with a tree or doorway, use a step ladder for an elevated view, shoot the living room from the stairs, and include artistic detail features such as a nice carriage light, flowers, garden arch, or fireplace.

No Dirty Laundry: Put away or shoot around the trash cans, close the toilet seat, cut the grass, request or pay the resident to straighten up before you arrive, angle your shot to exclude the power pole, the dead bush, etc.

Lighting: Time your exterior pictures with the sun and weather. Don't shoot an East facing home in the afternoon; go in the morning on a nice day when the front view is lit up. On the interior, go in the daytime, open the windows, turn on all of the lights, use your external flash and angle it to get more diffusion. You want the scene to look warm and lived in.

Staging: If the house is occupied get a stager to recommend what to change and remove. If the house it empty, get it staged at least with accessories if not furniture. As a minimum, take along a bag of small accessories to stage the kitchen and baths just for the shots. I stage almost all of my homes for owner occupant sales. Some agents tell me not to do it because most others in that market do not. Perfect. I always want my product to look and be better that my competition. 

Using these techniques, you can take better marketing pictures than your competition that will make a big difference in your advertising to entice a prospect to take the next step. If you elect to farm it out to a professional you now know what to look for and what questions to ask. May your next pictures look like you could sell a thousand homes.

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