6 home-photo tips to draw buyers (© Tetra Images/Getty Images)

Selling a home used to be all about "curb appeal," or the first impression a property conveys to potential buyers as they pull up in front. A house that looks unattractive from the street won't sell, the mantra goes.

These days, a property's "pix appeal," or attractiveness in photos posted in online listings, is equally important. Eighty percent of homebuyers used the Internet last year to search for a home, and nearly 25% reported that the Internet is where they first found the property they purchased, according to a National Association of Realtors survey.

"Without pictures I am much less likely to go see a house," says house hunter Dan Dillbeck, of Grand Rapids, Mich. In most cases — 85% of the time — online photos are his first view of a home, he says, adding that poor pictures tend to turn him away.

Photographs are powerful bait. Good ones can lure buyers; poor ones can do the opposite. Follow these tips to create flattering photos of your property.

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1. Lighten up. For exterior shots, shoot in the middle of the day when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, says Gregory Haberstick, who trains professional photographers for Foxtons, a real-estate company serving New York and New Jersey.

For interior shots, Bill Bayless, a real-estate photographer in Damascus, Ore., suggests turning on all the lights and using a flash. "The flash adds in all of the correct colors and fills in the shadows, making the room look brighter," he says.  

2. More is better. Homebuyers want to see more than just the front of the house. Buyers also want to get a look at the living room, kitchen, dining room, family room, master bedroom/bathroom and the backyard, Bayless says. He suggests including your residence's best features, such as a home theater or an exercise room.

Most Multiple Listing Services allow several photos in their online listings, and classifieds sites such as Craigslist let sellers post up to four pictures. You can make additional shots available by using free photo sites such as Shutterfly, Snapfish or Picasa.

For condos and apartments, include shots of amenities such as a pool, tennis court or gym, says Kevin Grolig, a real-estate agent with Llewellyn Realtors in Rockville, Md.

If your home has a spectacular view, say of a beach, lake, mountains, park or golf course, by all means post photos of it, says Ron Luxemburg, a photographer in Pasadena, Calif.

Home seller Dzung Nguyen, 40, of Germantown, Md., posted 35 photos of his home in an online slide show. When sites limit the number of pictures that can be posted, he links to it. "There are a lot of houses out there, and people don't have time to go to all of them," he says. His property has received more feedback from buyers, he says, than it did when it was listed with a real-estate agent who took only one or two photos.

3. Get a clear shot. Remove clutter from an area before photographing it. Clear counter space and remove fridge magnets, children's toys, dirty dishes and other distractions, says Haberstick.

"I've been known to spend a few hours moving things around," says Grolig. He relocates appliances and makes beds to get the best photo.

For outside shots, put away garbage cans and remove the car from the driveway, he says. Try not to include telephone poles, wires and other homes in the scene.

4. Go pro. If you're planning to use a real-estate agent, ask to see his or her photography first. Find out whether the agency uses professional photographers. Some companies use pros at no additional cost to the seller.

If you are selling without a real-estate agent or aren't handy with a camera, hiring a professional real-estate photographer may be the way to go. Examine samples from photographers and ask about their experience before making your choice, Luxemburg says.

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Photographers' fees can range from a few hundred dollars to $500, he says. Aerial shots are more expensive, but Nguyen used Live Maps at no cost to show buyers a bird's-eye view of his community.

5. Give it your best shot. Quality counts when taking photos, and cell-phone cameras don't cut it. A camera with a wide-angle lens is ideal, but "point and shoot" digital cameras also can do the job.

For a clear photo, place digital cameras on a tripod or something solid so the camera is steady when the shutter goes off, says Luxemburg.

Set the camera on its highest resolution. If you decide to just use the photos online, you can always decrease the resolution, Luxemburg says. Never use fewer than 72 dots per inch for online photos, Bayless says.

6. Edit. Improve a shot using basic photo-editing software. Crop out ceilings or unnecessary background, says Luxemburg, and adjust the brightness or contrast.

A number of free Web sites make editing a snap. Some to try are Snipshot.com, Picnik.com and Pixenate.com, says Stephen Jagger, co-founder of Ubertor.com, a Vancouver, B.C., real-estate company that creates Web sites for real-estate agents.