Good Photography Adds Curb Appeal

The above photo demonstrates all of the techniques covered in this article. The wide angle shows all of the space, which is lit using the maximum available natural light as well as flashes. By showing the stairs, hallway, and doors, viewers get a sense of how the rooms fit together. The counter is clear of clutter to push attention to the high-end fixtures and cabinetry, and staged with a bowl of bright red apples to make this modern room feel more inviting.

Homeowners I speak with want to sell their houses quickly and for top dollar.

Eager to make their homes as appealing to buyers as possible, they ask me about changing paint colors, kitchen counters or the carpet in their master bedrooms.

They never ask me about how to photograph their homes to maximize their appeal...but they should.

Prospective home buyers do most of their browsing online. Curb appeal still matters, but for getting traffic to your house, "Web appeal" matters more. Here are some tips for creating photographs that make your home shine online.

Use the proper tools for the job. Taking high-quality photos of the interior of a house requires different camera equipment than you would use for family snapshots. Luckily, with the popularity of digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, most of us have access to such equipment. SLR cameras have the ability to show more detail in a room, resulting in images that attract attention.

To capture the entirety of tight spaces like bathrooms, you will need a wide-angle lens. Use a tripod to ensure photos are as sharp as a pin, level and at a consistent height. Finally, an external flashgun will light up the room, eliminating the gloomy photos that turn off buyers.

The more, the merrier. One of the biggest benefits of digital photography is that you don't have to pay for film or development. It doesn't cost you any more to take multiple photos of each room.

For every position you select, be sure to capture a handful of images. You can later review them on your computer to find the sharpest, best-lighted one. Most real estate websites allow your real estate agent to upload a substantial number of images, and an interested buyer will never say that a listing has "too many" pictures.

Capture each room from multiple angles. Show transition spaces, such as entries and hallways, to explain how the rooms flow together. Everyone wants closet space, so why not take photos of your closets? (After removing half of the items in the closet and organizing it to look tidy, of course.) Mix whole-room photos with detail shots of unique features, such as ornate crown molding or cabinet hardware.

Stage your shots. Did you know that professional real estate photographers frequently reposition furniture and accessories when shooting a room? They do this because furniture layouts that work well in real life might look unnatural when viewed through the camera lens. Keep this in mind as you set up your shots.

You might need to tweak the angle of a sofa, pull a side chair toward the camera, or rearrange accessories so that they don't block the view of features positioned behind them. Look carefully at the images through your camera's viewfinder, experiment with moving items around, and always review the photos on your computer to see if your furniture layout is making a room look smaller than it actually is.

It's all about the light. When buyers browse listings, one of the traits they are subconsciously seeking out is ample natural light. Brightly lighted houses are happy houses.

Maximize the light in your photos by opening blinds. Pay attention to the times of day that each room receives the most sun; this will be the ideal time to photograph the room.

To supplement the natural light, use a flashgun set on medium strength. Point the flash straight up at the ceiling. The light will bounce off of the ceiling and fall back down evenly and diffusely, providing even coverage throughout the room and minimizing the telltale harsh shadows that on-camera flashes often generate.

As for lamps and other artificial lights, it's usually best to leave them off. The yellow light emitted by incandescent bulbs will fight with the bluer sunlight, making it more difficult for your camera to accurately display the colors in your room.

While maximum sunlight is helpful for interior images, it can overpower your exterior pictures. Instead, take photos in the early morning or late afternoon. The sun casts more appealing shadows when it isn't directly overhead, and the less intense light will make it easier to capture details without the highlights of the image being blown out. Landscaping will look best in the shade or on an overcast day - which, admittedly, might be tough to come by here in Austin.

Review your work. While shooting your house, be sure to periodically review the photos on your computer. Viewing them on the camera's screen isn't sufficient; it's important to see images on a larger screen.

Take time to ensure the images are in focus and have captured each room from the most flattering angle.

To help you scan for clutter or out-of-place items, try reversing the image (some image processing programs call this "mirroring" or "flipping"). Because you aren't accustomed to viewing your house backward, it will help you look with a fresh pair of eyes to spot problems.

The photos on realty sites are often rather small; zoom out - viewing the photo at 33 percent or 25 percent magnification - to make sure the traits you wish to highlight still are visible.

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