Photographing your House: What Counts is on the Outside

By: Ken Hamric

You've made the big decision. You've set a good price, taken inventory of your home's best features, written them up in a compelling ad, staked the for sale sign on the front lawn and paid to have the ad online. But when people do find your ad, will it stand out? In that first 1-5 seconds of assessment, does the main photo you've included say what you want it to say? A poor photo, or even worse - no photo - can completely sabotage all your efforts to reach the right buyer.

Eighty percent of buyers start their real estate search on the Internet and the truth is that the exterior photo of your home will be noticed before any other aspect of your marketing plan. If it's bad, you might lose your audience before you've even had the chance to say vaulted ceilings or walk-in closet. So don't settle for poorly lit pictures, pictures with bad color, or photos that don't show off the most beautiful aspects of your house. Here's how.

Tips to taking a good exterior photo:

LIGHTING

Photography is all about lighting so unless you live in a forest, don't bother taking a picture when your house is cast in shadow - it will look dreary. Some other factors to consider:

Color of Light: We have a tendency to think of outside light as being neutral in color, but it's not. The colors in your photo will be affected by light reflecting off a particularly blue sky, wet green lawn or bright fall foliage. Color will also be affected by the time of day. Early morning light and evening light simply produce warmer, more compelling colors than glaring noonday sun. In general, avoid taking photos between 10 and two pm.

Direction of Light: Unless you're trying to take a silhouette of your house, make sure that the sun isn't shining directly at the camera. The sun should either be behind you, or to the side for best results. Light that comes from the side will add drama.

Quality of Light: Again, though you want really good lighting, this doesn't mean you want glare. Extremely bright light will wash out the color in your photo and create harsh shadows.

ANGLE

Walk the perimeter of your property and find the best angles to shoot from. Experiment. In order to emphasize your home's best features, ask yourself: what are the main selling points? Is there a way to capture these in an exterior photo? Do you have waterfront property? Get the water in the photo, or get out in a boat and take pictures that include the beach. Have you been working on your garden for the past 20 years? Don't leave it out. Go with your instincts - what

GLAMOR

If you haven't done this already, dress the exterior of your house up as best you can. Mow the lawn, weed the garden, and please please please remove your garbage can or any other non-glamorous items from the shoot. Yes, they're a fact of life, but no, they aren't pretty and won't help you sell your house.

VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME

Any photo won't do - it has to be the right photo. If you've ever seen a photographer at work, you know that when they do a photo shoot, they move around taking photo after photo. Dozens, hundreds of images that are very very much the same but with different variations of light and angle. Why? Because even the trained professional doesn't always see what the camera sees. sometimes you really have to hunt for the right image. Though you might get lucky and capture the beauty of your home the first time - if you don't, go out any try again. For the professional photographer, the right photo will make the cover. For the home seller, the right photo will get you a showing.

Fortunately, we live in the digital age so taking multiple photos shouldn't cost you a thing. If you don't have a digital camera, borrow one from a friend or relative.

FINISHING TOUCHES

Once you've taken your photos, downloaded them to your computer and found the perfect shot, take a minute to prepare your photo for display. Check the photo specifications on the site you're uploading to and resize your photo for best results. At minimum, you should change the pixel dimensions to 72 pixels per inch. You may also want to play around with cropping, brightness and contrast and color tools. If you don't have photo editing software on your computer, there are decent products available for free online.

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