Real Estate Photography Tips For Sellers

Your home’s listing photos can have a big impact on its sale.


Make sure your home is ready for its listing photos with these tips.

It’s true that you have only one chance to make a first impression — and that could not be more relevant than when you’re selling a home. As soon as a potential buyer scans your online listing, you have only a couple of seconds to impress them before they click to the next home. If your home isn’t staged properly in those listing photos, you could lose a sale without ever knowing it.

“According to the National Association of Realtors, over 90% of homebuyers search for their next home online,” says Krisztina Bell, a professional home stager with Virtually Staging Properties Inc. in Atlanta, GA. “Eighty-five percent of those buyers say it’s the photos that are the most important factor in deciding which homes to go view.” What’s more, explains Jared Seligman, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY, “the benefits of staging can be enormous, and the return on investment can be very impactful. If you invest even a small amount into the staging, you can often garner a much higher price than you were originally intending on listing it for.”

Follow these real estate photography tips to stage your home for sale in Columbia, SC, or Seattle, WA, as if it were going in the next issue of Elle Decor.

Accessorize smartly

One of the easiest ways to update a room is to accessorize it well. A small stack of design books on the coffee table or some new pillows can really refine and update a space. “Appropriately display art on walls or above a fireplace, and make sure it is in the photograph to add color to your background, which adds wow factor to pictures viewed online,” advises Bell. Just remember, groupings look best in odd numbers and at varying sizes, so ditch those four identical candlesticks on your mantle.

But make sure not to over-accessorize

Just like Coco Chanel advised to always take off one accessory before you leave the house, so too should you pare down your house’s knickknacks. Accessorizing is important, but it needs to be tastefully — and minimally — done. “Overstuffed shelves with various books and decor can create a visual nightmare,” adds Bell. “Organize them by coordinating the books or magazines by colored sleeve or by height.”

Of course, you might have loads of “edited out” items from your house once you’re done decluttering. This is normal: When professional home stagers get to work, they often edit out half of homeowners’ furnishings — and the home looks much bigger because of it. Store your stuff in a storage unit, your new home, or a friend’s basement.

While you’re at it, ditch the props

Yes, magazine spreads frequently have gorgeous bowls of fruit on display, but it’s probably best to leave the artful arranging and styling to the design experts. You can certainly hire a stager or interior designer, but for the rest of us, Bell recommends skipping the oversized bowl of lemons and that cheesy bottle of wine and wine glasses, which can become more of a distraction than an enhancement.

Pay attention to the bathroom

Along with kitchens, attractive and clean bathrooms are an important selling feature in a home and will be scrutinized when viewed online. Even if your bathroom is a little outdated, you can spiff it up for a minimal cost: Clear everything off your sink top except for soap, roll up some towels and put them on an available shelf for display, buy a fresh, bright shower curtain, and (perhaps most important) make sure the toilet seat lid is closed. That last item makes a huge difference in photos.

Don’t forget the small stuff

Don’t just shrug at those boxes you thought were hidden under your bed but are definitely visible in photos of your master bedroom. Move them and reshoot. “Remember, it’s those first impressions that are most important when buyers are viewing hundreds of photos of homes online,” explains Bell. A few other photo prep tips:

  • Hide your wires. TV cords and other cables are unsightly in photos. You can always plug them back in after the photo shoot.
  • Avoid taking photos with the TV on in the background.
  • Move any vehicles in the driveway out of the photograph or away from the front of the home. Same goes for trash cans (indoors and out).
  • Avoid taking photos on bright days; shooting at dusk or on overcast days gives spaces a much more balanced light without looking washed out.

Clean everything

We’re not just talking about the counters and floors here. Everything in your home should get a scrub, from muddy siding or dingy carpeting to wood furniture and curtains. Again, make sure to view your home with a critical eye: You may be visually immune to your scuffed-up garage door, but buyers won’t be. Don’t let them get distracted by a grimy door, walls, or windows — they might start to wonder what other home-upkeep tasks have been neglected.

What are your favorite staging tactics for listing photos? Share in the comments!