The Last 10% – The Art and Science of Photostyling

Let me start by saying I am NOT a professional photographer. But I know the power of really great photostyling. I recently had the opportunity to do a little speed staging for one of my favorite local Realtors, who just happens to be married to my former office manager, Allison! While Allison now stages most of her husband’s listings, they wanted to bring me in to do the last 10% for this property in one of the hottest districts of downtown Nashville.



These high-rise condos, often referred to as urban lofts, need to be in turn-key condition in order to get top dollar. They sell for well over a million dollars, so the interior decor must rise to the occasion. While this unit had already been decorated throughout, the photos taken by the Realtor were a bit lackluster and didn’t reflect the upscale effect you’d hope to see in such an expensive property:


Staging to sell is not decorating, it’s strategic marketing. In my Expert Psychological Stager™ course, I teach how to use existing decor and furnishings to create a high-end effect that will capture the imagination of buyers – and that starts with the listing photographs. Photos that look like a magazine spread help create a longing in the hearts of buyers, draw them in to view the property in person, and ultimately result in the best offers. Good staging is all about photostyling.


Subtle highlighting of every architectural advantage of the property, like the fabulous view off this little balcony, helps create what I call Memory Points™ that are consistently recalled well beyond initial viewing.


Photostyling is what a professional stylist and/or photographer does for a magazine photoshoot. In Psychological Staging, we apply the art and science of photostyling when staging a property to sell. Appropriately placed props are used to draw the eyes to the elements you want the buyers to notice. Some of the photos should highlight sight lines from one room into the next, creating a sense of curiosity about what lies ahead in the adjoining space.


Here’s the shot of the living room that the Realtor sent me prior to the speed staging. This cell phone shot gave me a general idea of what I could expect to work with: a mix of neutrals without the variation in texture that makes a space feel more expensive. The room was washed with cream and beige, and the touches of gray seemed disparate.


I knew I needed to separate the gray chairs from the cream sofa and add textured throws and pillows to unify the warm and cool neutrals. The lamps/lampshades needed redistribution in the room, too. Then I took the photograph a bit closer in so that the kitchen island didn’t make the space seem tight upon entry. Hopefully, you can see the difference those changes made:


Wider angle photos (NOT fish-eye, mind you) expand the space a bit, and you can see that when comparing the Realtor’s photographs to the “after” shots.


Sometimes a tighter, lower shot helps the buyer step into the space. I often squat or sit on a small stool to get the perspective of someone sitting in the space, which is a more intimate view of the room. By drawing a chair to the console table at the window, we created a home office space with a view that is to die for. The inviting pillowscape and even the tilt of the desk chair placement is part of the photostyling for this room.


Alternate views of important rooms can be important. This shot reveals the open floor plan of the kitchen and living room, which is so coveted by lonely chefs:

photostyling in living/kitchen


This bedroom was definitely cute, but that was the problem. This place is too expensive for a “cute” bedroom. It needs to look luxurious and high-end. This is the “before” of both sides of the room:


While the changes aren’t huge, they made the impact I wanted. The bedding was flipped to remove the yellow stripes, and few of the pillows were changed out. The art that seemed out-of-place and barely seen before was turned 90 degrees and hung on the wall you actually notice upon entry.


The Realtor’s “before” shot didn’t express the downtown glamour this condo needed to convey:


But the “after” photography does!


It’s not just about nice furnishings and decor. Although rarely mentioned, photostyling is the pivotal last 10% of home staging that makes all the difference. Never underestimate its power!

Join the elite group of 114 Expert Psychological Stagers™ across the country by attending my Septemeber certification course! Sign up before we’re sold out. Find out more here:

If you are interested in living in this fabulous high-rise condo or just want to see more photos, check out the listing here!




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12 thoughts on “The Last 10% – The Art and Science of Photostyling

  1. Lisa W says:

    Kristie this is SO helpful and very timely for me. You recently helped me with the colors for my lake rental property and I want to have some truly fabulous photos done, and wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. This helps me understand better. Here’s my question – how do I find someone to take the photos who also understands what you’re talking about? I can do my best but a pro would do so much better obviously. Thank you – for this post and for your help!!

  2. Sandy says:

    Beautiful work! One other thing I noticed is that, besides your styling addition, in actually taking the photos, it makes a big difference when we can see the details of the view outside the windows.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Yes, Sandy – you are right. And it can be a tricky thing to get good inside/outside light balance. Drawing the eye outside windows always makes interior spaces appear larger. Even those tall floor lamps placed in front of the windows draw the eyes up and out from the furnishings that cluster in the lower third of the photos.

  3. Phyllis E says:

    Wow– it is amazing to see the difference in the “befores” and “afters” even in a property that actually WAS staged in the BEFORE! So many times, when we see before and afters online, the before shot is obviously unstaged, so it can seem a little bit like comparing apples to oranges! These are so convincing of the need for not only good photography, but great photostyling! You are so talented–not only a great designer and stager, but an amazing photostyler, too! You have an amazing eye for what works, Kristie!

  4. Susan says:

    The results were amazing. I can’t believe the difference the light in the room and the way the photos were framed made in the end result. It actually looked like a different apartment from the original photos. Could you please share what camera you used and the settings…I’m sure these beautiful photos could not be done on a phone or point & shoot camera.

  5. Susan says:

    What an amazing difference from the before photos. I can’t believe the difference the light in the room and the way the photos were framed made in the end result. It actually looked like a different apartment from the original photos. Could you please share what camera you used and the settings…I’m sure these beautiful photos could not be done on a phone or point & shoot camera.

  6. Hollie @ Stuck on Hue says:

    The staging made a huge difference, as did the photo angles and the photography/editing itself. We sold our own house in the last year, and I just helped my mom stage her house for realty photos last week. It’s hard to balance a clean, un-distracting look, while still making the space have interest and look inviting. Well done!

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