I should preface this guide by saying that this is under ideal circumstances and it reflects an ideal goal. In reality, few properties will meet this criteria, and you should not be intimidated. Professionally taken pictures of any property are better than subpar pictures of the same property. Our goal in this guide is maximizing your return on investment (ROI), so try to complete as much as possible if possible before we arrive to photograph your property.

Photo #1: is an incredible penthouse overlooking the ocean, but more importantly the owners kept it free & clear of clutter and personal possessions. They also did a great job at staging their property.
A Seller's Guide: How to Prepare A Property For Real Estate Photography
(and property showings)
Several years ago I (Justin) was a part of an Ebay business, and one way we distinguished our products from other sellers selling similar products was by not using poor quality photographs [we also never used stock images (stock images lack credibility)]. Nowadays most of the top ebay sellers have caught on to this idea, but oddly enough the same can't be said for Real Estate. Too often you go online in search of real estate only to find poor quality photos that create a lackluster representation of the property. As a result, the smart sellers and listing agents that realized everything had moved online have adapted by making sure their listing/property are represented by high-quality photos. The difference between high and low-quality photos can be the difference between a property sitting on the market or a property receiving a lot of traffic and a quicker sale (all things being equal).
Step 1: Online Presences (95% of Buyers Begin Their Search Online)
Red Arrows Indicate Clutter & Personal Items That Should Be Removed
Clutter Removed: Photo Ready

Pets do not help sell properties. In fact, pets are without a doubt one of the biggest deterrents to the majority of home buyers. Fish, birds, and other small pets are fine, just keep it clean and neat.
Photo #2: The owner like many owners was unsure about how much cleaning and decluttering was necessary. As a result, a fair amount of personal items and clutter were left out.
Photo #3: After cleaning and decluttering, the dining room looks significantly more appealing to potential buyers. Nice Job!
Pets are cute, but they deter potential buyers and should not be in photographs or in the photographer's way during the shoot or showings.
The Front Exterior

Under ideal circumstances: the yard, shrubs, flowers, plants, etc. should be landscaped/maintained.

• Remove Vehicles From Driveway.

• Remove Trash/Recycle Bins From View.

• Close Garage Door(s).

• Store/Remove Gardening Accessories such as: Hoses, Potting Soil, Wheel Barrows, etc.

•  Power Wash Exterior of Property If Necessary.

• Have Windows Professionally Cleaned If Necessary.

A Nice Clean Exterior
Rear Exterior:

• If there is a Pool, keep it as clean as
   possible and free of pool toys etc.

• Neatly Arrange Furniture, Plants, and
  Maintain any Landscaping.

• Make Sure Yard & Pool Items Are Neatly  
  Put Away.

•  Turn on Pool Fountain(s) or Waterfalls If
A Nice Clean Exterior/Pool
Step 2: Remove Pets (Cats & Dogs)
Step 3: Curb Appeal
Step 4: Living Room/Area
Living Space

This is a cool beach house/summer property we shot a while back and it is an excellent example of what a photo ready living room should look like.

•  Arrange Sofa Cushion Neatly.

• Remove Clutter & Personal Items.

• Keep Ceiling Fans and Televisions Off.

•  Open Blinds/Shades/Curtains/Windows Treatment (Completely If Possible).

Photography is about lighting and generally speaking more light is better, so opening the blinds is a must. Turning off the ceiling fan prevents odd shadows from being cast and opening up the blinds allows you to see out the windows, which makes the living space seem airier.
Exterior Decks and Balconies:

• Neatly Arrange Exterior Furniture If Any Or Remove Furniture From View.

• Set Up Cushions & Pillows If Any.

• Clean and or Power Wash Decks and Railings if Necessary.
Decks: Neatly Arranged & Organized

Ok, not everyone's bedroom will look like this, but the goal is to make it as appealing as possible.

•  Remove Personal Items & Clutter

• Make The Bed

• Vacuum Carpet or Clean Hardwood

• If Possible Remove Anything That Might Be Considered Unsightly Or Out Of Place In A Bedroom, e.g., Exercise Equipment. 

• Keep Dresser Tops Clean and Clear If Possible, Decorative Items Are The Exception.

That's it, follow these tips, and you should be fine.
Step 5: Bedroom(s)
Step 6: Bathrooms Sell Houses!!!

The only places you can really spend a fortune on is Bathrooms & Kitchens, because of this people want an awesome looking kitchen and a super sleek bathroom. However, even if it's not up to date or recently remodeled you should at least keep it neat and clean.

•   Clear Counter Tops (Decorative Towels, Soaps, And Decorations Are Fine).

• Toilet Seat(s) Down.

• Garbage Bins & Laundry Baskets Removed/Hidden.


Kitchens are often considered the centerpiece of a property and should show extremely well. Follow the tips below to show off your centerpiece.

• Clear Counter Tops (Tasteful Decorations Are Acceptable & Minor Appliance)

• Clear Stove and Sink
Chef's Kitchen?
A Neat & Clean Bathroom
Another Neat & Clean Bathroom
High Tech Modern
It Is Acceptable to Have Decorative Items in A Bathroom
• Remove pets from the property if possible: or place them in a crate or carrier during the photo shoot or move them from one room to another, so they are not in any of the photographs or in the photographer's way.

• Remove all traces that you have a pet: hide water & food bowls, toys, litter boxes, pet carriers/crates, etc.

Clean your exterior space/yard: and make sure it is free of toys or waste.

• Vacuum/lint roll: remove excess visible fur on furniture, flooring, etc. 
Laundry Room

Note that although this Laundry Room is not free of items, it is: neat, clean, and organized.

