Today’s article is by guest blogger William Taylor, president and founder of Taylor Photographics, Inc. (taylorphoto.com). He has worked with world-renowned architects including Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi, Robert Stern and various others. Along with a prestigious list of architects, he has also photographed for many Fortune 500 companies and worked with some of the most successful ad agencies in New York City.
A few years ago, during the depths of the recent Great Recession, my wife and I bought an old Victorian situated on the Delaware River in New Jersey. Given that this was in the midst of the housing bust, we assumed that it would take a while to sell the condominium where we had lived for years. But, to everyone’s surprise, the condo sold almost instantly, drawing multiple bids on the first day that it was listed and prompting a bidding war between two prospective buyers, such that we secured a premium price. This condo was–believe me–totally ordinary. There were dozens of units like it, which came on the market with some regularity. But when our broker’s boss saw the photos that I had taken of the condo for our MLS listing, she declared: If this condo sells quickly, it is going to be strictly on account of these photographs (which I reproduce and discuss below). Of course, since I do architectural photography for a living, I insisted on doing the photos myself, knowing that I could make our little condo look far better than most of what I saw on the MLS listings. (The downside to our good fortune, by the way, was that we were forced to surrender the condo immediately, and to live for 18 months coated in sawdust, with our fridge in the garage, as we rehabbed our Victorian.)
So having good photographs of your property can make a huge difference when you go to sell it. And here are a few pointers for taking effective photos from someone who does it for a living:
For the interiors:
- Select the major rooms (kitchen, living room, dining room, family room master bedroom and master bath), say six or seven at most, and plan on photographing at least half of them at dusk. Shooting at dusk offers a couple of advantages: the beautiful cobalt blue light outside can magically transform interiors into warm agreeable spaces, and since the exterior light is subdued, you don’t have to worry about white “burned out” windows ruining your image. If you have a tripod, use it for stability and turn off your flash and turn on all the lights in the room. If you don’t have a tripod or something stable to put your camera on, you may use your flash, but be careful not to have anything too close to the camera as the flash will cause overexposure of things nearby. By the way, I Phones are very good for this type of work as they utilize HDR software for picture taking.
- Remove all the clutter from each room. Remove pet toys, piles of old newspapers, children’s toys, and anything that does not add something positive to the image. I usually brush the carpets to remove footprints, and I light candles and fireplaces. You may—or may not—want to turn on the television. Does the photo look better or worse with it on?
- Your vantage point is important! I find that most rooms are best photographed from where you enter the room. Usually this means that exterior windows appear in the photo. This is a good thing—as most people like to see spaces with a lot of potential daylight. Keep the compositions simple. Probably you’ll need to use the widest lens that you have and try to watch the edges of the “frame” so that you’re not cutting something important in two. I try to have the edges of the photo end on darker tones if possible. Bright white objects at the edge of the frame tend to be distracting and keep your eye from looking “into” the photo.
- I do like to place cut flowers and other simple props in rooms to add accents of color, especially if there isn’t a lot of other color to be found. For kitchens, a bowl of fruit, or a cutting board with cheese or bread adds a nice touch.
The same general principles apply for your exterior views. Take the photographs on a nice bright/blue sky day with the sun behind you and hide any trash cans, signs, or other stray objects that are not photogenic. Open all the blinds inside the house to the same level if applicable. I try to shoot home exteriors away from the driveway, so that lawn or gardens frame the house as opposed to asphalt or concrete. Obviously, it is advantageous to take exterior photographs in the spring, summer, or fall, if possible, so that there is foliage and green grass adding interest and color.
Good photographs don’t guarantee the sale, obviously, but they can attract a larger audience and therefore increase the possibility of selling your old home and getting on with the rest of your life.
By choosing the right time of the day, picking a good vantage point, and adding a few extra accessories to the rooms being photographed you can make the quality of your images much better. Stronger visuals will attract a larger audience to look at your home, and hopefully increase your chances of selling as a result. No one finds the selling process to be particularly enjoyable so use these photography tips to make your life a little bit easier!