The Value of High Quality Photos for Real Estate Listings

In previous writings for Rain City Guide on the subject of real estate photography, I’ve emphasized more of a ‘how to’ or ‘how to improve’ approach for Realtor’s who photograph their own listings. I want to shift my emphasis toward raising awareness regarding the value of high quality photography for listings and actually learning to recognize the difference between a bad photographic presentation of a listing and a really good one. Or to put it another way, acknowledging a poor photo presentation when it is and hopefully doing something about it. As a photographer who works almost exclusively with Realtors, I am continuously mystified by the disregard by so many Realtors locally and nationwide who seem to be clueless regarding the photos used to market their listing. To simply purchase a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera and walk around your seller’s home snapping away and expecting a satisfactory result is simply not going to cut it. In most cases there is more to it than that and unless you consider photography a hobby and worth time invested in the necessary skill development, you might be much better off hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listing. Many of the best Realtors do use professional photographers and they’re not fools.

This is a comment from my previous article by a St. Louis Realtor that deserves a more prominent view.

First time poster here: Glad to see some recognition of this problem! The most important thing an agent can do for their sellers today is to get lots of superior images up on the web. Here in St. Louis I am continually astounded at the plethora of dark, awful images, and “what were they thinking” photos of toilets, ceiling fans, etc, or NO PHOTOS at all! How do these [realtors] even get listings?

For most of my listings, I take a lot of my own photos, as I have a background in photography and image correction, so I have hi-res images for color flyers, but I ALSO have a great local photographer who comes in and shoots a batch of wonderful web-ready wideangle shots and virtual tours…

It’s worth the investment (typical agent–“you mean you actually PAY someone to shoot your listings? That costs MONEY!”) My business would be a lot less successful without quality photos.

And this is taken from a follow up email from Shannon. “It would help the profession if we all did better than this, although I’m happy many of my local competitors are still so bad at it!

This is really a great article by Norm Fisher, a Saskatoon realtor, with a virtual tour of some of the photos that were taken from the Saskatoon mls. “The Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photography Hall of Fame”. Click on the links in the article to be taken to the virtual tour page. Norm’s humorous audio narration of the tour are really worth a visit.

A typical comment from a friend who have done an internet search for a home makes comments like, “I sure see a lot of dark, out of focus, awful photos’. Are they hiding something they don’t want me to see?”

I am getting calls from Realtors with listings from low end houses and small condos to spacious multi-million dollar homes. One might think that even a very basic home that is in decent condition deserves to be marketed well. If I’m the seller of a modest home, the sale of my home and the potential price is certainly important to me. I’d like to know that my Realtor is doing a professional job of marketing my home and taking care of the details. Lousy shots do not inspire confidence in the agent and the points a Realtor might earn by producing a good photographic presentation, or in many cases, simply hiring a professional photographer, are going to make it more likely that I’m going to be a happy customer. Happy customers equal referrals. And where are Realtors without referrals?

I’d like to conclude with one of my favorite photos of 2006, taken from a listing near Greenlake. This is one of the most ‘kid friendly, family friendly’ homes I’ve ever seen and it was a delight to see and photograph this whimsical, artsy abode. Doesn’t everyone wish they had swing and a chalkboard wall in their living room when they were kids?


22 thoughts on “The Value of High Quality Photos for Real Estate Listings

  1. Couldn’t agree more. If a listing agent is going to earn up to $15K for selling a $500K home the least they should do is spring the couple hundred dollars to hire a professional photographer. While I consider myself a photo enthusiast with a great eye and top of the line digitial SLR, I still hire a professional (I can provide names) to take the snaps. Given that photos drive so much of our marketing this is not a place to cut expenses. This level of service can be a huge source of differentiation amongst agents competing for a listing.

    I knew that Green Lake home looked familiar. Great home but unfortunate location for the price (on the market for 7 months with no price adjustment?).

  2. Mark,

    Great post. Thanks for touching on mine.

    I always assume that the seller will be one of the first visitors to my website after I post their property. With that in mind, I try to put together a presentation that they’ll feel good about.

    Your point about professional photography is a good one. No doubt, images like yours will really stand apart from the masses. However, many agents, even those with a point and shoot camera, could improve their images dramatically with just a tiny bit of care.

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  4. Unfortunately, a lot of MLSs compress and downsize photos you make, so the professionalism gets lost. I think lighting and composition are much more important.

    I take my own photos because I can do a great job, and often make stitched panoramic photos to showcase larger rooms. Works very well.

    Has anyone tried HDR photography? (high dynamic range) It’s supposed to be great for dusk and evening shots because you can capture highlights and shadows perfectly in one image.

  5. My gosh that link to the really bad photos was hysterically funny. I laughed so hard I cried off my mascara. I’m with most everyone here on the value of good photos and have since switched to using a pro for all my photos.

    I use Scott Chytil of Chytil Photo for my listing photos now – and while I had a good eye and a decent camera for shooting my listings before Scott has all of the equipment necessary to make photos “pop” and to take out the lighting variations that occur with window coverings open and more. He can also do great view shots that my camera just can’t compete with too. My clients love the quality and all of our online and print materials look better and more polished.

  6. I reccomend Evan Parker with Digital Home Show. Fast, reliable, good with customers and competitively priced. He provides shots in both high rez, print and web formats and also gives you two souvenir cds one of which is a nice touch to give your sellers. (206) 660-0364 and

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  10. Dear Mark, I currently work at a real estate agency as a digital dark room developer and I cannot begin to tell you my frustration with the pictures I get every day. Every image I get, once I start to work on it becomes so grainy that it’s embaressing to put my name to. How can I help these people to take better pictures? The terrible skewing, poor lighting, and distorted camera lens are easily fixed if I could just get the pixelation under control. We sell million dollar homes here and yet they insist on amateur photographers. It’s incredible and sad!

  11. I am so glad I found this site. I am selling my home in the New Orleans suburbs. I thought I was a voice in the wilderness until I read some of your articles. The photographs of my house on the agent’s website have all come out vertically distorted. My house looks narrow and the furniture looks jammed together – after all the uncluttering and attempts to make things as spacious as possible. I cannot seem to get this across to the agent, and don’t want to appear to be picky or a problem client. I fear that even if I offer to pay for professional photography, the pictures will still be dropped into a pre-set format in their computer, and still look stupid. I know my agent sympathizes with me, but feels that she cannot do anything about it. What can I do without harming the relationship between me and my agent and her bosses? Thank you.

  12. From the agent side of the fence, yes, of course the pictures are very important. But only if no one is coming to see the home.

    If 40 people have been through the home, and no one is making an offer, great pictures are not going to cure that problem.

    Pictures can only help to get more people to the house. What happens at the house determines whether or not someone makes an offer, and pictures are a non issue at that point.

  13. Arlena, if your agent hasn’t already, she may want to try a wide angle lens and see if the photos are still distorted. If she doesn’t have that capability hopefully one of her colleagues does.

  14. Arlena,

    Email sent. I shouldn’t be so difficult to resolve. Get a good photographer. Regardless of the format they are dropped into, better photos will be better photos.


    Your experience may be different but in general a wide angle lens will not reduce distortion, it will actually increase it, more or less on how it’s used.


    Her concern, as stated, is with the photos, irregardless of who is coming to see it. Every seller has the right to have the property professionally marketed whether 0 people are visiting the property or 100. The more people who view the property (photos) in a ‘good light’ the better.

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  17. I am putting together a real estate website that others can list their properties called and I would like to know what you would recommend for file sizes and compression rates so that we can show the listings in the best light possible.

    Also are there better formats than others to save the file in? (jpeg, gif, etc?)

    Thank you,

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