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Give it Your Best Shot

Artist Loft – Artist Wanted


This isn’t a new idea and it has been said before, but this time I am begging. As I surf through our local MLS, I am exposed to photos (pardon the pun) that are so bad I can’t decide if I should laugh or cry.

Bad Photos Are Plentiful

Sometimes the photos are good but who ever took them focused on something weird like an open toilet, or the upper half of a room, or part of a closet. Usually becasue they don’t have a wide angle lens, which is a must have. it is OK to take some detail shots, but it is best to show entire rooms so those buyers can imagine the space.

Then there are the photos taken with the fish eye type lens that totally distorts the room, especially a small room. The counter tops look like they are going in a semi circle and the rooms kind of look like something from a fun house, that isn’t very fun.

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Some Photos are Easy to Fix

Sometimes the photos are too dark, easy enough to fix with Photoshop elements, Picnik, or photofiltre, or Picasa. The last three I mentioned are free. It is easy enough to lighten them, adjust the contrast and maybe sharpen them up a bit. Most of the tweaking can be done in “auto fix” mode and no special skills are required.

Watch where you aim

Sometimes there are people in the photos, or pets, or both. Please ask everyone to leave the room when photos are being taken and either shoo the pets away or edit them out.

Pointing a camera at a window makes for a craptastic photo. As does shooting into a window when it is dark outside and letting the camera flash. What is going through a Realtors head when he or she takes such a shot. Sometimes the Realtors themselves are in the picture, reflected in a mirror or window.

You are a Realtor dammit, Not a Photographer

Not all agents are photographers. it doesn’t cost very much at all to have a home photographed. Interior shots are much harder to take than exterior shots are, and they are the shots that the buyers really want to see. If it is a matter of money, I would scrimp on the glossy brochures inside the home that no one will ever see unless the place gets some showings.

I Hang my Head in Shame

As an industry we have a lot of work to do when it comes to how we present our listings on line. I laugh when I read about how important video is. It may be important but I don’t imagine the photography is going to be any better in video than it is on the still shots.

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I guess I should be thankful that the photos on our MLS are so spectacularly bad. Mine really stand out, even the shots that I think could be better. With practice they do get better, and when they are not good enough I hire a pro. On one recent listing the agent told me that it was the photos that got the buyer into the home, and it was not one of the homes she would have been interested in seeing. When I hear things like that it just reinforces what I already know. Listing photos are very important.

Thanks, I feel so much better now. Maybe if I can stay off the MLS for awhile my eyes will stop hurting. Please don’t make me have to write this post again.

Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Chuck G

    August 15, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Teresa,

    Amen! We make it a point to forward the unbelievably bad MLS shots (and there are many) around our office. Not only is it humorous, but it’s a sobering reminder that we are indeed Realtors, NOT professional photographers. Our office contracts a professional photographer for all listing shoots — this guy has more lenses and flashes than I have fingers and toes, but more importantly he KNOWS how to shoot homes.

    I recently purchased an LG Dare phone so I could shoot some random “fun” shots and post them via TwitPic to my blog (I know, SnapTweet is cool too!) but this is no replacement for professional photos. We’re earning some serious $$ when we sell a home — we owe it to our clients to spend a little bit of that money on good photography.

    Chuck

  2. Mike Mueller

    August 15, 2008 at 9:41 am

    There’s a whole blog segment being made out of bad MLS pictures.
    (as in Athol Kay)
    While they are fun to laugh at, they shouldn’t have ever happened.

    Poor homemade video tours? Bad idea #2.
    There’s a whole industry out there to make your home video tour better as well.
    Unless you do it right – no video is better than a poor video tour.

    Good stuff!

  3. Holly White

    August 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Good one Teresa! I just saw one that had the whole team laughing. The photo was of half of a beat up, rusted out pick-up truck, a massive tree and about 1/4 of the actual house…. and that was the ONLY photo.

    A great idea would be to take that daft MLS listing (once it expires) to the seller with what their listing looked like before and what it could look like after some more intuitive professional like photography was taken, along with the difference between list price to sale price and time on market of homes with 1 photo compared to homes with multiple photo’s and virtual tours…

  4. Laura Cannon

    August 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

    This is an important article. I wish it was required reading for my MLS. I just wrote a similar article on my blog a couple weeks ago (I have to admit it wasn’t as thorough, though 🙂 ).

