We’ve all rolled our eyes and shook our heads in disapproval when looking at lousy property photos before. You can have a beautiful house that looks lovely in real life and think that that’s enough for a successful photoshoot, but it’s a bit more complicated than that, and many factors come into play.
We’ve reached out to three experienced interior photographers based in New York City to ask them for tips and tricks to prepare a home for a photo shoot. They gave us some handy insights that we thought all home sellers out there should know. Here’s our list of 5 essential things to keep in mind when prepping your home for a shoot. Check them out below:
1. Take your time and plan ahead
It’s important not to rush through this stage and to take as much time as you need to prepare your home for the upcoming photoshoot. You want everything to be as close to perfect as possible and to make your home stand out in the photos.
Leon Cato, an experienced real estate photographer based in NYC, suggests checking out websites like Zillow, Trulia, New York Times Real Estate, Houzz or Interior Design Magazine to find tips and tricks for prepping your home before a shoot.
He also suggests taking at least two full days to prep a one-bedroom apartment, and add about ½ a day per room to make sure you have enough time. “If you are shooting a three-bedroom home with a dining room, your best bet would be to schedule a full four days of preparation,” says Cato. “This is all, of course, in addition to any major work like painting or moving in furniture. Underestimate at your own peril!”
Travis Mark, an interior design photographer with lots of experience in shooting properties in NYC, suggests having your windows washed a few days before the shoot, and make sure to have the screens cleaned, as well. According to Mark, “this helps allow more light in and makes the space look crisp.”
Jean Philippe Blaise, a NYC licensed real estate agent, and interior photographer, also insists on planning ahead and taking into account the weather. He suggests you “schedule your photoshoot on a sunny day, at a time when you get a lot of natural light.” However, Blaise says you should “avoid a time when too much direct sunlight hits the windows, usually around noon, which could cause overexposed pictures.”
2. Don’t skimp on aesthetics and equipment
Your home, like any other home, might have some issues or things that require fixing or repurposing, and you might think that it’s ok to leave that for the future owner to take care of. However, details can make or break a photoshoot, and potential homebuyers will be sure to spot any issues with just a glance.
Here’s Leon Cato’s take on this matter: “You can assume that some damaged or unappealing areas of your home will appear in your listing photographs or be discovered by a potential buyer, so take the time to fix the kitchen and bathroom tiles, repair electrical sockets, replace old worn doors, and don’t be afraid of repainting.” Cato also suggests you hire a professional team to polish your hardwood floors. Think of it as an investment that will make a big difference, helping to sell your home faster.
Take another look at your furniture, too. You don’t have to go out and buy an entirely new furniture set, but, as Cato puts it, “that old couch with the cat claw marks won’t do.” He suggests you look for pieces in antique shops, on Housing Works or Craigslist, or in stores like TJ Maxx. You can also re-upholster or varnish or paint the existing furniture to give it a fresh look, and browse Architectural Digest or Interior Design for inspiration.
Another thing that you definitely don’t want to skimp on is equipment. We’ve all seen terrible property images taken with smartphones in portrait mode or with a point-and-shoot camera with the flash on. You don’t want to waste all that time to prep your home just to ruin your chances of selling by taking bad photos.
Jean Philippe Blaise suggests, “you’ll need a camera with a wide-angle lens, and probably some editing and processing to make your home look bright and attractive.” If you don’t have the necessary gadgets or don’t know how to use them, reach out to a specialized photographer that can handle that aspect. Sure, that’ll require another investment on your part, but it will be worth it.
3. Declutter your home and hide personal items
I think we can all agree that nobody likes clutter. But nobody likes clutter less than a potential homebuyer. No one wants to look at property images that show a cluttered, messy, and disorganized home, because they won’t be able to imagine themselves living there. You want people to look at photos of your home and be able to place themselves in each room and think, “yeah, I could live there.” That is why decluttering might be the most crucial steps in your home prep before a photoshoot.
Travis Mark insists that you declutter all table and countertops. Make sure to get rid of piles of magazines and letters in the living room, and put away all the appliances in the kitchen. He also lends a crucial tip, one that not many people consider. “Remove personal photos that are larger than 5x7, as larger photos can be a distraction in person and in listing photos.”
You may even want to hide away all of your family photos and personal items around the house. As Jean Philippe Blaise explains, “you want buyers or renters to picture themselves living in the space.” Other people’s things might be distracting and prevent potential buyers from picturing themselves as the homeowners.
Blaise insists that you should even remove pieces of furniture if needed, as it will make your place look bigger and airier. You should also remove all bathroom items like toilet paper, toothbrushes, towels, and other things, and make sure to close the toilet lid!
“In the kitchen, hide the sponges, detergent bottles, and dirty dishes soaking in the sink, and remove any magnets, pictures, or kid’s drawings from the fridge,” says Blaise. “In the living room and bedrooms, hide the cables of your devices and appliances, straighten up your cushions and pillows, and smooth out wrinkles on the couches or beds.”
Additional things to remember when prepping your home for a photoshoot include taking out the trash and decluttering the exterior. You don’t want to have cars crowding your driveway or various gardening tools or kids’ toys lying around. Moreover, you want the outside of the house to be clean and spruced up as well. Make sure you mow the lawn, sweep the driveway and the patio, and fix any other issues that might appear in the property photos.
4. Add some tasteful touches
Now that your home is all clean, spruced up and decluttered, you want to make sure that it still has character and that it looks “lived in.” To achieve that cozy, inviting atmosphere that translates into photos, you can try adding some touches around the house. Travis Mark suggests to “have matching pillows in size, shape, and color for the bedrooms, as it creates a high-end hotel look and adds color to the rooms.” He also suggests placing fresh flowers in the living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms for a nice, tasteful touch. “Instead of a mixed bouquet of flowers, try a single variety in each space.”
Jean Philippe Blaise also suggests placing a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen, to bring some color in there and make the place look welcoming.
Other details that can make your home look picture-perfect include candles or warm-light lamps that can add a touch of coziness and create pleasant lighting; coffee table books placed in the living room; and carpets or fluffy blankets to make the rooms look even more inviting. If your home has a fireplace, it might be a good idea to light it up; that will push the coziness factor 10 levels higher.
5. Showcase your home in the best light - literally
If there’s anything that all interior photographers agree on, it’s the importance of natural light in property photos. Showing your home in the best possible light is crucial. It’s best to have your photoshoot on a sunny day and have all of your windows and screens cleaned.
On the day of the shoot, open all blinds and curtains to allow as much natural light in as possible. Also, be sure to check all surfaces for dust. It can often show up in photos, and you certainly don’t want that.
Depending on the placement and orientation of your windows, you’ll be able to figure out the right time of day to take pictures. Like we said before, avoid shooting in too much direct sunlight and aim instead for dim, indirect light that lights your rooms in the right way and doesn’t lead to overexposed images.