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8 Real estate photography tips to make your listing stand out

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you are trying to convince perfect strangers to buy your house.

If you have ever been in the market for a home (or if you have ever bookmarked your dream homes on Zillow at two in the morning), then you understand this well. Some homes look like they’ve been shot by a professional who is used to working with supermodels, while others look like someone’s child got ahold of the camera.

As any real estate agent will tell you, selling a home quickly and for a good price is all about presentation (and often location). You can dress up your home by improving curb appeal and decorating for showings, but all your hard work will go to waste if you don’t have attractive listing pictures to get prospective buyers in the door. As the National Association of Realtors points out, the modern house hunt has gone largely digital — most, if not all, browsing takes place online, and people are immediately drawn to pretty pictures. A recent international case study using IMOTO real estate photography confirmed that homes with professional photos sold 50 percent faster and 39 percent closer to their original listing price.

More: How to sell your house quicker than you ever thought possible

Professional photos can be a great option to help your home stand out if you want to move your property fast, but don’t despair if a photo shoot isn’t in your budget. You can still bring your listing photos up to professional standard with these insider tips:

1. Clear the room

You’d think this would go without saying, but people and pets continue to pop up in real estate pics time and again. The best listing pictures focus on a clear, clean and well-designed room — without anyone hanging out in it. Joshua Jarvis, realtor at Jarvis Team Realty in Duluth, Georgia, keeps it short and sweet, “Don’t allow people or pets in a photo.”

2. Don’t use your phone
Here’s another no-brainer from Jarvis that happens more often than he’d like to admit. People take the convenient route and use a cell phone camera for home photography, when these lenses were designed for portraits and not real estate. Jarvis considers a real camera to be nonnegotiable for real estate listing photos, saying, “A wide angle lens is invaluable. I’m not talking about fish-eye. Those are not what you want. It’s an actual wide angle. You’re looking for a 10mm-18mm range. You can google this relatively easy — just say no to fish-eye.”

3. Go wide

Approach the exterior of your home the way you would want a prospective buyer to see it. As Jarvis explains, this involves going wide to capture an impressive front shot that can be done with a regular camera, no special equipment needed. “It could very well be the most important photo, and it needs to capture not just the home but give the home some sort of appeal. A quick search in most MLS will reveal who’s taking good photos and who isn’t,” Jarvis explains.

4. Improve your lighting

Rain on a wedding day may be bad luck, but an overcast sky works wonders for photography. Jerry Grodesky, degreed photographer and managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate in Loda, Illinois, explains, “Contrary to popular belief, a rainy or overcast day does have its benefits for photographs. Color saturation is often better than a sunny day with fewer highlights and shaded areas that detract from the image.” Grodesky suggests improving indoor pictures by using different indoor lighting in a process of trial and error, “Ranging from colorations of orange to purple to blue: that bedroom lamp, the fluorescent shop light, the sunlit window and your flash are wreaking havoc on your image. Try taking multiple pictures using the different lights or a combination of them. Then pick the most pleasing pic when you review them at your desktop.”

More: 7 Easy expert design hacks to get your house buyer-ready

5. Tie up loose ends
Shopping for homes is one time when buyers are encouraged to judge a book by its cover. Meaning, sloppy photos that don’t look finished will make potential buyers click right on by. While Melissa Assael, associate real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York, says she could write a book on these messy little snafus, her top photo polishing picks include, “Close the toilet. Pick up, clean up and de-clutter: Clear the counters, make the beds, remove knick-knacks and personal items as much as possible, and close the drawers and closet doors.” She adds, “Remove cars from the driveway and in front of your house when shooting the exterior.”

6. Shoot the whole room

To give your home that “good angle” edge, it may be tempting to take pictures of one focal point in a room that seems the most attractive, but Christy Edgar, contracts specialist at Pierce Murdock Group of Keller Williams Alexandria-Kingstowne, cautions against this practice. She says, “I found that the most important pictures are generally the ones that show the entire room. Often, we see listing photos that are focused on a corner or a doorway or something that the agent must have felt was important but that, taken out of context, becomes meaningless.”

7. Focus on the best upgrades

While you do need to take photos of every room in your house to present a complete picture, most home-shoppers are looking for something specific. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S., an updated kitchen and a good school district were the two most important features prospective buyers were looking for, at 21 percent and 20 percent respectively. So, if you’ve got a remodeled kitchen or another attractive home upgrade, make sure to capture a crisp shot for your listing pictures.

More: How to keep a home show-ready with kids underfoot

8. Edit your final picks

Take a quick moment before you hit “send” on your final photos and ask a trusted friend or family member to review your photo shoot. Grodesky encourages sellers to keep their listing pictures in balance with a minimal emphasis on the less important rooms of the house. He explains, “Out of the 10 to 25 images that your MLS lets you download, we do not need to see three pictures of the bathroom!” As a general rule, buyers are looking for meaningful shots, Grodesky says, without lingering too much on one part of the house.

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