    In my area, it only costs $100.00 to hire an excellent professional photographer who will bring in the best equipment: an excellent camera, a tripod, and good lighting. Moreover, he or she will bring in a trained eye for what looks good on camera. For example, powder rooms rarely photograph well. My photographer doesn’t shoot them; he spends extra time on the deck or patio instead.

    Frequently on tour I will come across a home that has been beautifully and expensively staged only to find out later that the pictures on the MLS are horrible. What are the agents thinking? I don’t get it. Is it ignorance, laziness, or fear of the unknown? Perhaps it is a fear of technology, i.e., “it was hard enough to learn how to use a digital camera; what if the photographer emails me the photos? How will I access and submit the them?”

    If brokers stepped in and offered more basic technology classes, I think it would mitigate the problem. I know that many agents in my office are still using Internet Explorer 6. eek!

  5. Chris de Jong

    August 15, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Great article. Every so often I will take a peek in our listings database, and it always amazes me how quickly the well shot photos stand out amongst the rest, which makes me appreciate tips and tricks like these even more.

    I have also noticed that many Agents are starting to embrace HDR photography, which really draws eyeballs when consumers are pouring over listings. However, the one drawback to this I have noticed is that HDR photography sometimes gives an inaccurate representation of a property – I have heard all to many stories of Agents spending hours on post-production of the shots, only to have prospects turning down a property because it looked nothing like the photos!

    Finally, if you are looking for a laugh I highly recommend Athol Kay’s blog Bad MLS Photo of the Day . Go for the amusing pictures, and stay for the witty commentary!

  6. sabrina Huang

    August 15, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I totally agree with you. Let me share my personal experience with all of you.

    I am a Realtor and a Photographer. I really want to help other agents to learn some basic photography knowledge. So I offer a FREE one-hour Real Estate Photography class – I blast an email to 3000+ local agents; I got my office to hold a class; I got a Title company to hold a class. Guess what? I got 3 calls from the email blast to ask about the class but no one came; I got 7 people from my office to attend the class (we have 125 agents in the office); and I got 4 people attend the title company’s class.

    I was disappointed but I don’t know why not many people care. I always feel sorry for those sellers who’s house looks better in person than online. In the down market like now, I thought it is the best time for us as agents to learn new skills and sharpen the old one to prepare when the market turn.

    If you are interested to learn a little bit about real estate photography, here is info I wrote for my class.
    https://mesh.sabrinahuang.com/2008/05/real-estate-pho.html

    To #5, about HDR, it’s not what software they use, it’s how they use. I saw some HDR real estate photos are really nicely done. Check this one https://www.atticfirearchitecture.com/main.htm

  7. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    August 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Teresa, regardless of our equipment, we’ve always hired photographers for every listing, it saves time and they’ll always do it better.

    What’s interesting about your having to regurgitate this message so frequently is that many real estate agents try to do everything themselves. The irony in this is that our entire industry is based on the “use me, I’m a professional” premise yet attempts to cut out professionals that can undoubtedly do it better. When a FSBO fails, there is a solid result- an unsold home (and how many people laugh when they drive by FSBO signs?). When an agent’s photography fails, the results may not be so evident but you’re right, bad photography harms agents, their listing success and most importantly, their clients.

    Amen, T!

  8. Jennifer in Louisville

    August 15, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I’m not overly great at taking photos, but I have practiced quite a bit over the years – and I take a LOT of a photos for any home I’m listing. So, even if the photos aren’t spectacular, I still end up with 300-400 to choose from, and at least a few of those are going to be quasi-decent.

    And if you still can’t the hang of taking photos even after a lot of practice – recruit friends/family to give their creative eye to it and give it a go.

    But, even not-so-great photos, are at least better than no photos (or 1 photo). There are many many properties that have 1 (or zero) photos – and they wonder why the property isn’t selling.

  9. Paula Henry

    August 15, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I like to take photos and like Jennifer, take a bunch. I use two wide angle lenses and have fairly good success. I haven’t yet hired it out, but would absolutely love to, only to save time and offer the very best service for my clients.

    Sometimes, though, I think bad pictures are worse than no pictures

    Thanks Sabrina for the links – I’ll check it out.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 8:09 am

    “If it is a matter of money, I would scrimp on the glossy brochures inside the home that no one will ever see unless the place gets some showings.” – That’s a great point, but agents who don’t get the point of good photos aren’t putting anything other than a print out of the listing on the counter – if that.

