6 Things I Wish Real Estate Photographers Would Do

Whether you are staging a house to sell or using interior photos for a blog or publication, there are a few things I’ve learned over the years about photographing a home that makes all the difference for those viewing them. And although I am NOT a professional photographer, there are things I wish all real estate photographers would do. This article will address those things and also help you improve your own photos.

what real estate photographers should do


1. Get more flooring, less ceiling.

I don’t mean to pick on them, BUT some real estate photographers tend to capture a whole lot more of the ceiling than they do the flooring. This is only good when there’s a coffered ceiling or something really special up there. If you need photos of rooms with hardwood floors, you want to be sure to get as much of that architectural detail in your photos as possible. AND, the more flooring you get in a shot, the larger the room appears. So I let the photographer I’m working with know on the front end so they make a point to lower their tripods to get the kind of shots I’m looking for.

I’d really rather not feature a boob light like this one:


It wasn’t necessary or helpful to include so much ceiling in the first photograph. The unimpressive ceiling light is the first thing I notice in the photo above, while the french doors are more the focal point in this photo:

staged home office with french doors


If you are taking your own photos, you may learn that photographing rooms can be more physically grueling than arranging the furniture. Why? THE SQUATTING.  You may have to squat to get your camera to where it’s a bit above table level (of a dining table or dresser), so you’re not looking down on what you are photographing. As a woman of 5’7 in bare feet, that requires doing a little mini squat to get the camera where I want it.  Depending on your height, this may require a stool you can move around and sit on to get your shots. If you do squat, it’s best to steady yourself against a wall or piece of furniture. Steady as she goes – and hold your breath, so as not to shake the camera.

 2. Don’t use artificial lighting.

Most real estate photographers turn on ALL the lights in a room when taking photos for a listing.If you want to capture paint and furnishing colors accurately (and you do), for goodness sake, DON’T turn on artificial lights in the room – no overhead, no lamps, no nothing.  If it’s nighttime – well, just wait for daytime to take your photos. Artificial lighting may skew the colors yellow (incandescent and soft white LED) or blue (fluorescent and day light LED). And the worst is when the bulbs in a room are a mix of these!

staged office with wood paneling and coffered ceilingStaging by Expert Psychological Stager™ graduates, shot with natural light by Showcase Photographers

If you are taking your own photos, try to take them with natural light coming in behind you, then edit the photos after the fact to lighten if needed. Shooting towards windows that have light streaming in can result in dark photos. Here’s a trick: depending on if you are using a cell phone or DLSR camera, learn how to “meter” onto a dark part of the room. There’s a way to make your camera hold that setting while you take a shot facing the light-filled window, so that the camera doesn’t darken the entire room. Mine requires me to push the main button down half-way while shooting towards a darker spot of the room, then simultaneously pushing another button to hold that setting while I direct the camera where I actually want to take the shot. On a newer iPhone, you can either tap on the part of the screen that you want the camera to illuminate, or you can tap then slide the sunshine symbol to the right of the box that appears to lighten the photo as much as you like.

3. Take photos from the right angles.

light blue living room walls with blue velvet sofa and round coffee table and pair of blue floral chairs design by Kristie Barnett, The DecorologistThe Decorologist photography by Sqft

Although real estate photographers typically take photos from the entry and corners,  they often fail to take photos head-on facing focal points of each room. One of the goals of Psychological Staging™ is to put the emphasis on the architecture (which is what you are selling) rather than the decor. Taking photos facing the focal points and the architectural details help meet that goal and make for more compelling photographs that look more like magazine shots than real estate shots.

4. Beware the wide angle lens.

Pretty much all real estate photographers utilize a wide angle lens. It enables them to capture a space all the way across, so that a viewer can get a better understanding of the room’s layout and its connections to other rooms. However, the use of a so-called fisheye lens is deceptive. It makes the rooms look SIGNIFICANTLY larger than they are in reality, which can be a big let-down when buyers tour the home. Like this bedroom, which looks ridiculously ginormous:


This lens can also cause major distortions, such as making a chair arm look about six feet long . . .

The fisheye lens made this chair’s arm so distorted and long that it draws more attention that the architecture of the space, which is definitely NOT what we want.

5. Give us the hi-res (not web-sized) photos:

Even if you are planning on using web-sized photos for your blog or social media, make sure to request hi-res photos from your photographer. I never mess with the web-sized ones, and here’s why: I may want to crop the image to create a vignette shot (close-up shot of a certain element in the room) or to correct a shot that has too much ceiling or distorted edges. If they are delivered to you web-sized, any cropping you do will make your photos too small to use.

