Will Professional Photos Sell Your House Faster?

When I started doing research for this post, I tried to put myself in the mind of a person who:
     A) wants to do things themselves.
     B) has never done this before. 

This was not a stretch. 

My photography ability is somewhere in the same neighborhood as my dancing. Suffice it to say that if we are ever together and I announce that I’m going to “bust a move” chances are I’ve had too much to drink and you should avert your eyes. There are some things you just can’t unsee. 

Since my skills are at the “beginner” level, like all DIY Champions, I went to the web for information. Holy cow, you can find lots of free advice on how to take real estate photos. Just one small problem…

When professionals give advice to amateurs, they usually end up making you feel stupid.

Their fear tactics have you believing you should NEVER attempt this yourself. That is unless you spend thousands on camera equipment, lighting, photo editing software, and a beret-wearing assistant. 

Like Realtors, professional photographers tend to make beginners feel incompetent with their “free advice” that instead of building your know-how and confidence, you end up walking away with a pit in your stomach. Allow me to sum up all their advice in four words: “You suck. Hire me”.

I did run across a study that says homes with professional pictures sell 32% faster. After further investigation, it turns out the “study” was conducted by a photography company that specializes in real estate. Also they only considered homes they were paid to shoot.  Talk about your study bias…

During their conclusions, the study featured confirming quotes from several local Realtors (aka customers). I guess the goal was to lend an air of truth to the article. Yeah—that really helps. Why don’t we get a few politicians and used car dealers down here to weigh in while we are at it? Unbelievable…literally.

The lesson: Never ask a hungry photographer if you need professional photos.

If you’re not a good photographer or don’t know what good photography looks like, you can learn, that’s what this post is here for. If you don’t want to fool with it, go ahead and spend a few dollars and get them done professionally. Part of being good at DIY is knowing when to call for in the pros. 

But before you do that…ask yourself:

  • Will professional photos be better than your photos? I sure as hell hope so. If not, get your money back. 
  • Do you need professional photos to sell your house? I don’t think so.
  • Will professional photos sell your house faster? Well…let’s just put it this way:

Good photos will not sell your house faster, but bad or no photos will slow it down. 

You’re not going to sell the house with the ad so DO NOT expect professional pictures to sell the house either. The goal of any home ad is to make the phone ring or to fill up the showing calendar with buyers. First, you get showings, then you get offers.

If buyers are not showing up, and your photos are good then paying someone to enhance your pictures is not likely to get the offers you seek.  In my humble opinion, you need to lower your price amigo–but that’s another topic.

A word of caution: make sure the pictures accurately represent the property.

Attracting people under false pretenses is a sure-fire recipe for failure. If you set expectations beyond reality, buyers will show up. And when they do, you will immediately out yourself as a dirty liar.

Lies are not a great way to start that buyers/seller relationship. Better to have good honest photos so at least buyer expectations are set correctly when they show up. 

Over the years, I’ve seen many professionally shot and edited real estate photos. We’re talking photos that are so good, you run out to see it only to find yourself double-checking the address.

The photos showed a golf-course lawn. This looks a bit more like the abandoned lot next to an old factory. Patches missing; a few weeds and wait…is that a road 10 feet from the front door? The picture doesn’t show that? Next, step inside and find out the photographer used 30 studio lights and a $5000 wide-angle lens. The great room ain’t so great in person.

Your buyers shouldn’t be asking “Did we come to the wrong house?”.

Note: It’s okay to enhance the photos with some color and photoshop out the soccer ball you didn’t notice until later. Just keep things as close to reality as possible. 

They say learning comes from repetition so…one more time…the job of the photos is (all together now) to get more showings. Remember, good photos make you want to see the place–bad photos make you want to keep browsing. And I have an example to prove it:

Years ago, there was this house in our town that my wife and I really loved. When it went up for sale, we were so excited… until we saw the interior pictures. We ended up passing on it. We looked at about a dozen other houses in town over the next 6-8 weeks.

Eventually the listing agent called me and convinced us to go see the house despite the impression the pictures gave us. So, as a favor to the listing agent (she’s one of the realtors I actually like), my wife and I went to see it. Remember, this house was at one time the house we planned on buying until we saw the photos. As soon as we opened the door we knew this was the house for us. 

The point is: We could have looked at this house anytime we wanted, but the pictures online were so incredibly bad that we chose to waste time looking at 12 other houses first. Not to mention that the seller had to wait another month for the house to sell because his bad pictures weren’t generating interest. 

So, how can you take really good honest photos yourself?

You, my friend, need a roadmap. I may be biased, but I would highly recommend MY comprehensive photo checklist found HERE.

Since the goal of the photos is not to sell the house I think we can agree that 15-25 is more than enough. You definitely want to include the major rooms and capture key features like the expansiveness of your backyard, but buyers don’t need to see every square inch of the property from 22 different angles.

Take lots of photos. Experiment using the tips and ideas in the checklist and try not to overwhelm buyers with hundreds of photos. Whichever photos you do end up using, keep in mind that just like your property descriptions, the photography needs to move the viewer to take action. Action like calling you up and booking a showing. Nothing else will do…

To put another layer of insurance on this project, have someone who doesn’t spend time at your house look over your pictures. We all have things in our homes we don’t even notice since we see them all the time.  Nothing like a big ceiling stain or one of your quirky animal heads in the background to scare off potential visitors.

Last, I know I went on a sermon up there about being honest with your pictures, but that being said, it’s a good idea to do some basic adjustments to the photos (i.e. color contrast, highlighting to remove shadows).

Here are three resources that may help you: 
1. Free editing software that can help you get the most out of your photos. 
2. Free editing software for cropping, contrast, brightness, and color filtering. 
3. They take your photos and make them better. For about $1.60 per photo, last I checked, they will fix things like color and contrast. Maybe you don’t need it for all photos, but for the main ones it’s probably not a bad investment. 

No, buyers are probably not going to call you up and offer you full-price just from scrolling through your photos. We just need them to get off the couch and come over for a quick tour. You and your magnetic personality will take care of the rest.

Remember that buyers look for reasons NOT to buy. Bad pictures are the silent deal killer. If you turn off the buyer pool with horrible photos – you’ll never get the chance to WOW them on the showing.  So get out my handy checklist and start taking amazing photos–photos that will have them lining up at your doorstep.

Now, grab your iPhone, make like Pat Benatar and hit me with your best shot! You got this!

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