In listing photography, I’m learning that you can tell how serious the seller is based on the way they prepare their home for photos and showings. To me, a seller that recognizes and actually does all the small things to get their home ready to show and take pictures is a great indicator that they’re excited about selling and want to move quickly. Realtor Robert Sophiea does a great job of getting his clients excited about selling, and I could tell his most recent homeowner was serious just by walking in the front door of the home.
A.B. Photo kicked off the week photographing one of Robert’s great new listings off Polo Club Blvd. This single family 2-story home on Millstone Way was clean, neat, decluttered and organized, and it was obvious they’d spent some time on the details… including the exteriors. Typically I’ll take a few exterior shots to give lookers a feel for what the outside’s like… but for this one I ended up with five or six different photos from the backyard alone, because it was in such great shape to show off. If every home I photographed was prepared the way this one was, it would be a lot easier to consistently get great pictures. This serious seller certainly did their part in getting the home ready to sell, and it definitely shows in the photos.
Benefits of Staging a Home: picturing it v.s. seeing it
There are a number of benefits of staging a home. Mainly, it can make a home sell faster. It helps potential buyers envision living there, and evokes positive emotional reactions that are vital to moving towards the sale. With new construction homes particularly, staging provides some life and substance to the listing. There’s an emotional difference between looking at a house, and seeing it as a home. Potential buyers have to put themselves in the homebefore they can think about buying it. Can they see themselves living there? Where would the couch and other furnature go? What about the T.V. and how would it look? Professional staging might not answer these questions completely, but it certainly gets potential buyers’ minds moving in that direction… which is a necessary step in moving towards the sale of a home.
Real Estate photos are almost always the first meeting between a listing and a potential buyer. The feeling given off from this first impression is extremely important to getting a buyer’s attention. Lets look at the different feeling it gives you glancing over listing photos with and without professional staging.
First, a photo of one of DB Homes new construction living rooms on Kavenaugh Ln.:
Looking at the first photo, what do we see? A living room with clean cabinetry, an attractive fireplace, two windows and a beautiful hardwood floor. There’s nothing wrong with this picture, actually it’s quite attractive, symmetrical and provides a nice view of the room. This is a real estate photo of an empty room, in my opinion a pretty decent shot. What are your first reactions to the photo? Can you visualize a living room set up? Can your husband/wife visualize the same thing? The initial reaction is a positive one looking at an attractive room, but you must use your imagination a little. While the picture is missing life and furniture, eventually the mind gets to a point of thinking “I can picture it.” Picturing it is good. Seeing it is better.
Now looking at a similar photo of the exact same room staged, and what’s your immediate reaction to the picture:
There is automatically a big difference in the first impression. It’s no longer an attractive room with a fireplace, but a comfortable and cozy living room. It’s not a room with potential, but a room you can visualize sitting in. The bottom line changes from “I can picture it,” to “I can see it.” By changing this first impression, it changes the emotional reaction of potential buyers, and will help the sale of a house.
With the same home and same rooms, there is a completely different feeling from looking at the photos. That feeling can be the difference between a potential buyer continuing their online search, and wanting to have a closer look. Staging helps bridge the gap between having to visualize it and actually seeing it, and potential buyers have to see it to want to buy it.
Not all photo sessions are the same. The difference between a great shoot and a just OK one sometimes has nothing to do with the property or home, and everything to do with the people I’m working with. When the Realtor and homeowner are on board to help get the home ready and staged, the shoot goes a lot smoother, and the photos turn out better. Its the little things that help… moving a baby crib, removing a little clutter, helping with the lights and blinds. It cuts down the time it takes to set up or rearrange, and allows more time to concentrate on getting great shots and showing off the property.
This week there was another great opportunity to take photos for Realtor Brian Erwin of ERA Select Real Estate, this time for a home in the heart of Southland. He does a great job of getting the homeowner excited to show off their product, and it certainly shows in the photos. The house was cleaned, declutterred and ready to shoot. It’s always a pleasure to work with clients who are as excited about getting great photos as I am.
Originally, the adambrester.wordpress.com website was designed to be a portfolio of photos, and to provide examples of my work to potential clients. A simple concept, here’s my card… check out the site to see photos. Attracting business via the internet was a goal, but I wasn’t sure how much traffic I would actually get. As the new adambphoto.com site grows it’s actually becoming a great tool for business, and more than just a link to see photos.
A client contacted me a few weeks ago before Snowmageddon 2.0 saying they had found my website by searching online, loved the photos and wanted pictures taken to help market their home. We decided to wait for the snowy weather to clear because one of the awesome selling points of the home is this beautiful courtyard in the middle of the property. It was important to the homeowner to emphasize this beautiful courtyard in the pictures, and now that they’ve been taken it’s a good thing we waited. Monday couldn’t have been more perfect of a day to shoot outside.
