Local real estate photographer offers five tips for how to best present your home

Local real estate photographer Matt Vatcher says getting rid of clutter is key to preparing a home that is being sold and photographed. Photo by Matt Vatcher.


I have been a photographer for many years, and although I shoot many disciplines real estate has become one of the largest categories in my business. More than likely the first time someone will see your house is likely looking at a picture of it. So that picture needs to set a good first impression.

This is my very quick list of things I have learned that do and don’t work as it pertains to visually showing your property online and in print, specifically interiors.

I have shot everything from 8,000-square-foot estates to 400-square-foot condos and have applied this list to every situation.

1.) Declutter

The definition of this word always differs depending on who you talk to, but I use a hotel room as a good example. In a hotel room, you have everything you need; bed, side tables, lamps, dresser. What isn’t there is the 20 years of stuff that people accumulate.

Personally, I would get rid of any over-sized furniture, such as sleigh king beds, very large dressers etc… Unless your house is very large, these all fill the room in a negative way. If that’s impossible; clear off table tops, multiple picture frames, medicine bottles, remote controls, portable phones, wires etc…

If you question “should I move this out?” The answer is always yes.  You want people to think, “nice room”, not “I hate that clock”. Declutter everything, Mantra: hotel room.

2.) Paint

It’s going to happen, maybe subtly, maybe more blunt, but almost every realtor will eventually ask the question “So, are you stuck on these wall colours?”

Dark colours don’t just darken a room, they also bring out every little imperfection in the wall itself. Nail pops, old patches, even if you have wiped down the wall, I will see the streaks when I edit the photo.

3.) It can be photoshopped right?

Theoretically, anything can be digitally removed given enough time and resources. Go with the assumption that those cables hanging from under the flat screen or the old curtain rod in the living room can’t be removed and make some time to physically hide or repair it before I get there.

If I have removed something that was supposed to get fixed before showings, and then for whatever reason didn’t, there will be some awkwardness when they see the 30-year-old wallpaper that I painted away in the picture but is still up (it happens).

4.) Symmetry is best

When you are organizing your furniture in each room, symmetry is ideal. Some more skilled stagers and interior designers have a flare for asymmetric designs, but I’m awful at it, and so is the average person, so let’s just keep things simple and symmetrical.

Ideally you want to be able to mirror each half of your room. If you’re looking at a bed, split it down the middle by closing one eye and then the other, does each half match? Good, walk away. Change out pillows that aren’t the same (feather vs cotton). Same with the living room; Couch, side table on each side, same lamp on each table. Don’t give a reason for someone’s eyes to drift away from the main space. Humans like clean and symmetrical lines.

5.) Colour of lights

This one always gets me. The first thing I do when I get to a property is turn on every single light. Lamps, pot lights, range hood, everything. It’s all about filling in the shadows and giving pops of detail to all the subtleties of your property.

However, there are so many variations of bulbs these days the differences in colour is frustrating. Warm or yellow tungsten filament is best, followed by halogen, and then LED.

I know it’s tempting for the electricity budget but try to stay away from those CFL energy bulbs (especially the ones from a dollar store), they tend to shift to the green side of light and will affect the colour of fabrics and furniture.

Bonus Tip:  Put down your toilet seat lids for heaven’s sake!

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