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What goes into ‘quality’ real estate photography?


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With more than 90 percent of buyers starting their home search online, listing photos are your new curbside. And if you want buyers to stop and investigate further, your exterior photos, especially, need to create a positive first impression.

But exactly what does constitute quality exterior photos?

First, agents can be divided on whether professional help is necessary. For some, there is absolutely no substitute for professional photography. And that’s a smart stance to take: professional photos make a measurable difference in how quickly a home sells and for how much money.

For instance, a comprehensive Redfin study of thousands of listings found that homes marketed with professional photos sell up to three weeks faster than homes marketed with DIY photos. Professionally photographed homes also commanded a selling premium of up to $11,000 and were more likely to sell at or above list price.

Some agents take their own photos on lower-end listings but hire a professional for certain properties. Other agents frequently use a pro, but add special services for higher-end homes.

“If the property is more than one acre, I always hire a drone photographer,” said Nashville-area agent Ann Buchanan, leader of The Ann Buchanan Team at Re/Max Elite.

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Buchanan works primarily in Hendersonville, an affluent lakeside community. Drone photos and video enable her to market estate-style and waterfront properties to full effect.

Of course, agents who take their own photos are not necessarily popping off iPhone snapshots from the front seat of their car. Some take a hybrid approach: DIY photos, often shot with a more robust DSLR camera, coupled with professional editing services. is one option for professional editing. Issues such as oil stains on a driveway, poorly placed trash cans or patchy grass can be extremely difficult to fix without professional editing software and know-how.

BoxBrownie and companies like it bridge the gap while keeping costs affordable. The company provides services such as general retouching, item removal, green-grass enhancement and “day to dusk” sky replacement.

“It’s just a really great solution to overcoming conditions,” says Simi Valley, California-based Realtor Ted Mackel, who takes his own DSLR photos but regularly hires BoxBrownie for his editing.

And speaking of conditions, this is one point where everyone — agents and photographers — can agree.

Although a rainy-day shoot is sometimes unavoidable, the preference is definitely for fair weather. Dawn or dusk shots can also add “drama” to a shoot and make the house stand out from other listings on the MLS, said photographer Ramona d’Viola, owner of Oakland-based Ilumus Photography & Marketing.

Visiting the home at different times of day is a good way to scout for just-right lighting conditions. There are also sun-tracking apps, such as SunSeeker or PlanIt! that help with this dilemma.

Partly cloudy skies are actually preferable to full sun because they filter the light and make harsh shadows less likely. (Plus, who doesn’t love the look of fluffy white clouds?)

Another consensus: the home absolutely must look its best. D’Viola always emphasizes staging — professional, if your budget allows — and encourages agents and homeowners to add welcoming touches such as a picnic spread on the back deck.

“Some of the best outdoor photos I’ve seen included a well-manicured landscape and a welcoming front door and porch. A pop of color — either on the front porch or in the yard — always makes a home stand out in photos,” Ann Buchanan said.

Of course, the ultimate tip is simple: just make sure your listing photos are quality photos — however you define it.

Kathryn Royster is the marketing director for HouseLens, Inc. You can follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathrynroyster. HouseLens is on Facebook.

Email Kathryn Royster

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