The layout of the house is interesting, with the original stone house still standing, and a major addition/renovation over doubles the square footage extending the house towards the street. In the middle was this great outdoor living space, and waiting for perfect weather to shoot was the right choice. The majority of the interior photos were unaffected, but some of these great shots wouldn’t have been possible had we not waited. The homeowner did an awesome job getting the home ready for pictures, and combining that with the weather I couldn’t have asked for better conditions to shoot.
There was a perfect amount of light coming in through the windows. Plenty to light up the interiors but not so much that the windows were overly exposed. Finding that lighting balance with single exposures can be difficult sometimes, but on this day it worked out perfectly.
The home was cleaned and staged nicely, the homeowner was a pleasure to work with, and the photos turned out just as I had hoped. Receiving a thank you text from the homeowner shortly after photo delivery is the positive feedback I love to hear. Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to working with this client again.
It’s been an incredibly busy last few days, shooting seven houses on Monday and Tuesday this week. All the preparations, marketing and networking spent in the last couple weeks are starting to pay off. Since launching the new website, there’s now plenty of catching up to do to with getting everything online. Considering the subject I figured I’d start with this one.
This beautiful home in the Hartland Estates features one of the nicest entertaining basements I’ve ever been in. The assignment was to capture the kitchen/bar area and space around it with its new overhead light fixtures and coolers behind the bar. This is just one area of the home, and the rest of the house is just as spectacular.
With this basement shoot there was very limited lighting, so longer exposures with the tripod were necessary. The mini-starburst effects from the lights wasn’t intentional but after looking through the photos and getting OK’d by the client, I’m completely fine with it. The more I’ve looked back through them, them more I actually like it.
Some important things to remember when preparing a home for photos:
What is the purpose of taking real estate photos?
to showcase a home’s rooms, spaces and features to potential buyers
to raise interest from potential buyers, and get them to want to come see the home in person
to help sell the home
Agreed? OK. So what can you do to prepare for getting great pictures of your home?
Clean and Declutter
From top to bottom the home needs to be cleaned.
Floors, windows, counter tops, cabinets, sinks and bathrooms should be thoroughly vacuumed, wiped down and cleaned before taking any photos. This isn’t an issue of how clean you regularly keep your home, it’s about making sure it looks its absolute best for showcasing to potential buyers. An attitude of “here’s my house, this is how it looks, take it or leave it” isn’t going to help sell anything. No one drives to the dealership to look at a pre-owned vehicle because they saw pictures of its dirty floor mats in an advertisement…. think about it.
Neutralize and declutter rooms and spaces.
Help potential buyers visualize rooms and spaces they can see themselves living in. Getting rid of excess “stuff” for photos makes the spaces look bigger and more attractive. Personal items, pictures, stuffed animals, toys, books, DVD’s, clothes, shoes, trash cans and dog bowls are a few examples. These are all a part most everyone’s homes, but their presence in real estate photos isn’t going to help your cause.
Counter tops should be clear of food, containers, bottles, drying racks and excessive decorations. Take down “stacked” items on top of the fridge or in the corners of the counter tops. Clean surfaces with a few accent items is perfect.
In the bathrooms, folded towels and a new bar of soap on the vanity can help make any bathroom look sharp. Personal day-to-day items such as toothbrushes and shampoo bottles don’t need to be in any pictures. It’s not about your personal style, choice of decorating or tidiness with your stuff. It’s not about your stuff… it’s about getting potential buyers to visualize the space filled with their stuff. Organized spaces are much more appealing and make this much easier.
Make the beds and get everything off the floor. The bed is the centerpiece and trophy of the bedroom. No, you’re not selling your bed… you’re selling the room, and a neatly fluffed and tucked bed makes the room look a lot more attractive. Put away anything that takes up floor space and isn’t a permanent part of the room setting. A neat and organized room without laundry, blankets or toys lying around makes the photos a lot more inviting. While you might see “just a bedroom”, potential buyers need to see it as their room, their kids room or their guest room.
Picture a hotel room when you first walk in… perfect. Some artwork and photos are OK, just not covering every surface of the room. A wall with a single hanging picture or painting is actually better than a blank wall. On dressers and furniture a couple of neutral picture frames are OK, but a dresser covered with 26 picture frames and your entire collection of Star Wars-themed PEZ dispensers is not what people want to see. Joking… kinda. Many of the articles I’ve read say to take down ALL family photos to completely depersonalize the pictures… I agree, but within reason. If they’re movable picture frames take them down. Bulletin boards, collages and other personal displays or collections might be something you glance at every day… just take them down for the photos. Neutral is the key word.
