Real Estate Tips for Photographing Your Staged Home

For a faster, more profitable home sale

Open kitchen/living room.Photo by

Photographing your staged home for online real estate viewing is one of the most important steps in getting buyers to your house. Make it worth their while by posting flattering pictures of your home.

Online real estate photographs are the first thing that buyers look for when they search for a new home-- over 90% to be precise.

A recent survey found that 86% of home buyers felt that online real estate pictures were the most important and useful feature of their search, so photographing your staged home is crucial to the selling of your house.

Additionally, most buyers said they skipped right past listings that didn't have house pictures to view. It's human nature to be suspicious and wonder why pictures are missing--what are they hiding?! If you want to get your house sold, you must include visual elements of it online.

DIY tips for photographing your staged home

Dramatic windows with a water view.Dramatic windows, high ceilings, a sea view, lots of natural light...what's not to like?

This page doesn't deal with which camera to use or camera settings, but rather with guidelines to help you set up the perfect shot for online real estate pictures.

The only thing you need is a good camera or cell phone capable of producing high-resolution photographs.

If you have a good camera, that's still preferable to using a cell phone.

I was once a camera purist, but almost changed my mind when my camera batteries died in the middle of a house photo shoot. I was miles from nowhere, so I had to finish with my cellphone.

The final result surprised me. My cell phone pictures looked pretty good!

Take some time to scroll through some online real estate pictures. There are plenty of bad examples out there.

Take note of why some look better (or worse!) than others. 

Be sure that your property shows well BEFORE presenting your photos to the public. Hopefully, you will have cleaned, depersonalized and staged your home.

Staged kitchen with immaculate countertops and a basket of green apples.A kitchen must be immaculate for online photos. Stage your kitchen with a food vignette that presents a fun lifestyle.

When photographing your staged home, present a lifestyle that home buyers are looking for. Browse through interior design magazine for ideas and current trends.

Highlight special features

Symmetrical living room with fireplace.This photo focuses on the symmetry of this living room. Photo by Studio Munroe.

Compose your pictures. When photographing your staged home, be sure to highlight high-end details and focal points of each room. Shoot close-up pictures of interesting features like;

  • crown molding 
  • beautiful light fixtures
  • a showpiece range hood
  • high-end appliances
  • high-end kitchen cabinets
  • a kitchen island
  • a cozy fireplace
  • an open floor plan
  • an amazing view from a deck
  • a beautiful landscape
  • interesting architectural details, like rustic beams, beautiful windows or tray ceilings
  • unique outdoor features like; an outdoor entertaining area, a sparkling swimming pool, hot tub, built-in barbecue, a greenhouse, tennis court, children's play area, etc.
  • For more diy tips on photographing your home exterior and outdoor spaces, see six must-have online real estate photos.

Setting up your shots

Beautifully painted home exterior by NolanPainting.comA beautifully painted house by Photograph the home exterior at an angle to show the depth of the house.
  • Use a tripod or other flat surface to avoid blurring your photos or tilting them.
  • It may seem logical to shoot straight at a wall, but the result can often make a room seem flat and the walls appear to bend. 
  • A common mistake is trying to capture an entire room in one shot, unless the room is so small and can't be avoided. Snap your shot from an entry-way or room corner.
  • Photographing three walls can create a boxed-in effect. In general, no more than half of a room should be visible in a shot. This means that only two walls and parts of the ceiling and floor will be in the frame. 

Pick up after yourself. I once left a bottle of Windex on the windowsill of a home I had staged. I didn't notice it until later after the picture went live!

  • Be aware of clutter and other distracting details-- clear them away before snapping your pictures. 
  • If an object or piece of furniture “jumps” out at you in a photograph, remove it and retake the picture from a different vantage point. The point of staging is to simplify and get rid of anything that distracts from your home's best features.

Take pictures from the corner of a room. This will emphasize the square footage of a space.

  • Here's a tip for highlighting a room's dimensions. Stand in one corner of a room and take pictures from that angle. Be sure to repeat that shot in the opposite corner so you get the entire room.
  • Take exterior photos at an angle, as well. This will show off the depth of your home.
  • Avoid using an ultra-wide angle-lens which can distort the size of a room. Trying to make your home look bigger then it is will only anger buyers when they see it in person.
  • Avoid placing subjects dead center in the frame of your photograph--too boring! Instead, mentally divide the frame into thirds and place your subject along one of those lines. This is called "the rule of thirds." Placing your subject off-center just makes a more interesting composition. 
White bathroom with a reflection of a window.Photographing from an angle shows buyers the window in the mirror's reflection.
  • Consider perspective when photographing your staged home. As the photographer, you not only get to choose your subject, you decide how viewers will see it. The angle in which you hold your camera effects the way the subject appears to the viewer.

  • For instance, vertical lines can look crooked, instead of straight if you tilt the camera up or down. To avoid "perspective distortion," keep the camera angle vertical, straight and level.
  • Shooting from standing height can cause perspective distortion as well. Squat down or use your legs like a tripod. 
  • Be aware of the size of objects inside the frame. Large objects will appear closer to the viewer and will seem more prominent in importance. When highlighting a particular feature or object, make sure it's framed close enough so that it doesn't compete with other objects in the room.
  • Here's the best tip of all! Take as many pictures as you can. The more photographs you take, the more pictures you’ll have to select from.  
  • Zoom in and out. Experiment. You will be amazed at how different your space will look from different vantage points. 

