Why is Real Estate photography so notoriously bad? The seven sins below are the most common culprits we can find throughout the MLS.
Caution: After reading this post, you may never look at MLS images the same way again. You will cringe at what's out there, but you will now be able to have an educated discussion with your sellers about photography and why they should hire you to present their home in its best light.
DEADLY SIN #1- CROOKED VERTICALS
Unless you're listing the Tower of Pisa, the vertical lines in all your images should be straight. This actually is a very easy thing to correct in post processing, so there really is no excuse.
The image above isn't of the Mystery Spot, the wonky tourist attraction in Santa Cruz, CA. It is an expensive home in Los Angeles. The easiest thing to correct would have been the verticals. Instead, the home was listed several times and the price reduced, as you can tell from from the multiple MLS logos.
DEADLY SIN #2- UN-NATURAL WINDOW EXPOSURES
Sometimes, the value of the property is all about the views, so the temptation is to show the views through the windows as clearly as you can. After all, isn't the ability to show the views one of the main reason to hire a real estate photographer?
The reality is that the outside views are so much brighter than the inside. When a photographer tries to darken the view, the resulting view looks more like those 70's wall mural landscape posters. The exposure should be a little lighter than the outside. The color in of the outside should also look natural.
In the image below, the view looks way too dark and even though we live on a blue planet, I'm pretty sure this is an interpretation that is much too literal.
DEADLY SIN #3- NO SHADOWS or WEIRD SHADOWS
Did you know that most portrait photography techniques are named after the shadows that are created on the subject's face? That's because shadows are our friends. They create the mood, the feeling, of a photograph. Without them you get bland, flat images with no feeling at all.
Too many real estate photographers use a single powerful light from behind the camera, resulting is a nuked, unexciting image like the one below.
This next image, has been heavily processed and looks polished at first glance, however, this coffee table has 3 different shadows that come from the poor light-painting technique. How weird! (We'll talk about distortions such as the one you see on the armchair in Deadly Sin #7).
DEADLY SIN #4- BLOWN-OUT LIGHT FIXTURES
The human eye is naturally attracted to the lighter parts of an image, so nothing is more distracting than an overblown blob of light.
This image combines really bad composition, (the wide angle shows cell phones charging on the right and distorts the doorway) with a completely blown out light sconce on the left.
From the ceiling shadows, we can tell a flash was used, still that wasn't enough to overpower the yellow overexposed lights fixtures, and the result is horrendous.
DEADLY SIN #5- YOU CAN SEE THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Can you believe this image was actually used to market a million-dollar listing in Downtown Los Angeles?
Not every photograph is as bad as this one but almost as bad are reflections of tripods in shower doors or flash bursts caught in reflective surfaces.
The next image shows not one, but two flash bursts in the reflective surfaces of the artwork. That's not supposed to happen!
5- COLOR CASTS and MUDDY WALLS
When the blue light from outside blends with the different light sources inside, the resulting effect are often disastrous color casts that make the interior look like a candy store.
Above, is the kind of disaster that happens when the outside blue light gets mixed in with bold wall colors, and multiple artificial light sources.
I see blue, green, purple, orange, yellow.... None of which, I believe, were part of the original design.
Muddy walls, where walls literally appear to have been smeared with mud, also is a common problem. This is caused when a software tries to cope with blending all the different light sources, as you can see in the image below.
DEADLY SIN #7- ULTRA WIDE ANGLES
This is the single most important problem with Real Estate photography and if your photographer's only composition skill is to shoot at the widest angle possible, you're better off firing them. No one wants to live in a bowling alley! Add to that that the wide angles also greatly distort objects in the foreground and cause the ceilings to take up almost half of the image, and you have the typical bad Real Estate shot.
The photographer in this image managed to show all four (muddy) walls! This feat makes the whole room look like is is the in the shape of a stop sign. The oppressive ceiling takes up the top half of the image, and the floors take up the rest. Huge distortion on the dresser and wasted dead space on the left.
Below, is a great example of the bowling alley effect. One third of the image to the right is taken up by that grotesquely distorted table, and we hardly notice the selling feature of the fireplace far in the background left.
"But how else will you make the listing look bigger than it is?" you ask?
To which I reply, why are you over-selling the space? Do you really think clients will not notice the space is much smaller when they see the property in person? Instead, let's woo them by offering images that tells them how it really feels to be in the space,
THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY!
Most of the images in this post were found on the MLS in late 2016, which is a sad state of affairs. Especially in a city like Los Angeles, which is famous for all the beautiful images it puts out into the world!
The "sins" listed above are not so difficult to avoid that only a wizard photographer can deliver decent real estate images, but they do take some learning, practice, time, and care to execute.
I strongly believe it is up to the Realtor community to demand higher standards from their photography vendors. In fact, I believe that those very low standards are contributing to an amateurish perception that is hurting the whole industry.
Until that happens, this is your opportunity to truly stand out from your competitors. In a digital world, your images are your shop's window. They should be the best. They are a direct reflection on you, your professionalism, your attention to detail.