Clear some of the clutter in walk-in closets so a photo can be taken showing the size and depth of the space. It doesn’t necessarily need to be emptied, but it does need to be organized. If a huge walk-in closet is one of the great features of the master bedroom, have it cleaned up so a good photo can be taken to help sell it.
Dining and Family Rooms
The great room/living room/family room is such an important selling point of anyone’s home, we want to get great pictures to showcase its space. Floor space, furniture space, wall space. Clean, organized, Neutral. Just as in the bedrooms take down removable family pictures and personal decorations to make the space depersonalized. The less clutter the better. Remove pictures, remote controls, books, magazines and newspapers that might normally be on the shelves or end tables. Like the bedroom dresser, a couple small decorations give the room a little life and character. Just not too much personal character.
Less clutter means furniture too. Any extra or non-fundamental furniture shouldn’t be around for photos. It’s not necessary to completely clear out or rearrange every room of the house, but extra chairs, children’s chairs, playhouses, tables, bookshelves or that love seat you can’t seem to get rid of don’t need to be in the pictures. Simply pushing them to the sides or corners doesn’t help, as that actually takes away some of the room’s space. Open space is a good thing. If they can be moved to the garage or storage just for the photos, it will make a difference.
Putting out place settings at the table can make a dining room look great for photos. There’s no need for formal china and glass-wares, but simple place settings help make the entire room look casual and inviting. If not place-settings, small decorations or a centerpiece on the table can accomplish the same thing. Flowers, candles or a bowl of fruit are great ideas to make the space look cozy.
Open curtains to frame windows and let in natural light. Generally speaking, for any room the more light the better.
Keywords to remember when preparing the home for photos:
Aren’t these what you would look for if you were the one shopping for a new house?
Many of the points mentioned might seem like common sense. Some might seem a bit of a stretch. In my experience of taking some great pictures and some not so great pictures, sometimes the difference in the two was simply the staging and preparation of the home. “Great pictures” of cluttered spaces aren’t really great pictures.
This was put together to try and help. Keeping in mind the the big picture, how big of a deal is it really to get the home looking great for photos that are going to HELP SELL YOUR HOME. Awesome photos of the home are the first step to getting potential buyers in the door. The more you prepare the home for pictures, the better they’re going to be.
Establishing great relationships with clients is a top priority for AB Photo. If repeat business is an indication that something is going right, things are really starting to look up. Last week I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with Realtor Brian Erwin of ERA Select Real Estate shooting another one of his listings. “The Birkdale” plan by Generations Construction was just completed and looking great for its closing this week.
Such a great looking house deserves great photography for representation. As this home is already sold, this was another opportunity to capture the floor plan and details of construction for marketing materials to future clients. The photos were taken to show examples of their work, and give their clients an idea of what other houses with the same floor plan will look like once construction is completed. Making a connection between a potential buyers mind and the final product of a home still being built, and can help them sell houses.
Lighting and shooting style were kept simple for this one, going with off-camera flash photography. Combined with the natural light from the windows, a single off-camera flash provided plenty of lighting to capture the features of the home. In most shots the flash was bounced off the walls or ceiling to light up spaces without putting too much of a hot spot directly in front of the camera.
I was reminded that it never hurts to have a different set of eyes look over photos before submitting. My good friend and mentor, Morgan Franklin, had a look through the photos before I turned them into the client. He reminded me to check the white balance on a few of the photos to make sure they were an accurate representation of the colors of the home. After reviewing the pictures he was absolutely right. I had slightly over-corrected for a few images that were a little on the cool side coming out of the camera. With the white and yellow color scheme downstairs, warming adjustments to the white balance needed to be made a little more conservatively. Another shoot, another lesson.
Adjustments were made, photos were delivered, and the client was very pleased. Hopefully results like this will help maintain great relationships with people I work with in the future.
This has been my first mention of Morgan Franklin on this blog, and the truth is he’s deserving of all the credit in the world for helping me establish AB Photo and start a new career in photography. He and his wife Natasha have both done amazing things in photography, are two very dear friends, and AB Photo wouldn’t be where it is today without their influence and help.
Definition: High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a digital photography technique whereby multiple exposures of the same scene are layered and merged using image editing software to create a more realistic image, or a dramatic effect. The combined exposures can display a wider range of tonal values than what the camera is capable of recording in a single image. (about.com)
What does this mean?
Basically this means instead of taking one picture, multiple pictures are taken from a tripod then blended together to form a single image. This image is a product of its parts, taking information from each of the pictures and putting it all together into one.
Why use HDR?
