The real answer to why is real estate photography so bad is that real estate agents are all independent contractors and they each get to make their own marketing and spending decisions themselves and there’s nothing forcing them to make good marketing decisions. Hence, most realtors choose to not use professional photography. This is counter intuitive to me because pictures sell real estate. Good real estate photos could make the difference between thousands of dollars in the sales price.
“Companies that sell products tend to be meticulous about the photography of the merchandise they’re advertising — the pictures are almost always crisp, detailed and attractive. So why is real estate photography so bad?
If you’ve surfed online for houses, you know what I’m talking about — the offending photos are so dimly lit you can’t tell how big the family room is. Or toys and family clutter are all over the place. Couldn’t they even bother to take the dirty dishes out of the sink before they photographed the kitchen?
Brian Balduf runs a company that provides photography services to real estate brokerages, and he has seen it all. He said the quality of real estate photographs didn’t used to matter much, but the growth of online real estate marketing and the advent of the iPad and photo-sharing sites has changed that. Balduf, chairman of Chicago-based VHT Inc., explained how it’s crucial these days that photographs of your house must really sell it:
Q: I suppose it’s easy to blame the real estate agents for poor real estate pictures — after all, they’re agents, not photographers. But why are so many of the photos so bad?
A: Agents, in the past, just marketed homes to other agents (by generally only placing photos on their multiple listing service). They weren’t marketing to consumers. Then the Internet came along, and (the photo quality) still didn’t matter a lot.
Until the iPads and tablet displays became really popular recently, all real estate photos on the Internet originated from the MLS, and the images just weren’t very detailed. But as soon as you started presenting them full screen on iPads or people were able to look at them on 50-inch, flat-panel television screens, consumers started realizing, gee, these photos are bad.
It’s interesting, because consumers aren’t used to seeing bad (marketing) photos. Every other product, even if it’s a $2 bucket atWal-Mart, is going to have a good photograph.
And the photos are going to be critical for grabbing the attention of the people who are cruising through houses on the Net — if you didn’t get them with that first impression, you may never get that buyer back.
Q: If you’re listing a home for sale, what should you ask an agent about photography?
A: First, ask to see samples (of photos of previous listings), just like with any other service provider. And ask for photos (of current listings) that are being used to market the houses you’re competing with. If you’re selling a three-bedroom, two-bath, ask to see the photos of other three-bedroom, two-baths nearby.
You’re starting to see more progressive real estate firms saying this is important, and they’re having their listings professionally photographed. But it varies a lot, regionally, and the number of professionally shot houses is small, maybe 10 to 20 percent of the market. Chicago is fairly good about using professional photography. It’s starting to pick up more on the coasts. On the West Coast, you probably see the most professional photography in San Diego.
In Florida, you’re seeing it more, and you’ll see more aerial photography there — that is, they might shoot a house from a crane or boom because buyers want to see what’s behind the house — a waterway, a pond, the Everglades.
Q: What goes into good real estate photography?
A: It’s harder than most people realize. Room photography is lighting, lighting, lighting. And when you photograph a home, you may be dealing with every kind of lighting — exterior lighting, incandescent, fluorescent — so without controlled lighting, every room is going to come out different. You may see a lot of bluish bathrooms and kitchens. Outside, you want to time the photograph to control for weird shadows; you also want to get rid of parked cars or garbage cans in the driveway.
And it takes a real camera. Technology is making it easier to shoot bad photos — camera phones don’t have enough flash or depth of field (for rooms). Your drunk friend at a Cubs game, a camera phone is great for that. But if you have a room that’s deep, you want to be able to see it.
A room needs to be shot on a tripod — it’s a must, because the shots have to be level. It can be a gorgeous home, but if the photos are dark or crooked or pixilated, you have either helped the buyer pass your home up or they’ll place less value on it.
Q: What if you have a very simple, ordinary, unadorned home? It may be a great place to live, but what if there’s nothing in it that would look particularly “gorgeous,” by room photography standards?
A: If you don’t have anything that’s unique about your property, then you want to make it look as good as possible. Good, clear photography of a neat, clean home may be your one competitive advantage if you’re on the market and competing against 20 similar starter homes. You may be able to make it sell before the guy who has the same house across the street.”