As you know I've been searching high and low for a new place to live. I've been bouncing back and forth between rentals and homes for sale. As a former home (and duplex) owner, I really hate the idea of renting (aka — paying someone else's mortgage). And with the market seemingly coming back to earth, perhaps this fall will be a fantastic time to make a purchase. Either way, I'm excited to finally have my own place. It's been nearly a decade since I've lived alone. I miss not having to tip-toe around in the mornings the most! (My current roomie is a bit of a late sleeper.)

The one consistent thing I have seen in my home search is the vast difference in photography quality between homes. It seems that the majority of real estate professionals are taking high quality photos, using the appropriate lenses, staying aware of lighting, and capturing the entire home and property. On the other side, the majority of folks offering rental properties appear to have let their toddlers take the images for them. They are consistently dark, not centered, capturing a portion of the room and with no regard for the flow of the home or any attempt to give the potential renter a sense of the space available. It's like they are not even trying.

Today I want to throw those "photography-challenged" people a bone. We all understand that they don't see the value in good photos. We also understand that they are not interested in giving their clients a fair shake in the market. Perhaps, with a little help, they can learn to appreciate the value of a well thought out photo gallery and one day make their clients thrilled with how their property was portrayed. Let's chip in, shall we?

First and foremost is the lens choice. You know, actually, even before that is the camera. You need to use a decent quality camera (capable of swapping lenses) to get the most out of your photo shoot. But I'll leave that to you and a conversation with the folks at the camera store. For the lens, lean heavily towards the wide-angle variety. In general the wide angle lens is going to provide sharp imagery while still capturing the entire room. While on my search for a property, I can't count the number of times I felt like I was viewing the home through a tunnel. Let the photos breathe and let in as much light as possible (more on that later).

And don't confuse "wide angle" with "fish-eye." You don't want your photo shoot looking like Missy Elliot's The Rain video (you'll have to look that one up if you're under 40). I have also lost track of the times I squished myself into a closet or hung outside in the hallway just to get the best angle for my photos. Don't just lazily walk around snapping pictures. Move your body (and the camera!) outside of the room and give some thought to your perspective. Every little detail makes a big difference. "Never lose sight of the fact that these photos are the first (and very often ONLY) view of this home people will get," notes Badger Realty agent, Mike Rogers. He continued, "If they don't get past your photos, they won't pick up the phone. That, you can count on."

And if you're not hanging from the chandelier or stuffing yourself into a closet, use a tripod. The tripod should be the first thing out of your car when you get to the home. The camera can be the second. Take some time to walk around the home and see where you can set up. You really need to get past the idea of having to move the tripod a bunch of times just to get all of your pictures. Bring a friend to help if that makes it easier. Having sharp, in-focus pictures from just the right angle with no chance of movement or fuzzyness is going to make a big impression on those potential buyers and renters.

One of the more surprising (and amusing) discoveries I have made during my search is the baffling absence of the most basic (read: required) photos. I have looked at rental and property listings with no images of the front of the home. Others omit any images of the bedrooms. You do know what those two scenarios mean, right? The home is in an awful part of town and is horrifying from the outside and the bedrooms would barely pass for closets in most houses. True or not, that is the message you are sending. Show the interested party every possible image from every possible angle. Images are free, remember. Snap away!

The last note for our photo-challenged friends is lighting. This one seems obvious to most of us, but lighting truly is the pièce de résistance in real estate photography. Nobody, aside from Orin of Parks and Rec fame, wants to live in a dark, shadowy home. If you're stuck with a rainy, dreary, fall day, skip the photoshoot and wait for better weather. If given the chance, my favorite days to shoot real estate are those blue sky days after a decent snowfall. Everything is bright white and the rooms are lit up like Christmas trees. Snowstorms aside (It's only September, Jason!) be sure and pick a nice, bright, sunny day for your photos. And regardless of the weather outside, be sure and turn on every. single. light. in the home. You truly can never have too much light. Happy snapping!

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