Preparing for your real estate shoot

The homeowner (or seller) has the primary responsibility of preparing a real estate listing for photography. Real estate agents, brokers, assistants, and the photographer can offer advice and recommendations, but ultimately it is the seller who should take the lead on performing the action items to get the property ready to shoot.

This process doesn’t have to be costly or exceptionally time-consuming in most cases. Not every step in this list needs to be done on every single listing. However, in general, the more tasks you complete from this list of recommendations, the better your home will look in the finished images and/or videos.

A common question we receive is a variation on this one… Will the photographer make recommendations/adjustments on-site? That is, when the photographer arrives, will he or she be willing and able to direct someone to make additional changes to the property, or perform those changes themselves? The short answer is… sometimes, within reason. As photographers, we don’t want to be put in the position of handling your valuables and either misplacing them or damaging them. Further, we don’t want to fall behind on our schedule because we’re sweeping the porch or handling some other task that should have been completed before we arrived. In most cases, we WILL NOT have time to perform any of these functions once we’re on-site unless arrangments have been made ahead of time. Additional costs may be incurred if the photographer has to prepare the home for photographs, or if the photographer is delayed due to last-minute preaprations.

That said, here are our standard recommendations to prepare a property for a photo or video shoot.

Interior Spaces

  • Remove extraneous clutter and non-decorative items that don’t contribute to the home itself. Hide newspapers, mail, cleaning supplies, pet-related items, fridge magnets, and other clutter, but feel free to leave in palce the appliances and decorations (if they’re not seasonal, like Christmas trees).
  • Check that all light bulbs are working and are consistent in color temperature throughout each room — lamps included.
  • Remove everything from the kitchen sink area, such as dish racks, rags, sponges, and cleaning tools.
  • Organize any cabinets that are visible, such as glass-front or open cabinets, china closets, butler pantires, etc.
  • Clean the kitchen stove.
  • Place a bowl of fresh fruit or flowers in the kitchen and/or dining rooms.
  • Hide all television remote controls.
  • In bedrooms, hide exercise equipments like bikes or other moveable equipment.
  • Make the beds with military precision and make sure items under the bed are not visible.
  • Consider removing any strange or potentially offensive artwork or posters from the walls.
  • No need to hide all of your family photos unless you have privacy concerns. Normal wide-angle lenses can’t capture much detail on family portraits unless they’re exceptionally large.
  • Clear toiletries from bathroom counters and make sure surfaces are clean of grime.
  • If a shower or tub picture would benefit your listing, make sure the soaps and lotions and potions are out of view.
  • When the photographer arrives, turn ON all ceiling lights and turn OFF all ceiling fans. Lamps will be on or off based on the photographer’s opinion.
  • Inside barns or other outbuildings, declutter to a reasonable degree, but don’t take time to make it perfect.

Outside the Home

  • Hide trash cans, lawn sprinklers, dog toys, children’s toys, etc., but don’t spend hours disassembling a trampoline or basketball goal unless your real estate agent or photographer asks you specifically to do this. These larger items can typically be worked around.
  • Mow, trim, and edge the yard at least 24 hours before your appointment, and blow all clippings away from the home.
  • If leaves are falling, consider raking the leaves before your appointment, or at least blow the leaves off of patios, porches, and sidewalks.
  • Park cars out of the way of the critical shots, such as the front of the house. Park down the street or away from the house. Your photographer may ask you to relocate again if and when aerial photos are taken.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Straighten patio furniture and make sure cushions are in place, if applicable.
  • Remove covers on grills, hot tubs, pools, etc., and make sure surfaces of these items are clean and photo-ready.
  • Clean the pool of any debris like leaves or grass clippings, and if possible, remove the automatic pool cleaning robot. Remove any pool floats or other colorful toys and hide them away. Hide the pool cleaning tools like nets or rakes.
  • Turn ON any exterior water features like waterfalls, garden features, etc.
  • Clean up any sticks or limbs that might have fallen.

Farm and Ranch Considerations

  • Trim branches from major roadways for easy travel throughout the property.
  • Perform trimming or mowing where necessary, but certainly not the entire property. Discuss with your agent or photographer if you have questions about this.
  • Hide or remove junk and clutter from primary areas of interest, such as around houses, near ponds or live water, or at view spots.
  • Make sure blinds and feeders look acceptable from the outside (doors and windows secured, etc.)
  • Minimize the number of vehicles that are unsheltered. Avoid inviting unnecessary guests on the shoot day so that extra cars aren’t seen in aerial shots.
  • Lodges and lodging should be presentable. If there is a room with six beds in a hunter’s cabin, the beds don’t have to be pristine, but they should at least be made. Common spaces in lodges and halls should be straightened up.
  • Remove any objectionable or political material. Talk to your agent if you have concerns about this. We have seen it all!
  • Consider supplementing major ponds with external water sources in advance, if appropriate and legal.
  • Clean up any park-like areas such as picnic tables, waterfront recreational areas, etc.
  • Talk to your agent or photographer about all special cases. If something can’t be remediated, we can usually shoot around it, but we should be aware of these issues.
  • If you have areas or items that you don’t want shown online, such as gun rooms, safe rooms, etc., please let us know.
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