The Power of the Pic: Real Estate Photography that Sells

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True story: I was working with one of my preferred real estate agents to get her listing ready to go on the market. It was a lovely four-level townhouse in Waldorf, Maryland.

The owners worked hard to make repairs and improvements, and they staged the house so that it would show well.

We did a photo shoot, the agent put the listing on the market and she scheduled an open house. And do you know what happened?

Within 24 hours, she had multiple requests for showings, and one buyer said they were ready to make an offer—based on the photographs alone.

Yep, that's right. They fell in love with the house and immediately made their offer based on the online listing photos!

The agent canceled the scheduled showings, canceled the open house, and the owners accepted the buyer’s offer, which was $5,000 over the listing price! So not only was the house under contract in under two days on the market, but also the buyer never had to deal with showings or open houses.

Can you imagine selling your house to someone who made an offer without stepping foot inside? I’m here to tell you that it can happen. But here’s the thing: you’ve got to take your listing photos seriously because they can make or break your sale.

According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, 95% of buyers use an online website to search for homes. You read that right—pretty much everybody starts their home search online. So, what does this mean for you if you’re selling your home?

It means the way your house looks online is critical. If your photos don’t impress buyers, then that’s the end of the road for many of them. They’re moving on to other listings that look better in pictures, and those are the houses they’ll end up touring in person and ultimately buying.

Or, like the true story I told you today, if they fall in love with someone else's pictures online, they just might buy that house, sight unseen.

But don’t worry, because you can make your house can stand out among the online crowd, too. How, you ask? Here are a few tips to help you get it done:

1. Get professional photos

Sorry, but cell phone pics simply won’t do. It’s critical that you (or your real estate agent) find a professional photographer to capture your listing photos. Hire someone who is familiar with real estate photography and understands the way buyers need to see a house online.

If you’re going the DIY route, invest in a DSLR camera to capture high-quality shots. Find a few online tutorials to help you understand how to use a professional-grade camera like a pro.

2. Make your photos tell a story

I like to shoot my photos in a way that takes the buyer on a tour of the home, from the front door to the backyard. This helps them get a feel for the house’s layout and walks them go through their mental checklist of features that they want.

3. Use the right lens

A wide angle lens makes a room look larger, but not in a deceptive way. The lens captures as much of the room as possible so buyers know exactly what it looks like in person and can envision themselves living in the room.

My favorite is the Rokinon 14mm F2.8, which is a full frame ultra wide angle lens that fits DSLR cameras. Remember: people want to see the whole house, not tiny vignettes within the house. Taking photos without a wide angle lens limits how much people can see and feel, so make sure you or your photographer will use this key piece of equipment.

4. Declutter your home

House hunters love the sight of an organized, clutter-free home because it fits the vision of how they want to live. But when buyers see a house that’s overrun with clutter, they think the house is too small, or it doesn’t have enough storage, or they think it looks and feels dirty.

That's not how you want buyers to perceive your home, because if that's what they’re thinking, chances are, they're not buying. Or if they’re interested in buying, they’re making a lowball offer.

Why? Because if your house doesn’t measure up to everything they want in a dream home, they’ll only buy it if you make some concessions. And your asking price is usually the first thing that takes a hit.

To avoid turning people off with your excess stuff, get your house decluttered and organized before you put it on the market. Consult a professional stager or home organizer if you need help figuring out how to pare things down.

5. Stage your home

The best way to dress your house for impressive photos is through home staging. A stager has an objective eye and can work wonders to get your house ready for its close-up.

The way a room looks to the naked eye is different from the way it looks in a photo, so consult a professional stager to tell you exactly what you need to do to make each room in your house photo-ready so you can stop buyers’ fingers from scrolling past your house online.

by Jennifer Westbrook | Main Stage Home Staging & Organizing

To get expert home staging advice in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, contact Jennifer at Main Stage Home Staging & Organizing, 240-324-8280, or

And if you’re outside the Washington, DC metro area, check out our Virtual Staging Consultations for online home staging advice.