The best lighting for interior pictures

Front entry photographed in natural light.Natural light brightens this home entry.

When taking interior pictures, try to do it using only natural light and on a sunny day. Open up all the draperies and window shades.

The best picture taking light occurs in early morning (30 minutes after sunrise) and late afternoon (one hour before sunset) when the light is softer. If lacking enough natural light, turn on some interior lights.

A well-lit interior is essential when photographing your staged home, so turn on all the lights if natural lighting isn't enough.

Avoid using a flash, if possible. A flash often creates a hard light, shadows, or an eerie quality. It will also reflect off windows and mirrors.

The feature wall in your photograph should be well lit. If lighting is insufficient, bring in a floor lamp and point it toward the subject wall. When photographing your staged home, make sure the light is behind you when you snap your pictures.

Bring in an extra floor or table lamp to fill dark corner spaces. Your goal is to balance the light so that there are no over-lit or under-lit spots in the shot. 

Be aware of glare from windows, mirrors, and shiny objects in the room. Don't aim your light source directly at mirrors or windows-- the reflection will produce a harsh glare.

Avoid pointing your camera directly toward a light source. This can produce shadows that muddle most of your image.

A soft light is most desirable for shooting photographs, so take your pictures in early morning or late afternoon. I call this the "magic hour." 

Make good use of the light that is available in the room. Play with the shades, open the window treatments... experiment.

If you’re relying on natural light alone, the best time to shoot depends on the placement and size of windows.

If too much light is coming in from the windows, close the drapes or window shades. Never photograph straight into the light.

Bright light in the background is better than indoor lighting. You may want to experiment at different times of the day to see which lighting you prefer.

A general rule of thumb when photographing your staged home, is that eastside rooms should be taken in the morning, and westside in the afternoon. Rooms with northern and southern exposure should be taken when the rooms are at their brightest.

Don't shoot on a rainy, dreary day. This will make your home appear dismal and uninviting. 

Home exterior picture with night lighting.Outdoor landscape lighting creates a welcoming home exterior at night

Avoid shooting pictures when the sun is glaring in the windows. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right light.

Home exterior night photos can be a charming addition to your online listing photos. Maybe you have appealing outdoor landscape lighting or a welcoming porch you’d like to highlight? 

Indoor pictures can be taken at night, but the results won't be as reliable. Turn on all the lights and use your flash. Experiment by moving extra lamps around to improve your shots.

Home exterior shots taken on a bright sunny day make cast dark shadows on your home. Exterior shots often turn out better taken on overcast days.

Posting your pictures online

  • When you are ready to post your pictures online, start with the exterior shots of the front of the house, then go room to room, as if you are walking through the house. End with pictures of the back of the house and back yard.

  • Post 20 to 30 photos for your online real estate listing.
  • Don’t forget to use your picture editor to fix your less-than-perfect photographs, but don't over edit.
  • Be sure to label each picture as well, so viewers don't have to guess which room they're looking at.

What NOT to do before photographing your staged home...

Fluffing - This is a real estate term for exaggerating, by using descriptions to make a home sound better than it really is. This can be done with online real estate pictures as well. Fluffing, or fluffery, is done for the sole purpose of getting home buyers in the door.

Office interior staged with just a desk and a chair.Don't leave a room empty--all you need are a few pieces to indicate the function of a room

As a former realtor, I viewed it as a complete waste of time, because when buyers actually saw the house, they were so irritated, they couldn't view the home objectively!

Fraud - Avoid photoshopping too much. You could run into ethical issues if you falsely straighten up a deteriorating chimney, add wood flooring where none exists, or edit out a gravel pit next door. It’s acceptable to edit out things like your dog or a car in the driveway, or the garbage can you forgot to take in.

Take care that you don't falsely misrepresent your house by making it took too good. Buyers will only be disappointed and walk away angry.

  • Don't photograph bathrooms with a toilet seats up...EVER! Close those lids. This, along with wet towels and a drippy bar of soap are huge buyer turn offs. 
  • Don't put blurry pictures online! Use a tripod or other flat surface to steady your shots and take the time to get it right. 
  • Avoid publishing your photos upside down or sideways. Real estate agents do this all the time on the MLS. Take the time to rotate the pictures properly. 

Avoid taking a picture in the bathroom with your image in it.Avoid making this mirror selfie faux pas!
  • Don't take pictures of empty rooms, as they don’t leave an impression on viewers. Add a piece of furniture; a desk and chair, a bed...something to give the viewer a sense of purpose, scale, and perspective.
  • Never leave a room out of an online gallery when photographing your staged home. People are always suspicious when a room is left out. What are they hiding?
  • Do your dishes! I know, that sounds obvious, but I've seen many real estate pictures featuring a sink full of dishes, plus I showed may houses where the sink was full of dishes. 
  • Keep people out of the pictures. This makes it hard for buyers to see themselves living there. A cute kitty laying on a bed can be charming, though, but may scare off buyers with allergies. It's your decision. See depersonalizing your home.

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Updated 9-12-2022