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The Role of Professional Photography in Selling Your Home

By Thomas O'Shaughnessy | October 25, 2023

When you’re selling your house, one of the first items on your to-do list is to get photos for your listing. 

If you’re like a lot of buyers, you may consider taking them yourself. After all, your Instagram account is probably full of nice-looking selfies and photos of food — how much harder could it be to take photos of your home? Actually, it’s a lot harder than you think. 

While you can use a discount real estate agent and still get high-quality service, the same doesn’t apply to your listing photos. Generally speaking, professional photos will far surpass even the best amateur photos, not only because the professionals have a better understanding of what the average buyer wants to see, but also because they’re working with superior equipment and a more refined sense of composition. 

Subpar listing photos have a price — literally. Many buyers will cross a home off their list if it has unappealing listing photos, which means less interest for you, which means less competition and a lower sale price.

Let’s talk about what professional listing photos can do for you.

Making a critical first impression

Nearly everyone starts their home search online these days. And when they look at a listing, they’re heading straight to the photos. If they don’t like what they see in those first few moments, the listing goes in the “no” pile. Some buyers won't even look at a home’s basic information unless the photos jump out at them.

If you heard the term “curb appeal” when you were planning your showings, this is something very similar. Curb appeal is how enticing your home looks as a buyer approaches it from the street. Those first few seconds largely determine how they feel about the property, regardless of how the rest of the tour goes.

We’re talking about visceral, gut-level reactions. First impressions are formed very quickly and are tough to change. While not every buyer who likes your listing photos will put in a bid, no prospective buyer who dislikes your listing photos is going to consider buying. Getting professional listing photos maximizes your home’s appeal, and allows it to appeal to the maximum number of buyers.

Pre-photoshoot staging and art direction

While extensive home staging is often done by specialized professional home-staging services, a professional photographer can contribute some suggestions on how to increase your home’s appeal. Many photographers will even recommend home-staging services they’ve worked with previously, similar to how agents can recommend trusted movers or home inspectors.

An experienced real estate photographer has a well-developed understanding of light and space, and will know exactly how to present your home to its best advantage. They’ll know the most flattering time of day to photograph your home, how to maximize the amount of natural light your home gets, and bring in supplemental lighting if needed. In terms of space, they may rearrange your furniture to showcase the living space. 

If you have a lot of furniture, they may even suggest removing some of it, and putting it into self-storage until the sale is finalized. They’ll know how to make your home feel roomy without making it feel cold. They may also advise you to depersonalize your home by strategically removing sentimental items. If your home needs a little more energy, they can also advise you on how to upgrade your home décor, even on a budget.

If your photographer recommends professional home staging, they may bring in all new furniture and furnishings, down to art on the walls. Your photographer will have seen hundreds of listings, if not more, and will know how to adjust your home’s aesthetic for modern buyers.

High-quality photos

At risk of stating the obvious, a professional photographer’s listing photos are going to be far superior to amateur efforts. Even if you set the home staging and art direction aside, they’re using professional-quality equipment to capture high-quality shots. Their use of light and composition will produce photos that are appealing and evocative, and make a narrative out of your home. 

Many homeowners renovate a house before they put it on the market, but those improvements won’t help the home sell if they’re not framed properly in the listing photos. On the other hand, warm, professional listing photos can often enhance your home’s appeal — and at a much lower price point than pre-sale renovations.

Experienced real estate photographers also know little tricks of the trade that amateurs won’t. For example, using lamps in the room instead of flashes to avoid an overexposed or “washed out” photo, or moving vehicles out of the driveway to avoid visual clutter.

And the photos themselves are just part of what a top-quality real estate photographer can do. Many photographers offer services like drone-guided video tours, virtual 3D tours, digital floor plans, digital staging, and social media videos that are increasingly valuable in today’s hypercompetitive and tech-driven market.

Post-production enhancement

If you post a lot of selfies on Instagram, you probably understand the power of photo editing. After your home’s shoot, your photographer will select the best photos, often with the assistance of an art director, and then edit and optimize them. Photo editors will fix color and contrast, and can even correct small flaws in your home or landscaping’s appearance. Only after they’ve been carefully selected and enhanced will the listing photos be presented to the seller.

The price and time bump

Homes with professional photographs sell 32% faster than homes without professional listing photos. That’s a substantial benefit, since the longer a home is on the market, the lower the chances it’ll sell. If your home sits on the market too long, buyers will assume it has hidden problems and avoid it. In that situation, you’ll have no choice but to take it off the market, or sell it to a company that buys houses for cash at a huge discount.

There’s a significant price benefit, too. Homes with professional listing photos sell for 47% more, per square foot, than homes with amateur photos. That’s a staggering difference, and it means that your professional listing photos will pay for themselves, many times over.

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