real estate photography

Getting the House ready for the Listing Photographer

photo by K.Charles McCarthy

photo by K.Charles McCarthy

Getting a home ready to be photographed for listing is a significant and sometimes daunting task. It can be, for the photographer, a tremendous joy and honor when the agent and homeowner are on the same page in getting the home ready. It can also be a royal pain when neither the agent or the homeowner understands the importance of having the home ready for photography and what a huge difference it can make in finding a willing buyer more quickly.

So I though it would be good to write a brief article on this basic subject. I hope this will give you a clearer sense of things that need to be done in order to get your home to shine at its best within the 30 photo-limit allowed by the MLS system.

First of all, be ready for the photographer (me) to spend at least two hours in the home to get all the shots I need. Especially when doing a Silver or Gold photo plan, I will spend extra time to get those "money shots" in the important WOW areas of the home, i.e. the kitchen, master bedroom or a room, for instance, with a wall of windows with a stunning view. It is those photos that make the difference and not so much the shot of the third bathroom in the basement.

When I come to the home, the first thing I will do is set down all my gear in the kitchen and then do a quick walk-through the home. I will be looking for angles and how the light and shadows are falling in the various rooms. I make a mental strategy of which rooms I'm going to go through like Sherman went through Georgia, and which rooms I will want to spend more time. I've had a few unfortunate experiences when, after about a hour, the agent or homeowner suddenly informs me that I have to finish because they have to go in 10 minutes. Please make sure that either the agent or the homeowner can be there for the entire time. I need a two hour window. 

Another important "must" is. . .PETS! Make sure the dogs are safely stowed away. Remember I will have to go outside as well, so having Champ roaming in the backyard won't suffice. In fact, it is probably best for the family members to go to the movies or to the park for a couple of hours. Many times, I will be setting up artificial lighting and having a $500 piece of delicate equipment dangling on the end of a light stand is something that can easily be tipped over by Champ or by a pack of rambunctious younguns!. . .but, hey, I'm realistic too. . my wife and I raised four "younguns" ourselves. . .so I'm no one to talk about how to have total control over youth. . . .just do your best in that area and we will wing it if we have to.

Here are some other important pointers and essential tips for getting your home ready:


- Remove vehicles, trash cans, recycle bins, etc. from driveway and front of house. 

- Sweep driveway, walkways, porches, patios and decks.

- Remove hoses, sprinklers, garden tools, children’s/pet’s toys.

- Mow the lawn; trim back shrubs/bushes from walkways and doors; remove weeds from flower beds and around shrubs/bushes.


- Make sure pets are out of the way and under control.

- Open window coverings (curtains, drapes, sheers, blinds) to let in as much natural light as possible. Of course, if the view out a window isn’t pleasing, leave those coverings closed.

- Turn off ceiling fans—moving fan blades just look like a blur in the photos.

- If time and budget permits, have windows professionally cleaned. Clean windows let in more light than dirty windows. Consider removing window screens as well.

- Make sure all light fixtures have the proper type of bulbs—do not mix fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. Replace any burnt out bulbs.

- Eliminate as much clutter as possible, including children’s toys, clothing, piles of newspapers/magazines. Remove anything from the floor that doesn’t belong on the floor.

- Remove toiletries and other personal items from bathroom counters; close toilet lids; remove/replace old or dirty towels, washcloths, etc.

- Make all beds neatly (avoid wrinkles, lumps, etc.); clear dressers of personal items.

- If your child’s bedroom has his/her name spelled out on the wall or otherwise visible, you may wish to remove it. If removal isn’t feasible, be sure to alert me and I will attempt to edit it out from the final photos.

- At your computer workstations, stow or unplug dangling cables/wires; clear papers. Straighten up and/or remove items from bookcases.

- In the kitchen, remove most, but not all, items from the counters. Items that can be left out might include: decorative canisters, a colorful bowl or platter, no more than one counter-top appliance. You want it to be uncluttered, but not sterile. Items to remove or hide from view include: dish towels, pet dishes, trash cans. Remove everything (magnets, pictures, calendars, etc.) from the outside of the refrigerator.

Well that should do it. . .oh and by the way, once you are done, can you come over to my house and get it ready for photos too?. . .ha! ha!. . .bottom line. . .with the usual herd of alligators chomping on your legs, you might not have time to get to every point, but just do your best because every little bit will make your home look that much better to all those who will be perusing the net and admiring the photos of your home. Hopefully, it will be just enough to inspire that hoped for response. . "hey honey, come take a look at this one!"