Real Estate Photos That Don’t Suck

Real Estate Photos That Don’t Suck

Real estate photo that really sucks.

Think this is bad? This is a good photo compared to many on the MLS.

It’s been a standing joke for some time. So much that even Ellen Degeneres and numerous websites are dedicated to making fun of bad MLS photos.


Why then are so my realtors missing out on a major marketing opportunity by taking their own listing photos with improper equipment and poor results? I believe it’s partly due to the way the industry is structured. There are few businesses that have to front load their costs with no guarantee of any return. That problem isn’t going to away unless one day an upfront retainer fee is required to list a home.

Marketing is the key to success for any business and especially so with selling homes. The “How Realtors Help” commercials emphasize how you should hire a professional to sell your home. For the same reason most realtors are not photographers and therefore need to hire a professional to get photos that attract more buyers.

The photos buyers see online are the first, and sometimes only chance agents get to make a good impression. Poor listing photography wastes an agents time by showing homes that the buyer did not get a good representation of its layout before seeing it first hand.

Consumers are used to high quality images in every other industry, they expect to be impressed visually. An agent who uses low quality images will not attract as many clients, or buyers to their listings. Buying a home is an emotional experience. Using quality listing images with proper lighting and composition visually and emotionally attracts buyers. Take a look at any auto or jewellery ad and you’ll see what I mean, the images are just dripping with appeal.

Photos taken by a realtor are typically taken either with a smartphone or point and shoot type camera. These simply do not have the capability of getting wide enough angles to show the entire room. Lighting is never ideal and you’ll soon see that these devices are incapable of fixing the problem.

Professional photographers use DSLR type cameras with sharp super wide angle lenses that capture the entire scene, ideal when showing a prospective buyer the layout of the home. Multiple flash units are often required to light the interiors without the view outside the window look like a nuclear explosion went off. Some utilize HDR or High Dynamic Range techniques to capture all of the available light without flash, however the results are not as good.


There are ways however to get much better photos for those agents who absolutely insist on taking their own. Using a combination of technique, additional hardware and software can make a huge difference in the quality of your photos.


Every real estate photographer knows the best place to shoot a room is typically from the corners in most cases. Living rooms and kitchens should be photographed from several corners. Bedrooms and bathrooms right inside the doorways, and exteriors always at an angle to the home showing some of the side, rarely straight on.

The height of the camera should always be at the level that the room is mostly used in. Typically this is at sitting height except in kitchens. Doing so will show more of the floor and less of the ceilings. This gives a more natural look to the room and is more inviting to the viewer.

Always use the widest possible angle your camera is capable of, unless it begins to distort the room and furniture. Some even have the ability to add a wide angle lens or adaptor such as the olloclip for the iPhone. Combined with software this will give you a better overall view of the room. Holding your camera perfectly level to the scene will give you straight verticals. An image with crooked walls looks visually wrong and disturbing to the viewer.

Turn off the flash on your camera. Cameras other than DSLR types do not have the ability to light more than a few feet away and the result is often very poor. To compensate for dark areas or typical orange glows from many light fixtures you need to use an external flash not mounted on the camera. Further refinements to the image must be made in computer software.

The use of additional software to enhance the image either while taking the photo or afterwards on a computer will give you the biggest boost to your photos. Taking the photo with a smartphone through third party software will always give a better result than the default software. On the iPhone there are two must have programs for any purpose. Pro HDR allows you to capture detail in bright windows while keeping detail in the darkest part of the scene. Perfectly Clear allows many more enhancements after the image is taken.

Computer software is a must to crop the image and size it correctly for uploading to the MLS. Common programs such as Photoshop Elements, Photoshop or the open source equivalent Gimp can often fix bad lighting and straighten vertical lines. They allow you to also remove unsightly objects that were overlooked when taking the photos such as fridge magnets, garden hoses across the lawn, and pet toys. Additional plugins to the software further enhance the image and gives it that magazine quality look that is so appealing to buyers.

Good photographs appeal to a viewers emotions and is a main factor in attracting buyers to your listing. If you don’t believe you have the skills nor the equipment and software to truly give your sellers the best marketing material for their dollar then consider hiring a professional photographer to get the best results. The small extra you spend will pay for itself many times over with increased business. Taking real estate photos that suck will hurt your clients and your business.



Carsten Arnold