Property marketing starts at home. Not the owner’s, but yours. The photos in your office window, website and advertising are your customer’s first impression of your company, so let’s make them count.
When you look at estate agents’ websites, it’s fairly easy to see who uses professional photography and who’s taking their own photos. Professional photography is an expense that some agents don’t want to incur, so here are some tips on getting the most out of your own camera. I used to love taking photos of properties when I was an estate agent; it was fun, creative, and I got to learn a new skill. We wanted to cut down the cost of photography, but keep the standard high, so we: bought a quality second-hand camera, tripod and flash; paid a photographer £300 to teach us some tricks; learnt a bit about photoshop; and got to work.
Remember that great photos not only get more interest and more viewings, they also make you look better to prospective vendors; if they’ve got a nice home, they’re more likely to use you if they think you’ll market their property in a professional manner.
1) Giving a damn. I think this really has to be the main priority. I see so many photos where the person taking it clearly just points, shoots, and leaves. There’s no thought into what might be possible and the room is simply photographed ‘as is’ whether it’s a mess, or dark, not brilliantly arranged, or whatever. I think some estate agents see taking photographs as a necessary evil, and that anything will do. I think this comes from looking at photos from the wrong angle, as it were. Great photos are not just for the owner or applicants, they are another tool for improving the look of your company and its attractiveness to other potential vendors and landlords who are considering who to use. A shame to lose them before they’ve even spoken to you, simply because your images on Rightmove don’t stand up to the next guy. The minute you care about how you do something, you do it better.
2) Keeping up appearances. Get the vendor to tidy up, for their benefit as well as yours. Don’t be shy. They want you to tell them what to do, and a great photo of a tidy and nice-looking room is way more effective than a photo of a messy one. Let’s face it, some people have horrible furniture. So, if possible, get it out of the photo, or cover it up. Look around the house to see if you can replace something dodgy with something nice. A crap cushion for a nice cushion. Or a nice throw to chuck over their naff couch.
3) Finding an angle. Generally, when it comes to living rooms, it’s the corner where the door leads from the entrance hall. Wedge the door open and stand in the doorway, getting back as far as you can without including the door handle or frame. That’s not a one-size-fits-all-solution, but it works in most cases. Taking from a corner is generally better than taking from one end. Make sure you use a tripod with a spirit level in it so you’re photos are never wonky. Whatever you do, make sure to include the windows UNLESS it truly is a disgusting view. Windows tend to offer a nice point of interest for people, and make your photos look more positive. Try to get them vertically central, to avoid too much ceiling or too much floor. Avoid shooting into the back of the sofa; if you have to move it, move it. The room doesn’t have to have the same layout in the photo as it does for every day usage. The photo is your number one priority for more viewings, more instructions, and more credibility.
4) Pressing the right buttons. Learning just a little bit about your camera will have a massively positive effect on your photos. Little things like which setting to use, how powerful to make the flash, and how to keep the aperture open a bit longer (to grab more light) take 5 minutes to learn and provide a lifetime of improved photography. I promise you, once you get yourself off the ‘auto’ button and start to take control of things, you will not regret it.
5) Lightening up, and ceiling the deal. First things first, turn every available light on in the room. Ceiling lights, wall lights, floor lamps, side lamps. Then, get a good flash that you can angle wherever you like. Basically, you need to point the flash upwards (sometimes totally vertical, sometimes slightly forward – particularly if you’re standing in the middle of a doorway) and then bounce the light off the ceiling so it drops down evenly across the room. If you simply point the flash forward you’ll give the room a cold and ghostly appearance, and probably end up with a very unprofessional-looking reflection in a window or mirror.
6) Coming to a resolution. Have you seen how dreadful and blurred and fuzzy some photos look on websites? This is totally unnecessary and incredibly simple to rectify. Take the image at 300dpi and as big as the camera will allow. Keep one of those for press-standard photography (you are doing press releases, right?) and save another version at 72dpi (that’s dots per inch for anyone wondering) for web-standard photos. Make sure the dimensions of the image are at least as large as the space you’ll be putting it in.
These are the basics the photographer taught me and I ended up taking photos I was really proud of. I hope you find them useful.