• No Dirty Laundry or Unsightly Laundry Baskets (Decorative Items Are Fine).

• Put Away All Laundry Detergent

• Empty Washer & Dryer If Laundry Is Visible Within The Unit

• Remove All Other Laundry & Items That Might Be Considered Unsightly

Step 9: Clean & Empty or Stylish & Chic
Stylish Laundry Room
• Clear Out Shower

• Clean/Refinish Shower Glass If Necessary/Possible

Potential Buyers will definitely check out your bathroom, so keep it clean, preferably empty, and smelling good.

BTW check out that view. Notice that you can see out of the windows. That's one of the hallmark differences between a Professional Real Estate Photographer and an Amateur that doesn't correct blown out windows.

Ideally, you want a clean empty garage or at least extremely well-organized garage like Photograph # 1. However, few people have a 4 car garage, so this is the one area that does not need to be photographed and can be used as storage to hide any unsightly items.

•   If the garage is a feature you want to show off, clean it out and make sure there are no items in the picture unless it is relatively well organized.

Step 10: Garages Are Important To Certain Buyers
Car Collection or Storage Perhaps?
Perfect For A Car, Bikes, and Storage
Step 8: Expecting Guests?
Dining Rooms

A nicely staged dining room table can make a noticeable difference in the overall appeal of the property.

• Clear The Table and Remove Any Items That Shouldn't Be In The Dining Room

• Straighten All Chairs

• Remove All Items That Should Not Be in The Dining Area.

• Add Decorative Place Settings (Optional).

• Add A Clean Simple Table Cloth (Optional).

Make It Inviting If Possible
Step 7: Kitchens Sell Houses!!!
Photo #3: High-Tech Modern Bathroom equipped with some very cool features. This was a particularly challenging bathroom to photograph due to its small size and lack of natural lighting. Also, the frameless glass shower doors are tinted "dark smoke," so finding a balance between the lighting was key in capturing the interior of the shower. .
Photo #4: An Awesome Beach Block Property with a very nice master bath.  Notice there is Soap, Towels, and some other miscellaneous items, which in this situation is fine since it is mostly decorative and still aesthetically pleasing.
• Clean Sinks, Range Tops, and Exterior of Cabinets If Necessary.

• A Paper Towel Holder, A Soap Dispenser, and A Toaster Oven are Acceptable To Leave On The Counter Top.
• Hide/Remove Garbage Cans/Bins

• Remove All Items On The Fridge: Magnets, Calendars, etc.

The flower was kept on the counter top to balance out the kitchens clean modern feel, which also gives it a cold feel. The flower warms the room up a bit.
Photograph # 2

This is probably more of a typical looking garage; however, it is relatively well organized and is just fine to be photographed.
Make An Impression
Step 1 (part 2): Decluttering & Removing Personal Items
Contemporary/Transitional Kitchen
Modern w/ A Touch of Traditional
Well Balanced & Nicely Staged
Step 12: Summary/Conclusion
Was This Guide Helpful? Let Us Know!

Hopefully, this guide was helpful. It was created because more often than not our photographer moved items around in order to get a great shot. The issue is that it takes away from the photographer's ability to flow through the property and get the best shots (not to mention time). In other words: to yield the best results, it would be smart to have the property looking its best by the time the photographer arrives.
A Well Prepared Property Yields Stellar Results
Note #1: Recently we shot a property with the owner present, and  my original draft for this guide reflected the sentiment below, but I soon changed it thinking it was too abrasive/harsh. I brought it back because the aforementioned owner of the property was under the impression that it is desirable to have a property that looks lived in and they explicitly stated this point. Unfortunately, I don't think they alone in this thinking, and it is important to correct this misconception.

My original sentiment: No, potential buyers do not want to see a property that looks lived in. No, this is is not appealing. No, people do not understand you work, have a family, pets, or that you just don't have time to clean. Yes, they expect it to look like a model home.

My original analogy compared it to buying a used car, do you want to buy a used car with someone's stuff and mess in it or do you want to buy a recently detailed car that feels & looks like a new car...
Real Estate Photography Prep Checklist
Right Click The PDF Image To Download File (save link as).
Setup for a shoot should begin with the following items:

• Turning On Interior Lights

• Opening Blinds/Window Treatments/Curtains/Shutters

Photography relies on lighting, so turning on the lights is critical to obtaining quality photographs.

Allowing light through the windows/opening the curtain/blinds allows for natural lighting to help light the space and obtain crisp in focus photographs. However, more importantly after editing/correcting the blown out windows you can see through the windows, which is highly desirable especially if you have a view. 
Curtains Closed (A Terrible Look)
Opening blinds:

Interiors are particularly difficult to photograph due to the lack of light. Therefore more light is generally speaking better, with the exception of evenly spread consistent lighting, which is ideal. However, having evenly spread consistent lighting is extremely difficult and would require hours of setup to achieve. Real estate/interior photography is considered advanced photography due to its difficulty.

Curtains Open, It Gets Better!!! (Notice The Difference)
Final Edited Result, note that you can clearly see through the window. 
Step 11: Open Blinds/Window Treatments/Curtains/Shutters & Turn On All Interior Lights Right Before The Photographer Arrives
Correcting Blown Out Windows:

Correcting blown out windows like the ones above is achieved through skillful editing in order to achieve the result to the right:.
Staged, Cleaned, and Ready to Be Photographed
• Allows Natural Light In: Very helpful to the photographer and is directly correlated to the quality of the results.

• Makes any room seem more airy/spacious and less confined/claustrophobic
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