Five Ways to Take Stellar Listing Photos

We’ve all seen them–those blurry, dimly-lit, often totally inaccurate photos a landlord or property manager has deemed sufficient for an ad. When listing photos are truly bad, the resulting slideshows certainly make for good entertainment…as long as they don’t end up including one of our own units.

While it’s probably a safe bet that you won’t be taking any photos like this one when you advertise your rentals, the fact is, it’s not always clear exactly how to take professional-looking photographs that really showcase the apartment you’re offering. That’s why for today’s edition of Five Ways, we’re bringing you five tips for professional, appealing rental market photography.

1. Invest in the equipment.

Consider a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera if you’ve got the cash–according to photography blogger Darren Rowse, they provide superior speed, image quality, adaptability, depth of field, and optical quality over compact cameras. If you would prefer to stick with the more affordable point-and-shoot option, aim for a mid-range camera–don’t go with the cheapest available option. Be sure to pick up a tripod and wide-angle lens as well; these lenses mimic our peripheral vision to include more of a room in each shot.

2. Choose key rooms to photograph.

Listing photography is about the big picture–it’s about presenting the idea of an apartment or house for rent, a gateway that allows a prospective tenant to picture themselves inside.

When you photograph the unit, choose major rooms, such as the living room, bedroom, and kitchen, and views that show how the floor-plan works. Avoid small interior details, even if they’re gorgeous–these can be mentioned in text and pointed out at the showing.

3. Good listing photos are not impromptu. Light and stage the shot!

Too many photos in the aforementioned slideshows commit the grave sins of (gasp) poor lighting or (horror) nonexistent staging, both of which are absolutely essential to taking successful listing photos.

Whoops! Too bright.

As far as lighting goes, if you’re working on a sunny day, avoid the hours when the sun is highest in the sky and aim for the Golden Hour, when the sun is low on the horizon, instead. If you’re working on a dim day, turn on all of the interior lights, and keep your camera steady to avoid low-light blurring.

Then there’s the staging: when photographing presently-occupied units, reducing clutter is key. While furniture and decorations can lend appeal, personal traces of the current or past tenant should be avoided at all costs–even hide their fridge magnets!

4. Position your camera in doorways; keep it straight and level.

Remember that tripod we suggested you pick up? You’re definitely going to need it. Most of us simply don’t have the precision required to hold our cameras as steady, straight, and level as it needs to be for a professional-looking shot. Even minor movement will lead to blurred photos when working in low light, and a tilted camera will make walls appear slanted; meanwhile, tripods allow a steady, level shot in any location. The tripod is your friend!

And as for the doorways? Positioning your camera in a doorway allows for the most spacious view of any room. Shooting towards a corner will work to create depth, which can be difficult to portray in photography, but is so vital when photographing real estate.

5. Edit your photos–but not too much.

Let’s face it: perfect photos are few and far between, and you’ll need to edit at least some of the photos you take. While some of you probably love your Photoshop, expensive software isn’t necessary for the kind of photo editing you’ll need to do–especially since changing the photos until they’re no longer representative of the unit is just bad practice. You’ll want to ensure the color levels are optimal and that the horizon is straight; you may want to lighten a room or crop out a flaw–all of which can be done with inexpensive software (or even smartphone apps).

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