Ryan Lahiff, photography manager at IMAGEination.tv Australia, estimates that he has snapped more than 10,000 properties over the past 12 years. Here, he shares his expert tips on how to get the best pictures for your property.
What are some of the key elements of a good real estate photograph?
“Traditionally good real estate photos are about space. Unlike, say, a magazine feature, real estate photos need to convey space, because that’s what people are buying, whereas, say, a nice magazine feature is more about the things that are in people’s houses, the nice furniture or the way they’ve styled something nicely. Space is what real estate is all about so we try to make rooms look as big and open and bright and airy as possible.”
Does that mean it’s best to keep furniture and decorations to a minimum?
“To a degree; you want to walk that fine line between de-cluttering to make a room look neat and tidy but not going so far that you’re depersonalising – there’s almost that risk of taking too much away so that it looks like a display home; you take away that personality and that soul. Despite what I said earlier about selling the space rather than people’s things that are in it, the things that are in it can go a long way to setting a tone and a mood that encourages people to want to come and look at a house and potentially buy a house. Kitchen areas, kitchen benches, tend to be natural hording spots in most people’s houses so generally we would encourage the owners to take away all of the appliances – kettles, toasters, things like that – and just keep things that are on the benches to an absolute minimum.”
What are some of the most important things an agent or seller can do before the photographer arrives?
“I think the biggest one is just being prepared and … thinking about what the photographer will need. Obvious examples [include] making sure lights work, that broken bulbs are changed, particularly if you’re doing dusk shots. It’s also being aware of not [just] what’s in the room but what you can see outside the room as well. Some people put a huge amount of effort into preparing a room but don’t think about all the junk that they’ve hidden and it’s clearly visible through the windows. [It’s also good to discuss with your agent and know which rooms will be shot before the photographer arrives]; quite often we’ll turn up and people will have spent hours and hours preparing rooms that we don’t even need to worry about.”
Which areas should people usually prepare?
“The main areas we focus on are the front and back of the house – yards, swimming pools, things like that – and inside, generally, we’ll stick to the main living areas – so the kitchens, lounge rooms, dining rooms, living spaces. If we’re going to shoot a bedroom it would generally only ever be the master bedroom, we don’t, or very rarely would we ever, shoot kids bedrooms, guest bedrooms, things like that unless they have an amazing view or some special feature. Bathrooms we sometimes shoot but not always.”
What are some of the most common mistakes that people make in preparing their homes for a professional photo shoot?
“I would never say there’s a mistake because at the end of the day the photographer will just adapt to whatever is presented to them and as photographers we need to be very versatile to work with any number of situations. However, things to avoid would be very clichéd things when you set up a room. To give a classic example, things like the champagne bottle with a couple of glasses; it’s very ‘80s set styling and we tend to try to avoid that now.”
What sort of props can help to enhance a real estate photograph?
“Fruit and flowers are the obvious ones. With flowers you want to always have appropriate sized flowers – you don’t want a vase with 10-foot tall branches in it on a table because it just dominates. Fruit is definitely a huge bonus, particularly when it’s done with a sense of purpose [for example] colour co-ordinating the fruits so it’s all red apples or all green apples is a lot better than just a general collection of fruit in a bowl. But certainly things like fruit and flowers are a huge help to just convey a sense of colour and that certainly can make even the most boring room look a little more interesting and inviting. In terms of other props, every house is different so it’s hard to bring things in on a small scale and have them suit what’s there. Generally the photographer will work with what the seller has on offer to coordinate cushions or bits and pieces to set a tone or a mood.”
Is professional styling necessary for all properties?
“It always helps from a photography point of view. It’s very easy to shoot an empty house however rooms don’t tend to have a sense of purpose or a sense of scale. [Potential buyers] will generally struggle to visualise furniture in a room without there being furniture [and] I think average people just don’t get a scale of how big rooms are when there’s not furniture in there. I think it’s a worthwhile investment and it’s something worth spending good money on; as with most things in life, you can cheap out and take the very cheap option but I think in photos and when people turn up, if they see cheap styling they tend to associate cheapness to the house and I think that sends the wrong message.”
By Brooke Lewis I IMAGEination.tv