    I do think that some folks can learn how to take photos and maybe should take at least a few, while waiting for the photographer to come out. Our area has a requirement that listings must be entered into MLS within some time frame. Agents are putting them in with no photos waiting for photographers come out….

  11. Ginger Wilcox

    August 17, 2008 at 12:44 am

    I wouldn’t dream of taking my own photographs. Buyers look online first. A bad photograph often equals a click on to the next listing. A good photograph may mean the buyer favorites it, will attend an open house, or ask their agent for a showing.

    I couldn’t agree more with lani, agents spend a lot of time defending why home sellers shouldn’t do it themselves. Perhaps we should practice what we preach and hire a professional where warranted (unless you can take photos like Teresa Boardman).

  12. Herman

    August 17, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Dear Teresa,

    Great idea, this photo you posted, whith text written trough it!
    Do you have more ideas?

    I”l love to use them, if that’s allright?

    Keep up the good work (mother)Teresa!

    Greetings,

    Herman de Jong
    RE/MAX Connect Hoorn, Amsterdam Holland/ the Netherlands

  13. Kim Wood

    August 17, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I’m still trying to convince my husband we need to hire a professional housekeeper. I am all about being a professional Real Estate Agent, and yes, I can take my listing photos (usually two different times of day for different lighting)…..

    …. but one has to learn to delegate those tasks they are not an expert in, to leave more time to be productive with those you are……………… right?

  14. Teresa Boardman

    August 17, 2008 at 10:32 am

    skip the mother part, I find it offensive. The photo was used for some posters I made. It is an artists loft and I went to an art even and used the poster to market the property.

  15. Linsey

    August 17, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    A little over 2 years I hired a professional photographer for one of my listings that I was struggling to sell. It was a low price point for my market but I knew that it needed a ‘MLS makeover’. Within 2 weeks I sold it in multiple offers. I’ve hired a professional photographer for every listing at every price point ever since.

    It’s become a critical point in my listing presentation and I am a true believer that if we are taking our job as marketers of properties seriously, we cannot be considered true professionals if we are going the cheap and easy route in this department. My clients are so ‘sold’ on the concept that we won’t list the home in the MLS until the professional work is available. ‘No photos’ or temporary shots will do the trick. You only have one chance to make a first impression, as they say.

  16. Teresa Boardman

    August 18, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Linsey – for years I hired a professional photographer for each listing no matter what the price range. I ran into trouble on some of my historic homes in that the photographer did not shoot some of the important architectural elements. Like a close up of the marble fireplace etc. I began supplementing the photos the photographers took. My clients told me that my photos were better than the photographers and that I should take my own. These days some hire me because of the photos. It doesn’t save me any money to take my own, and it does take time. So for me the cheap and easy route would be to hire someone to do it. With some of my listings, I do hire it out to save time and money but with the historic homes and the lofts I do it myself and will until I find someone who understands the real estate the way I do and can take pictures of it.

  17. Fred Kogler

    August 18, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I recently read a little essay by Larry Lohrman entitled: Photography for Real Estate. It’s a great read and is loaded with basic information and advice about “how to use photography to effectlvely market real estate.” Its substance and attitude are both features that would enhance T. Boardman’s perspective.

    Two other matters that are triggered by big “T” in her comments and articles include spelling and grammar. If one can’t sppell, or foloow the ruoles of grammar, how can she/he be trusted to read the many-paged contracts required to conduct business! So I implore you all, please, oh, please, use your spelol checker and reread your copy before submitting your comments.

  18. Linsey

    August 18, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Teresa,
    I think you are certainly the exception to the rule. The vast majority of agents have no business shooting their own. But I think you are great for recognizing that it’s often in the details. In Socal there is no such thing as ‘historic home’. The latest construction we have is circa 1968. 🙂

  19. Caitlin Mulhern

    August 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    To all of you,

    Thank you so much for such great comments and suggestions. I am comforted to know that I am not the only one mystified by so much real estate photography. You really do begin to wonder about people….

    I am just getting into real estate sales and I have been researching digital cameras that are ideal for real estate photography. Another website suggested the fuji finepix E500 or the Kodak EasyShare P880. Do any of you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    Caitlin Mulhern
    Mark David NY Realty

  20. Susie Blackmon

    August 31, 2008 at 6:42 am

    I love photography and most anything T does. This is a great post (duh). I am embarrassed by many of the MLS photos I see, and I’d love to forward it to many!

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