Simple answer: the images can look amazing. The colors, details and highlights of the different exposures are captured and combined to make a well balanced high-quality photo. In photos looking out a window, the HDR method allows the interior room and outside the window to both be properly exposed, something that can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to achieve with snapping a single exposure.
Here’s an example of the difference between a single exposure and an HDR image after blending using Photoshop CC.
This image was taken and slightly doctored with Photoshop, lightening the inside and leaving the windows the same. This can and does work, but sometimes with too much light outside and not enough inside, even using the best editing techniques in Photoshop can leave a picture lacking balance. Notice how bright the light is coming through the windows. There’s nothing “wrong” with that light, and really nothing wrong with the picture. But getting the picture to look that way via editing, it’s actually changing a little bit of whats actually there. Plus sometimes brightening the image when some of the details are too dark actually leaves out some of the information that should be there.
Using the HDR method smooths out the transition from those extreme highlights of the windows to the darker areas of the room, without losing any of the clarity or details of the picture.
Take the same photograph as above, three different times, changing the shutter speed up two stops and down two stops to get three seperate photos. One will be really dark, one in the middle, and one will be really bright:
Now using Photoshop the three images are blended together, combining the tones and highlights from each image to make a single HDR Image.
After blending together the three images, there’s still a little work to be done with brightness and clarity. Minimal touch-ups are applied and we’re left with an amazing shot of the dining room. Notice you can see straight through the window and see clearly what’s outside, while the brightness, clarity and detail of the inside isn’t compromised. Speaking of details, one of the effects of using this method is a certain amount of “fuzziness” to the image. This isn’t blurry and it isn’t a bad thing, It’s simply an effect of combining three times the information into a single image. In some situations this can be exaggerated to create really interesting and dramatic pictures, but for Real Estate photography, minimizing this effect keeps the images as realistic as possible.
When looking at the two different photos, try to see the differences in the clarity of the windows, the tone of the light fixture, and the detail of the glass on the front door. There are plenty of differences between the two if you look closely. These are just a few examples of the quality of photograph that can be created using the HDR method.
Compared to single exposure photographs, the editing process to get HDR photos requires a lot more time and work, however for those who appreciate the difference in quality, it’s worth every step. Using the HDR method issimply a different style of photography, and one that can produce some outstanding images.
Below are some examples of single exposures v.s. HDR images. Spot the differences in the colors, highlights, shadows and tones.
This week I had the opportunity to work with DB Homes, shooting another new construction house just completed in the Brighton East neighborhood. For this home at 1200 Autumn Ridge Dr, the client requested an emphasis on the details. Specifically they wanted me to thoroughly get the fireplace, the kitchen cabinets, appliances, and the master bath.
The main reason for the photos was to provide examples of their work to future clients, rather than attracting potential buyers for this specific home. With that being the case, my approach was a little different this time, concentrating on the homes features more so than the actual layout of the house. This time the subject in most shots was an object or space instead of an entire room.
With the new homeowner literally moving in as I was shooting, there wasn’t time to set up the tripod and do multiple exposures, so these pictures were all single shots using on and off camera flash. I was careful to stay out of the homeowners way and respect her space moving in, and she was extremely friendly letting me take pictures of her new home as she was bringing things in.
It was a thrill to work in such a beautiful new home. The combination of dark hardwood floors, light cabinets and trim, and sharp chrome appliances make up an absolutely gorgeous kitchen. It’s the details that make this home so nice, and those details were the main focus of the shoot. DB Homes was very pleased with the new photos, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to help provide great marketing materials for their company.
The record snowfall this past week put schools, businesses and getting around town on hold for a few days . As the roads have cleared it’s back to business, and AB Photo has been playing catch up with clients in need of great photography. Realtor Joe Brester, of Keller Williams Greater Lexington is one of those clients. He just added a new listing at 1721 Sandhurst Cove in the Summerfield neighborhood off Winchester Rd. This 2700 sq. ft. two story home has four bedrooms and three baths, hardwood floors on the entire first floor, and that open kitchen-breakfast area-living room floor plan that so many families enjoy. Getting great pictures of this home was my first priority once the roads were cleared enough to actually drive on.
With the snow reflecting sunlight on a cloudless sunny day, there was all kinds of bright natural light coming in through the windows and doors. I was concerned the windows would actually be too bright, but sometimes a decision has to be made between properly exposing the windows versus making sure the interiors themselves are properly exposed. Without taking multiple exposures of every room with a window, it can difficult to get the room as bright as you’d like while still being able to see straight through to outside. I made the call to leave the windows a little brighter than preferred, but the interior shots ended up great with everything inside bright and beautiful.
The Realtor has already had some looks at the house, and the listing’s online representation is what’s bringing the customers in. A happy client with photos attracting customers… another great shoot for AB Photo.