Are Your Pictures Worth a Thousand Words?
Or even a hundred? If you are guilty of taking random shots of new listings with your iPhone and popping them onto your web site—STOP! Bad photographs are costing both you and your clients’ money. At best, they are boring. At worst, they portray your properties in a bad light, which means you get fewer calls, fewer showings, fewer sales.
Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones—either you have a professional photographer on your team or you can afford hire one. Good for you. Even if you do have a photographer, having a few professional tricks up your sleeve will help you get more of what you want from him or her. But if you are strictly DIY, here are five steps you can take to become a better photographer today.
- Follow the light
- Use the rule of thirds
- Steady as you go
- Gain perspective
1. RTM—a clever acronym which stands for “Read the Manual.” It’s amazing how many people neglect this critical first step. Personally, I’ve had my little Nikon point-and-shoot camera for about two years and never took the disc containing the manual out of the box it came in. The purpose of reading the manual is to familiarize yourself with all that your camera has to offer. For example, my Nikon has 19 different settings for photo exposures ranging from “Indoor Party” to “Museum” to “Fireworks Display.” Experiment with these settings, especially when you’re shooting home interiors, to see what works best in specific situations.
2. Follow the light. This is practical, not philosophical, advice. The worst time to shoot outdoor photos, including yards, exteriors, and neighborhoods, is high noon. You get way too much brightness and virtually no shadow. Shadow is what makes things interesting. The best light times are from half an hour before sunrise to two hours after, and an hour before sundown to an hour or more after.
3. Use the rule of thirds. Visualize your photograph as a grid divided into nine squares. You might think that the focal point of your shot should be square in the middle. Not so. Whether it’s people or objects that you’re shooting, your vertical focal point should be slightly to the left or the right of center. For example, let’s say you’re taking a picture of the front door. Position the door to the left of center and show a bit of the porch or a window—whatever is to the right of the door. It doesn’t matter if you don’t show the whole porch or window. The door will look more interesting if it’s off center.
If you’re shooting a horizontal format, which is generally what you would do outside, keep your horizon line even across the shot, but not square in the middle. You should have either two-thirds sky and one-third ground, or vice versa.
4. Steady as you go. Your shots need to be sharp, and they won’t be if your hands are shaking. While the easiest solution is to buy a tripod, that may not be something you want to add to your tool kit right away. There are other creative methods of eliminating the tremors, however. Lean against a wall or a tree. Or prop your camera on a wall or a fence post. Get a bean bag or a small pillow and set the camera on that.
5. Gain perspective. A good photograph is not flat or two-dimensional. It has visual depth. This means not everything is in focus. For example, let’s say you want to shoot a photo of a client’s flower garden. Focus on something near the front—a rock, a single flower– and let everything else blur out of focus behind it. If you’re taking a shot of a kid’s room, focus on a toy or a rocking chair in the corner and let everything else go slightly out of focus. It’s still there, still visible, but the picture has soul. It says, “Real people live here,” not “This is a kid’s room.”
Remember, your viewer has imagination. Let him or her use that imagination to put themselves into the picture. Because that’s really where you want them to be anyway, isn’t it?