Advice From America's 'Top Real Estate Photographer'

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A quick flip through any glossy magazine will reaffirm the reliance that selling has on good pictures. Selling houses is no different than selling products. In fact, homeowners and Realtors are perhaps even more dependent on high-quality images to not only sell their homes, but to sell them at the best price.

This is why real estate photography has flourished into a powerful and lucrative little industry. While it's still lesser-known than fashion photography, real estate photography has seen a transition from a mere "commodity business" to an increasingly prestigious craft that has earned many photographers professional prestige and, well, big bucks.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, the Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) organization annually awards an outstanding photographer the honor of being the "Top Real Estate Photographer" of the year. For 2011, peers and the PFRE blog's readers recently voted to give Dave Rezendes of Honolulu that honor.

And it's not hard to see why. Rezendes' images highlight the uniqueness of a home and the beauty of its natural surroundings. His popular image of a home in Honolulu designed by architecture and design firm Long and Associates (left) was voted the winning image on PFRE by a large margin.

Not too shabby, considering that Rezendes has only been working as a dedicated real estate photographer for four years.

In an interview with AOL Real Estate, Rezendes admits that he stumbled upon the business "by chance," initially shooting photographs as a hobby. It was only after shooting his first property that Rezendes saw real estate photography as a promising career. He was right. It's proved rewarding in ways that stretched far beyond simply taking beautiful images.

"I love getting a phone call from a happy client letting me know that their property has sold much faster than expected," Rezendes says. "I like feeling like I can use my skills to contribute to their success."

Property Photographs: Do's and Don'ts

Whether you're an amateur real estate photographer, a Realtor, or a homeowner who wants to try shooting your own listing pictures, Rezendes has a few tips for getting the best photographs of a home (and to ensure that your photos don't end up like these train wrecks):

• Don't assume that wider is better. Sometimes a particular vignette or architectural detail will better convey the feeling of a house and give a stronger effect.

• When staging a photo, keep perspective in mind. It may be necessary to move furniture slightly to compensate for lens distortion and keep your photo looking realistic, especially in wider shots.

• Mind your verticals. Shooting at a downward or upward angle can skew the vertical lines of the photo, making them no longer parallel. Most photo editing software has the capability to correct this in post-processing.

• Keep an eye on your staging. A crooked pillow or messy bedskirt can take a minute to fix on location but hours to fix in post-processing.

• Avoid any clutter in your shots. Any exposed power cords, personal items, or even too much staging material can negatively affect the image. Keep your photos neat but not sterile.

• Avoid photographing exterior views in direct, midday sun. Try to cover that in the morning or early evening for the most complimentary natural light.

• Before you take a photo, double-check to see that neither you nor your equipment is visible in mirrors or window reflections.

On Going Pro

PFRE's Top Real Estate Photographer of 2011 also offers this advice for those who are looking to break into the trade:

• Be prepared to have your pricing ready for a potential client. It will be one of the first questions they ask when considering taking you on to shoot a property.

• Invest in some off-camera flash units to balance the light inside a space.

• A basic understanding of good photo-editing software can go a long way toward improving your final image.

• Understand and manage your client's expectations regarding the time that a shoot will take and how the photos should be used. Shooting for a web-based MLS gallery is different than shooting cover shots for a print-based magazine.

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Advice From America's 'Top Real Estate Photographer'

Home staging techniques can transform a ho-hum house into a buyer's dream, getting your property the attention and purchase price it deserves. Dress your home for real estate success with easy, low-cost projects you can accomplish in a few pre-sale weekends.

Grab a pad and pen--along with your digital camera or smartphone--and get outside for a buyer’s perspective of your home. The view from the curb often determines whether or not a shopper will even consider giving your home a closer look and any signs of neglect or clutter can instantly turn them away. Start your to-do list here, noting what needs to be cleaned up, repaired and repainted.

Next, head inside for a preview of what buyers will see during an agent’s open house. As you travel from room to room, try to step out of your usual traffic patterns and take note of the dominant features in each room. Plan touch-ups that will showcase your home in the best light.

A truly lived-in look is not a plus when it comes to selling a home, so clear away everyday clutter including paperwork, collections and personal photos. The buyer needs to be able to visualize themselves in the space, and they won’t be able to do that with constant reminders that you’re still very much in residence.

Rearrange furnishing schemes in every room by getting rid of worn pieces and items that make a space seem overstuffed. There should be enough furniture in place to suggest proper scale and capacity, but not so much that traffic flow is hindered and architectural features are obscured.

Every inch of your home should sparkle with the kind of clean that tells buyers the property is cared for and in tip-top shape. Remove corner cobwebs, keep windows squeaky clean and banish any odors resulting from pets, cooking, smoking and the like.

A bright-red living room may fire up your imagination, but soft, neutral paint colors will better serve the buyer. Replace patterned and boldly colored wall coverings with off-white paint, and install low-grade tan wall-to-wall carpet.

After you’ve cleaned, painted and repositioned furniture, carefully select the art and accessories you choose to replace in every room of the home. Remember the rule of threes to create pleasing, uncluttered groupings of items, and add welcoming vitality with a few thoughtfully placed plants. Stow away all personal items and limit wall decorations to fewer and larger pieces, including strategically placed mirrors that expand spaces and reflect your best assets.

Home shoppers consider the garage to be a major bonus space, so help yours live up to their expectations with a thorough cleaning and uncluttered view of work and storage areas.

Give your home’s interior and exterior details some TLC. Touch up trim, polish cabinetry, repair or replace inoperable hardware and secure handrails. Also add shine to light fixtures with a thorough cleaning and installation of brand new bulbs.

Get potential buyers in the door by creating a grand entry. A front door that’s energy efficient as well as beautiful makes a great impression, and polished hardware, a tidy new doormat and planters overflowing with colorful blooms complete the look. And don’t forget to trim the lawn and tend to landscape plantings, because these chores can bring you a different kind of green: according to the Professional Landcare Network, lush landscaping adds as much as 15 percent to the property value of a home.

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