6 tips for the best home photos (© Vladimir Godnik/Getty Images)

© Vladimir Godnik/Getty Images

Good pictures are crucial in marketing a home for sale. Just ask Clarissa and Mark Padilla, who received a contract on their Sherman Oaks, Calif., condo in less than two weeks — and at a price they wanted.

Clarissa Padilla says she attributes the quick sale to the professional photography that marketed the home and lured about two-dozen people to an open house the first weekend. (Bing: Find a professional photographer)

"When we saw the photos, we fell in love with our place all over again," she says. "The colors were so bright, and it made it look fresh and very spacious. It's only 950 square feet. [The pictures] made it look huge."

Most people who have shopped for a home lately understand the impact of quality pictures in marketing materials, especially online. Ninety-eight percent of homebuyers who searched for a home online say that photos were among the most useful features of real-estate websites, the National Association of Realtors says.

Given that highly visual sites such as Pinterest have become so popular lately, pictures are taking on an even greater importance, says Brian Balduf, chairman of VHT, which provides photography services to agents and brokers in the Chicago area.

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"Photography is at the center of all your marketing," Balduf says. "It's not just documenting that there is a house for sale. You want people to say, 'What a house,'" and be motivated to take action, he says.

Listings with professionally shot photos have about 61% more views than other homes — and that's across all price tiers, according to Redfin, a real-estate brokerage.

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"When people are searching for homes, they search by price range, location, bed and bath. But then once they have the list, the visual piece becomes a larger and more important part of the decision," says Jani Strand, Redfin spokeswoman. "Photos are the first impression and can generate interest and excitement, which leads to good offers."

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In fact, Redfin believes so much in the power of professional photography that it has paid for its clients' professional pictures since 2008, Strand says. Redfin also has been revamping its website to feature larger photos, she says.

Of course, some real-estate agents have become pretty good at taking photos on their own. By using a wide-angle lens, a tripod and good lighting, even nonprofessionals can get decent pictures, Balduf says. But while you might not need the most sophisticated camera on the market, agents shouldn't attempt to shoot photos using a cellphone, he says.

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It's important for sellers to evaluate the quality of the photos that an agent typically posts with listings before even hiring someone to sell their home.

"Personally, I think that homeowners aren't as demanding as they should be because they never write a check to the agent — it all comes out at closing," Balduf says. People should be more particular, demanding quality pictures to market the home, he says.

Here are his tips to make sure photos of your property are the best they can be.

  1. Evaluate an agent's or broker's current listings and evaluate the property photos. If the pictures are blurry, grainy, crooked or poorly composed, you may be better off choosing someone else.
  2. Decide whether the photos would make you want to visit the home. Do they look like they're pulled from a home-and-garden magazine? Those pictures will appeal to prospective buyers.
  3. How many photos does the agent post with each listing? One photo is not enough, and 30 are too many. The first photographs in the listing are the most important and should feature the front of the home, main living area, kitchen, master bedroom and master bathroom, as well as perhaps another attractive feature of the home.
  4. Don't plan on shooting your own photos, unless you're a professional photographer. This is a service that the agent should offer you — and an important one at that, Balduf says. Ask the agent for the credentials of the person who would be snapping shots of your home.
  5. Before the photographer does the shoot, present a list of various shots that might be helpful. Perhaps there is a view you love from your patio, for example. That's helpful information for the photographer to know before arriving.
  6. Ask to see the photos before they are posted online, and compare them with homes that are similar to yours. If they didn't turn out well, ask for a reshoot with another photographer.

Clarissa Padilla says that a similar condo unit to hers in the same building sat on the market for five or six months before her home was listed. But the photos of the other unit weren't taken by a professional.

Meanwhile, some of the prospective buyers who walked through their home thought that theirs was a staged model home. The Padillas had multiple offers right away.

"We were so proud of the photos (that) we showed our parents — we showed everybody," she says. "We kept a brochure for a souvenir."