Real estate

From slanted photos to photobombs, 10 listing picture do's and don'ts

Aug. 21, 2014 at 2:22 PM ET

Your bags are packed — you’re ready to move. The last thing you want to do is follow your agent’s advice about putting time and money into your listing photos. But if you don’t, your photos could prevent the home from selling quickly. Consider 10 do’s and don’ts to help your listing attract the attention it deserves.

Do: Take a shot from the curb. 

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Zillow

Showing off your home’s curb appeal should be top-of-mind as buyers often decide in a matter of minutes (or seconds) whether they want to keep looking or move on to another listing. Make sure you get the whole house in the shot and don’t have cars or other objects blocking your line of sight.

Don’t: Create a landslide.

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Zillow

When taking a shot from the curb, be mindful of your camera’s angle. The roof line should be parallel with the photo’s frame to make it look level — not look like there’s a landslide on the property.

Related: 10 things I wish I knew before buying a house

Do: Welcome visitors.

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Zillow

An attractive front door and entryway go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of your home. Leaving the door open in one of your photos can also send a welcoming message.

Don’t: Threaten visitors.

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Zillow

It’s hard to believe, but this is an actual listing photo. The real estate agent told the New York Postthat kids created a haunted house on the property without anyone’s permission. The moral of the story? Make sure you do a walk-through before you hire photographers.

Do: Consider a bird’s-eye view.

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Zillow

Taking a photo from above is a great way to show off a large property or a waterfront location. It’s best if you can get close enough so the home is visible without having to draw an arrow or a box around it.

Don’t: Consider a fish-eye lens.

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Zillow

Some use a fish-eye lens to make smaller spaces appear larger. However, they often have the opposite effect, making the space feel smaller and distorted. As a general rule of thumb, stick with a traditional lens for listing photos and make updates to rooms to make them appear bigger.

Do: Capture your home’s selling points.

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Zillow

You may think it’s best to skip the bathroom when taking listing photos, but if yours was recently updated, show it off! Bathrooms are among the first spaces to be upgraded in newly-owned homes,according to the American Institute of Architects.

Don’t: Capture yourself in the mirror.

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Zillow

Adding a mirror to a room is one way to add more light to a room. And while a vanity can be a home’s selling point, you want buyers to picture themselves in the mirror — not you. Stay out of your listing photos by avoiding angles where you or the flash of your camera may be reflected.

Do: Stage each room.

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Zillow

While there are several options to consider when staging your home, the key is to put your best foot forward in your listing photos. In the kitchen pictured above, a vase of flowers freshens the space without hiding the countertops or other high-end finishes.

Don’t: Stage a mess.

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Zillow

If there is one absolute “no” when it comes listing photos, it’s capturing a mess. It’s one of the things sellers do that drive agents nuts. To check if your level of cleanliness is the right amount, do the “grandma test” by asking yourself if your grandma would feel at home here.

Do: Play up the season.

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Zillow

Even if your home has sat on the market for a while, it will seem up-to-date if the photos reflect the season. If it’s summer, take a sunny photo of the backyard. If it’s winter, create a cozy feel with a fire and a warm blanket.

Don’t: Play up your holiday decor.

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Zillow

Over-the-top holiday decor can be a turn-off, especially if buyers don’t celebrate that holiday. Instead, consider ways to decorate for the season as a whole and take photos of rooms without themed decor.

Do: Show off the view

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Zillow

If the view is one of your home’s selling points, you’ll definitely want to show it off. It’s best if you can capture it with a part of the house — such as the deck or porch — in the shot. That way, buyers can tell where the view is from and more easily picture themselves there.

Don’t: Show off your pets.

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Zillow

It’s best to focus on the parts of your home that will be there when a buyer moves in. As much as you may love your pets, showing them off can come across like false advertising.

Do: Consider the backdrop.

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Zillow

If a room in your home has an incredible backdrop, try to capture it in your photos. This covered porch is a great example of how you can showcase the interior space while also giving a nod to the home’s surroundings. Rearranging the furniture can also have a dramatic impact on a space.

Don’t: Consider a screenshot.

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Zillow

It can be tempting to take a screenshot of an online street-view of your home, but don’t do it! Even if you don’t want to hire a professional, your own exterior photo is likely a better option for your listing.

Do: Show off architectural details.

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Zillow

Archways, nooks and crannies may be hard to photograph, but they are what give your home its character. Try to capture a few of the architectural details if you can.

Don’t: Show off architectural blunders.

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Zillow

Every home has its blemishes, but that doesn’t mean you have to capture them all in the photos. The listing is the time put your best foot forward; the open house and inspection are when the buyer can take note of the imperfections. You may also want to consider making a few small improvements, like updating the bathroom, before listing your home.

Do: Take a night shot with the lights on.

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Zillow

While it’s easy to assume daytime shots are the best, a nighttime exterior shot can create the right amount of contrast to make your photos stand out. The key is to leave your home’s interior and exterior lights on while you take the photo.

Don’t: Take an interior shot in the dark.

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Zillow

When it comes to interior photos, the more light, the better. Use lamps and daytime window light to make your photos as bright as possible, while still looking natural.

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Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.

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© 2006-2014 Zillow Inc., All Rights Reserved

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