Preparing for Real Estate Photography


If you're reading this article, you probably are about to sell your home, or perhaps you're helping someone else sell their home. In either case, you'll likely want to invest in high quality photography, and perhaps, other professional media services in order to best market the property. This article covers my basic recommendations for preparing the property for professional photos and other media services such as marketing videos.

First and foremost, you should de-clutter the home - likely substantially further than you might be thinking. If you already run a tight ship and regularly receive compliments from your guests and friends about how tidy your home is, then you're probably in the ballpark. However, you may still need to address just a few more items in the de-clutter category. Generally, the following items should be considered when de-cluttering:

  • Put away remote controls for televisions, cable boxes, game consoles, ceiling fans, etc...
  • Remove pet beds, pet bowls, pet toys and any other pet related items.
  • Remove any furniture that might be crowding a room; think in terms of making a room look large, not functional.
  • Remove floor mats in kitchens and bathrooms unless they are in excellent condition and highly decorative.
  • Clear your kitchen counters of almost everything - toasters, coffee pots, etc...
  • Bathrooms should have ALL personal items removed from the counter tops, showers and elsewhere - no toothbrushes, shampoos, shower soaps or gels. On a related note, we do not touch or move personal items of any kind, so be sure to address that as part of the home prep.
  • Put away or neatly roll up all garden hoses.
  • Remove garden tools, lawn mowers, etc... from view.
  • Remove any children's toys, bicycles, pool flotation, etc...

You should also de-personalize your home as much as possible. This is because prospective buyers are going to want to envision themselves in your home, not you or your family. Removing personal items helps tremendously.

  • Stash family photos. If you remove them from walls, repair the wall or find a suitable artistic replacement if the wall needs something decorative to feel complete.
  • Clear the outside of your refrigerator of magnets, children's artwork, coupons, etc...
  • Take down unframed posters, or any other wall decorations that don't appear to be professionally created or installed.
  • Remove all seasonal or holiday decorations from the home.

Next, address any minor repairs that may be necessary. Some repairs are more important than others as far as real estate photography goes. Here are the things that I highly recommend are fixed prior to photography:

  • ALL interior and exterior light bulbs should be checked and replaced. Be sure that matching light bulb types/color temperatures are used; mixed color temperatures or mismatched wattage in lighting fixtures that are meant to be the same (ie, canned lights in a hallway) can create difficult lighting conditions for photography.
  • Fix any minor holes in the walls and patch and paint over them.
  • Repair any flaking or damaged paint on the exterior of the home as well - patio covers, stucco, wood trim etc...
  • Freshen up planters and pots with new perennials as necessary.
  • Fix any cabinetry that may not close or operate properly, or has damaged or missing hardware.

Next, thoroughly clean the home. This should probably be done the day before, or the day of the scheduled photography:

  • Clean the entire interior - bathrooms, kitchen, flooring and windows.
  • Hire a professional gardener to fully prepare the yard. Mow lawn, remove yard debris and do any final minor trimming of shrubs and plants.
  • Pools and spas should be well maintained and swept; remove your pool vacuum from the pool if you have one.
  • Hose off concrete decks and patios. Be sure to allow enough time for drying, which can take hours if the deck is in the shade or it's cold out.
  • Remove cobwebs from corners (both interior and exterior).

Lastly, perform final prep just before the photographer arrives:

  • Clean any recent dishes in the kitchen and put them away - nothing in the kitchen sink.
  • Put away shoes, purses, jackets and any other personal items that may be sitting around.
  • Put DOWN the toilet seats.
  • Turn on ALL lights in the home, both interior and exterior.
  • Turn off ceiling fans (ceiling fan lights are ok to be on).
  • Check for symmetry for things that should have symmetry: bar stools, dining room chairs, decorative pillows, etc...
  • Fresh flowers, usually in the kitchen somewhere, can be a nice touch for the shoot.
  • Consider buying fresh, clean towels for the bathrooms; you can bring them to your next home and they make a very nice finishing touch and can add some nice accent color!
  • Uncover your billiards / pool table if you have one.
  • Turn OFF all televisions and computer screens; if you'd like an image on your television, we do that in post processing.
  • All pets should be removed from the home during the shoot. Ideally, take them for a walk or find a safe place in the garage for them if temperatures permit. Pets can be extremely difficult to work around, even when left in the backyard. Remember, real estate photography involves wide angle shots that can pull in views down hallways, through windows into the backyard, etc... Often, pets sneak into the frame quite easily, slowing down the progress of the shoot substantially.
  • Remove alarm signs from your lawn or planters.
  • Remove all cars from the driveway as well as immediately in front of the home on the street; close your garage.
  • Open blinds and window shades. Your photographer should check and make final adjustments here, but start with them in the open position.
  • Uncover pools, spas and bbq's (assuming they are clean and in good condition).
  • Turn on any fountains or water features for the pool that you may have.
  • Open patio umbrellas.
  • Place garbage and recycling cans out of site; put them in the garage if possible, or if not, on a side of the home that isn't likely to be photographed. If they can be seen from the front of the home, that will likely compromise the front exterior shots.

We always do our best to help create the best images possible when hired to photograph a home. However, there are certainly reasonable limits in terms of what we can and should do during the shoot to help prepare the property. Ultimately, it is the job of the home owner, realtor and potentially, other vendors to properly prep a home for photography. To insure a highly successful shoot, we recommend following as many of the suggestions in this article as possible prior to the arrival of your photographer.

If you're a client of ours and have any questions about how to best prep the home for photography, feel free to reach out directly for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.