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Lesson 1: Get a Good Exterior Shot, Your Sale Depends On It

Everyone knows that the first exterior photo of a home is the most important photo that will be taken. It is the first one to show on a web search, the only thing shown in print, etc. I think you understand my point. If this photo is bad, it doesn't matter how wonderful your other photos might be, no one is ever going to look at them. I am going to develop a series of lessons designed to help all realtors take better photos, and this is lesson number 1: Get a Good Exterior Shot, Your Sale Depends On It!

So how can you get a great exterior photo of the home you are selling? Well, the obvious answer is hire us. We have the equipment and the ability to get the shot everytime at all times of the day (as long as the sky is not that awful shade of overcast grey. Nothing will make that look great).

Ok, now that I have gotten my shameless plug out of the way, let's move on to the point of the article, which is how can YOU get a better exterior photo.

I am going to give you the secret in one easy step. You simply have to time your photo to get a great shot. All our equipment and know-how allows us to do the shot at any time. You are going to have to be patient. The keys to any great exterior photos are:

  • A Blue Sky - Preferrably with some white, puffy clouds.
  • A Properly Exposed House
  • The Right Angle

That's it. Seems easy doesn't it? So why is it that we see so many pictures of homes for sale with poorly exposed houses, a sky that has turned into a light-grey blob, and awful angles? Well, this is because the person either did not know the rules or did not wait patiently to apply the rules. So, what are the rules you ask?

Rule #1 - The time of day is the key.
Above this section, I listed two ingredients to a great exterior photo, a blue sky and a properly exposed house. I know it can be frustrating. You walk up to the house, and you see all the details of the house, and you see a blue sky above it. You snap a picture with the camera, and it looks nothing like what you see. Why is that? The human eye is a marvelous little camera. It has, what is known, as a high-dynamic range. To be techinical for just one moment, there is a difference between the exposure of the house and the exposure of the sky (exposure meaning how well it translated to the image). Your camera in automatic mode will try to expose for the entire scene by averaging the exposure. The result is usually awful.

A camera just can not see the same thing you see in most conditions. Cameras have a much lower dynamic range than our eyes. So, what can you do about it? Time your shot. The key to tricking the camera is taking the picture at the write time of day. If the sun is behind the house and in the picture, don't even try it. If it is between the hours of 11am and 3pm, don't even try it. Well, you can try it, but it just won't work. What you need to do is wait until the sun is behind you, shining on the front of the house. It doesn't have to be directly behind you, but in that general direction. You need it shining directly onto the front of the house. By waiting until the right time of day, you will notice that your camera CAN take the proper exposure, and you will have a nicely exposed house resting against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky. Try it out, you will see. Oh, one last note here. If the home faces due north or south, save yourself the headache and call me.

Rule #2 - The composition is everything
Very rarely does a house look it's best shot straight on. If you want the most pleasing composition, find a nicer angle. It does not have to be a huge angle, just move a little to the right or left. You will notice that making this small adjustment will give your image a little more depth and make the house look larger and more inviting.

Try to keep the camera completely level. When you begin to tilt the camera up to take the shot. You achieve what is known as converging verticals. Vertical walls are susposed to go straight up and down. A picture where everything is slanting in says either that the house is really poorly built, or you are tilting the camera way too much. Try to compose with the camera level to make things look as they should.

Shoot tighter crops of the house. As best you can, try to fill the frame of the image with the house. It will make the house look larger, and it will cut down on peripherals that can be distracting.

Finally, remove all unecessary items from the picture, ie, toys, yard equipment, etc. And for the love of all that is holy in this world, please move the cars. If you take a photo and see any automobile present you should slap yourself on the hand. You are selling the house, let the car dealers worry about moving the cars.

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