Staging by Expert Psychological Stager™ graduates, photography by Showcase Photographers

6. Take care of wires, outlets, and distractions.

Real estate photographers are good about editing to make sure their work is well-lit and bright, but they usually don’t edit out unsightly wires or other unfortunate distractions in the space. I wish they would! Of course, that is something you can do yourself with simple photo editing software. While I would never edit out something that would be deceptive to a buyer, there is no harm in editing out something that detracts from the beauty of a photo, like lamp cords, a white outlet on a wall with dark paint, or that dang hanging string on a ceiling fan. It WOULD be deceptive to ADD something to the photo that wasn’t there when you took the picture, especially if it altered the function of the room or added something architectural.

messy tv wires and ceiling fan strings

If you are taking photos yourself, try to minimize any editing by tucking away cords or simply alter a shot’s angle slightly so as not to see something you don’t want to see in the final photo.

wires behind tv cropped out, ceiling fan cords removed

Just like with stagers, designers, and Realtors, there are good real estate photographers and there are not-so-good ones. Thankfully, I work with some really great ones that understand what I need when I hire them.

Professional photography is so important for capturing staged or designed interiors, so hiring a real estate photographer who understands these six things can make all the difference in the results.  Are there any other things you wish real estate photographers would do?

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11 thoughts on “6 Things I Wish Real Estate Photographers Would Do

  1. Phyllis E says:

    Another amazingly insightful article, Kristie. Thanks for sharing! I just got my real estate license last week and hopefully will be able to use these tips to direct the real estate photographers whenever I, hopefully , get my first listing! Most of the MLS listings in my area don’t appear to have been shot by a professional photographer –or they don’t look professionally done, at least! (I live in a rural to semi-rural area so I’m not sure if there are many photographers specializing in real estate around here.) One thing that really bugs me, too, is that so many of the listing photos (at least in my area) have had their contrast settings adjust too high–probably because of a “tip” I’ve heard going around real estate agent advice circles that setting the contrast high makes your photos “pop”. Well, most seem to do it way too much and it makes the photos look like old, grainy magazine photos that have aged, imho. I think it looks hideous! Have you seen that trend in your area, too?
    If a room doesn’t have enough natural light, does it work well for a professional photographer to bring in special photography lights and those reflector umbrellas, etc to lighten up a space?
    I have noticed that many listing shots have the curtains or blinds closed–I assume to avoid back-lighting from the window. Do the tips you suggested, about metering on a darker part of the room, fix this problem so you can have a shot looking directly through an open window? Just wondering.
    By the way, do you have many real estate agents take your course? I would like to be able to advise clients with occupied homes how to stage them for better resale, etc. We don’t have many stagers, especially who do occupied homes, in our area. Thanks.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thanks, Phyllis! I think you are referring to HDR photography, and yes, many people over-HDR their photos, in my opinion! It can look great, if you know what you’re doing, but some people rely on it too heavily. Special photography lighting and reflector umbrellas can be very helpful, and professionals can use those to balance lighting. Metering on a darker spot does help with the window issue, but there are other ways to handle that issue – that’s just a good hack for us non-professionals! In answer to your last question: yes, I often have Realtors take the EPS™ course to become certified home stagers. I highly recommend dividing out Realtor and staging responsibilities between partners or on a team – it’s very difficult to handle both jobs, and it’s so important to separate the two responsibilities so that your seller trusts your recommendations. Husband-and-wife teams or female partners do really well when one takes on the role of the stager and the other the business expert, at least in the eyes of the seller. I’d love to have you come take the course, Phyllis 😉

  2. Kelly says:

    I am always amazed at home many bathroom pictures have the lid open on the commode…doesn’t anyone look at the image…I find it helpful to take pictures of my rooms from time to time, it gives one a different perspective of the image your eye has become accustom to every day…it always helps me remove distractions and clutter.

  3. Jill Kosikowski says:

    I’m a new stager who didn’t take your course, but I’ve purchased your books and love all your advice and style!
    As a realtor in a highly populated suburban area, I am constantly amazed at the photos that are on the MLS, even for some high end homes. Open toilets, clutter, dirty dishes in the sink, closed window treatments with horrid blinds/drapes…who aspires to live that way? sigh*
    Thank you for sharing this post

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Hi Jill! Oh, and bug spray on kitchen counters – I’ve seen that more than once, ugh. Of course, those are the homes that are not staged and where professional photographers aren’t coming in to take the photos!

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