Back in 2019, I made one of these videos, but i thought it was time for an update. Properly preparing a home for a photo or video shoot is VITAL to the outcome of the shoot. If a photographer shows up and the home is cluttered, with boxes scattered around etc, it messes with the flow — it makes the photographer feel rushed and makes it easier to miss details that wouldn’t be missed if the home was ready. Not to mention, homes just look WAY better when the things I’m about to list are done.
A Little Big of Preparation Goes A LONG Way
At this point, we all know that professional photos help sell a lifestyle, vacation rentals, home rentals, homes for sale, and everything in between. So if you’re paying for a professional to come out and photograph your home, it makes sense to make sure it’s in pristine condition.
Without getting too in the weeds, let’s take a look at some basic principles for getting your home prepped for a photo or video shoot.
GET RID OF DUST & GRIME
I’ve shot hundreds of homes, and I’ve noticed the things that really make a difference when taking photos. Though a lot of things can be edited out in post — some photographers aren’t great at it and/or it will just look strange.
The most noticeable areas are always the kitchen, bathroom, and windows. So at the bare minimum make sure you are extra cleaning these areas. Seeing dirt, dust, or grime in these areas is usually a sign a home is dirty in general. Which could be a sign a home isn’t taken care of, which ya know, isn’t good. Especially when a good cleaning could change everything.
ALWAYS CLEAN: Bathtubs, faucets, windowsills, countertops, mirrors, windows, stainless steel appliances, fridge
Every photographer is different when it comes to lighting. In the real estate photography world, there is a #lightsoffgang and #lightsongang. For me, and probably most photographers, it’s best to cut on lights and let in as much light as possible.
All lamps and surface lights should be on, including the lights that are part of furniture and appliances such as those on the stove or built into a bookshelf. If any light bulbs are burned out, make sure to replace them and use high-wattage bulbs to make the room brighter. In my opinion, making sure all lights are working and the same lumens (aka all white or yellow lights) is super important in making sure the photos are as good as possible.
I love animals. I love pets, but unfortunately, usually, any sign of animals in the house will resonate with the viewer as dirty or smelly.
If you have any pets, they need to be out of the way during the shoot. It’s super cute to have cute doggies jump up on you during a shoot, but it’s also scary considering your $4,000 camera is right next to you. Having your pets put away just saves the hassle of constantly moving them around. And of course, make sure to fix/cover up any damage to the property caused by your pets.
Put away all toys, dog food, bowls, beds, etc. out of sight!
PERSONAL ITEMS / CLUTTER
A general rule for photoshoots is to declutter the home as much as humanly possible of all things including personal items. For example, the fewer pictures of your family hanging up the better. No need to see a bunch of a specific sports teams or little league trophies. Even having a kid’s room completely decked out in kids’ attire can be concerning because whoever buys the home may not have kids.
Anything that feels clutter, especially if it’s personal to you — just remove if possible.
Let’s talk specifics. Interiors.
Before I give the details on interiors, I will say that home staging company usually do a fabulous job. Yes, they can cost a chunk of change, but in most cases, it’s worth it.
The kitchen collects a lot on the counters- make sure the counters are as open as possible.
Get rid of extra small appliances that are sitting around, as well as stacks of paper or dishes that may be placed at the end of the counter. If you have child-proof equipment that is visible on the outside of the cabinets or cupboards, it is better to remove that equipment for the photos. Clear the school notices, crayon drawings, and magnets off of the fridge.
Dish racks, cutting boards, tea towels, hand/ dish soap bottles, paper towels, cleaning products, mops, brooms and garbage cans. Feel free to add a little decoration with a nice bowl of fresh fruit or a vase of flowers to spice up plain countertops. Plants almost always work.
The goal of the room should be to create a beautiful and comfortable space, it should be an area where the potential buyer could imagine hosting their guests or spending time.
If you have a nice coffee table book, set it out as decor on the table. Remove any stacks of magazines because they often look cluttery. If bookshelves are in the room, take out half of the books and arrange the remaining books in a nice pattern. Keep the nice, hardback, and colorful books on the shelf, and clear out the old books. Fluff pillows, fold throws, and arrange neatly.
Sometimes this room needs the most work because of the large amount of time spent here. Make sure to pick up any clutter and rearrange furniture to suit aesthetics versus use.
Collect the TV remotes, video game systems, DVDs, or any other cluttered electronic items. Also, it is a good idea to pay attention to the way the electronic cords are arranged and try to move them to a place so that they are out of sight. Clear out any toys that may have been left in the room by the kids. Fluff pillows, fold throws, and arrange neatly.
Cords, remotes, game systems, toys, fluff pillows and fold throws.
This is an easy space to keep clean but also introduce decor such as fresh flowers and table settings.
Make sure the dining table is wiped down and the chairs are arranged neatly. You might consider adding a nice centerpiece to the table, such as a bowl of fresh fruit or a floral arrangement (like the kitchen). Don’t leave any leftover plates or dishes on the table, and make sure that the remnants of the previous meal have been cleared away: wipe the table, sweep the floor, and mop the floor to remove any marks. A nice dining plate set helps a lot too!
These rooms can attract a lot of clutter and personality — try to store away anything “too loud” and put away most personal items. Oh yeah, It’s important to note a wrinkly bedspread WILL distract viewers.
It may be tempting to stuff everything under the bed in order to hide the clutter, but the items under the beds can still often be seen. Check if your closet needs to be shown — usually smaller closets will not be featured and are a great place to store stuff out of the way. Adjust decorations to make the space appear more neutral, instead of trendy (hey, unless that’s the vibe).
Remember, you want the buyer to imagine themselves as if they were in the room, and unusual themes in the bedrooms can be somewhat distracting. You want the bed to look beautiful and inviting. Use a nice bedspread and big, fluffy pillows that are neatly arranged at the head of the bed. I can tell you from experience, that a worn-out or wrinkly bedspread is extremely distracting. If anything is sitting on the nightstand, get rid of it! Unless, it’s a book, lamp etc…
Phone chargers, tissue boxes, lip balm, a glass of water, jewelry, hipster decorations. NON WRINKLY bedspread with fresh/fluffy pillows
Besides matching towels and/or shower curtain, EVERYTHING should be put away.
In the bathroom, everything should be moved off the counter, including makeup, razors, soap, toothbrushes, and any other beauty products. In the shower and tub, remove the shampoo, soaps, washcloths, and baby toys. The garbage cans, bathmats, laundry baskets, extra toilet paper, toilet brush, and scales should also be moved out of the room. Finish it off by closing the toilet, and hanging fresh towels on the towel rails.
Empty counters and showers.
WHEN IN DOUBT — HIRE A PROFESSIONAL STAGER.
Now, let’s get outside.
The exterior might just be the most important part of the home because first impressions can leave lasting impressions.
The exterior is one of the first things that a person will look at when they are viewing the listing, so it is important that you clean up around the house to make it look fresh and appealing. If the yard looks messy, it will leave the impression that the maintenance is too much or not worth it. You can easily look a buyer if they don’t want to
Exterior tasks should include:
- Pull weeds
- Trim trees and overgrown shrubs
- Rake up the leaves
- Mow the lawn and edge
- Wrap up garden hoses but preferably put them away in the garage or shed
- Pick up any items that may be laying around the yard, such as garden tools, garbage cans, toys, empty pots or pots with dead plants
- Cover dirt with mulch to make it look more attractive
- Move cars out of the driveway
- Sweep the porch and sidewalks
- If you have outdoor furniture, wipe it down and make sure that the cushions look clean and nice
- Spraying water
You can download the editable guide here in Canva.