Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Styling and Staging

Posted by larrylohrman on April 24, 2006

I was asked recently to review a virtual tour by a virtual tour vendor. The tour had photos of empty rooms, photos of the garage, photos of a hallway and photos of the exterior with no landscaping. The problem is what to do when you need to sell an empty home or new construction. Photographs of empty rooms usually look terrible unless the space itself has some interesting aspect.

You need to remember that real estate photography is not documentary photography. That is, you are not simply documenting the property; you are trying to make it look attractive so someone would want to purchase it. I recommend that real estate photographers and agents work with interior designers sometimes called staggers who can move in furniture and décor items to decorate a home to make it look good. This service may seem expensive but it usually pays off in the long run for the seller.

Another variation of this problem is lived in homes that have too much furniture or furniture that does not present well. Let’s face it, not all home owners have a good sense of home decorating. Many times home sellers would be better served if they just move out and have their home professionally staged. Solving these problems is of course ultimately up to the real estate agent and owner the home. However, it’s the job of the photographer to raise the issue to who ever is having you photograph the home.

A photographer can do a lot to improve the look of a home by simply moving around furniture and making sure clutter is out of photos. Many times I spend half of my time moving stuff out of shots. That’s OK; remember your job as a photographer is to do what ever it takes to make a home look good in the photographs!

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6 Responses to “Styling and Staging”

  1. Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools points to Home Staging by Barb Schwarz, and summarized it: “strip it of all the things that make [your home] a personalized home, and turn it into a bland product that can be personalized by someone else”. I’m not completly agreeing, a little clutter is life-like and permits identification.

    Worse is when there is no furniture: there is no sense of space neither any possible mental projection of a potential buyer. We bought some folding furniture, but didn’t try it yet.

  2. Bring your own furniture: I shot today an empty flat. It’s depressing, very hard to project yourself in living inside it.

    We bought some folding chairs and a bench, so I bring them, a matisse reproduction, a ficus benjamina and a portmanteau. I placed them around the scene a bit, and shot.

    It’s not gonna look like it’s inhabited, but it’s much more easy to believe you can live in it: before/after

    I have to bring a carpet and a Coffee table next time.

  3. We provide a list of tips for the homeowner to follow before we arrive. You’re welcome to “rip it off” 😉 http://www.allaboutvirtualtours.com (across the bottom you can click on the page and print it). You’re all photographers so you probably don’t need this.. but surprisingly, realtors love that we send this.

    The realtor can keep “best friend status” (I didn’t ask you to remove the kitchen garbage, blame it on the virtual tour provider!!).

    I state in my tips that their real estate professional is the person to ask if they have any questions (thereby getting MYSELF off the hook 😉 ..

    It’s not personal. (nor should the house be… depersonalize it!) I just want to help them get the most out of their property by asking them not to shoot themselves in the foot.

    We’ve got some stunning views in our area of the country. Homeowners have lived in the same place for awhile and don’t even see the views, so we’re just trying to help by reminding them.

    What I don’t get is that they’re moving anyway…so why do they want to keep a bazillion personal photographs up? I try to suggest that these items would be better put in safekeeping now before they get the *IT SOLD!!* phone call.

  4. Dawn, I like your idea of providing Realtors/home sellers with a check-list of how to get their home ready for photos and being on the market. All of these suggestions for getting their home ready for photos is exatly what they should be doing to get it ready for being on the market… we use the term getting your home “parade ready” with out sellers. We don’t have a check-list but we walk through the home with them suggesting and pointing out things to do… even doing it for them. Some sellers do this on their own and some sellers have to be pushed to do it at all. Sometimes it takes several trips back to make sure they’ve none everything they need to do to get their home parade ready. With some sellers we have to do it for them.

  5. […] Dawn Shaffer, a real estate photographer that works in the Vancover, WA and Portland, Oregon area left a significant comment on one of the Staging and Styling posts. Dawn says: “We provide a list of tips for the homeowner to follow before we arrive. You’re welcome to “rip it off” (across the bottom you can click on the page and print it). …but surprisingly, Realtors love that we send this.” […]

  6. Drew said

    “Some sellers do this on their own and some sellers have to be pushed to do it at all. Sometimes it takes several trips back to make sure they’ve none everything they need to do to get their home parade ready. With some sellers we have to do it for them.”
    It baffles my mind that the homes that I work in all in the 1.5 to 12 million dollar range are (some not all) complete trash piles on the inside. The goal of putting a home on the market would obviously be to sell the darn thing as fast as possible for the best amount possible. I have had several occasions where owners I honestly think didn’t feel they needed to change anything even thought there were pizza boxes and empty 2 liter bottles in the photos we sent her. As Re photographers we cater to a niche market. I think that a majority here would agree we deal with issues a wedding or portrait photographers would never imagine. I by no means am a prim-a-donna when I say that either. 🙂
    I have seen owners in my opinion self sabotage their properties, and then complain about the photos… But at the end of the day it beats shoveling coal for a living.

    From north of the equator and south of the grand banks….

    Drew King

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