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Preparing Agents and Homeowners for Real Estate Photoshoots

Giving your clients and homeowners direction ahead of a shoot is an important step in trying to minimize headaches and frustration while on site and helps things go smoothly. One of the worst scenarios as a real estate photographer is showing up to a house and it’s an absolute mess and the homeowner is trying to straighten things up and clean while you are there taking photos. Nightmare. The shoot takes twice as long and now you are late for your next shoot and now that client is now upset with you. It’s just bad business and something to avoid at all costs.

The best way to mitigate this problem I’ve found is to advise agents to educate their homeowners ahead of time on how to prepare the home for photos so that looks its best. The way I do this is by emphasizing how important this is to agents and by providing them with a prepare sheet to share with the homeowner that contains guidelines on how to make the proper preparations to their home in order to achieve the best results. Obviously you can’t make a homeowner do anything but you’ll be surprised how strong the power of suggestion can be and if they are serious about selling their home then they will want to put the effort in to make the photos look good.

In this post I’m going to show you the prepare sheet that I share with my clients and the info I include on it to help the homeowners prepare for shoots. Hopefully this will help you get some ideas on info to share with your own clients or help you to create your own prepare sheet if you don’t have something like this already. It’s definitely made a difference in improving day to day operations for my own business and it's definitely something I highly recommend doing. Alright, let’s get into it.

Alright, so here is a look at the prepare sheet that I give to clients to prepare for a shoot. Big shout out to my good buddy Frank Zrinsky of Motion City Media. He created the original version of this prepare sheet and was kind enough to share it with me and let me modify it for my own uses and also let me show it to you guys. Thank you Frank. So now let me take you through what’s on the sheet so you can see what’s included on it and maybe get some ideas for your own sheet.

The first main section on the left reads:

“Making a lasting first impression is critical to expediting the sale of your home. Marketing and presenting your residence in its finest “show ready” condition attracts buyer interest, dramatically increases showings, and ultimately leads to a faster closing. As a seller in today’s market you play an integral role in achieving your ultimate objective. Properly preparing your home for the photo session helps us capture elegant images that grab attention. Follow these simple steps to get your home ready for the photo session and buyer showings should soon follow. Items cannot be moved from room to room while the photographer is on site. The interior and exterior need to be staged and ready prior to our arrival. In the event your home is not photo ready before the photography appointment, please arrange for your photo session to be rescheduled by 5 pm the day before your photo session.”

So obviously this section is designed to drive home how important the photographs are in order to attract potential buyers and also to hopefully illustrate how essential it is to have the home prepared prior to being photographed. Also, it makes the very important point that our time should be respected and there shouldn’t be any moving things around and straightening up while we are there taking photos. As I mentioned earlier, this is a huge waste of our time and jeopardizes the rest of our appointments we may have scheduled throughout the rest of the day. Ok now let’s take a look at the sections on the right on how to prepare certain areas of the home:

“LIVING AREAS: Remove all clutter including tissue boxes, remote controls, and as many personal photos and items as possible. Floors should be swept and carpets vacuumed. If large area rugs cover beautiful flooring, remove the rugs. Also, hide all children's toys and portable cribs.”

So really the big takeaway here is conveying to remove as much clutter from the scene as possible. Clutter is definitely probably the biggest offender when it comes to real estate photography and the photos always come out nicer when the homeowners comply with decluttering and hide away all extraneous items for a more streamlined look. Now let’s look at what it says for the kitchen and dining room:

“Wipe down counters and put all small appliances in cabinets. Remove magnets and photos from the refrigerator, hide sponges and soap dispensers. Don’t forget to remove items from the top of the fridge and hide all throw rugs. Optionally, set the table with a full table setting. A bottle of wine with glasses can be a nice touch as well.”

So with the kitchen, having a bunch of crap all over the counters is a common problem so trying to get the point across to remove unnecessary items from the counters is one of the main goals here. Removing area or throw rugs are mentioned a few times on this sheet as well as you may have noticed. For one, photos appear more sleek and clean without them and also they can be in the way of the buyer properly seeing what the floors look like which is actually what they want to see because that is what they are buying. Not many people go for the whole setting the table thing and I actually go back and forth about leaving that in there. Sometimes people do it and it actually doesn’t look too good and it backfires. Ok, let’s take a look at the next section:

“BEDROOMS: Make all beds and hide or organize children’s toys. All floors should be vacuumed or swept. Hide tissue boxes, personal items, excessive photos, remote controls, alarm clocks and phone chargers. It is important that these and all other rooms in the house feel comfortable and inviting. Make sure all lamps have bulbs and are plugged in.”

Bedrooms usually are fairly simple and straightforward to shoot and aren’t scrutinized over as much as the main areas such as kitchen and living room. That said, clutter is always the enemy so trying to get them to eliminate as much as that as possible is always the goal. I’m always aiming to have my images as streamlined as possible with the least amount of distractions in them.

“BATHROOMS: Hide all toiletries, such as soap dispensers, toothbrushes, and cosmetics - even the items in the shower area. Wipe down counters and remove throw rugs. Have clean folded towels in their normal areas. If any visible area is dirty, please clean. Also put away bathroom scales.”

Bathrooms tend to have a lot of items all over the sink area and elsewhere that make the photos look bad so the goal here is to try to draw attention to that and get them to hide as much of it as possible. Also, bathrooms seem to be the room that doesn’t get as thoroughly cleaned as other rooms as well which can show in photos hence the wording about making sure it's clean. Again, rugs and scales off the floor for a cleaner look and so buyers can see the tile.

“OUTSIDE: Have lawn at a presentable level; however, a fresh cut is not necessary. Roll up hoses, and have all outdoor furniture set up (open umbrellas). Make sure that trash cans are not visible. Put them in the garage or bring them to the street as far away from the front of the home as possible.”

The outside overall is usually pretty straightforward and not too much to worry about and most of the time I find that homeowners have it pretty presentable. Sometimes if people have a pool then they may have a bunch of pool toys laying around but mostly I find people keep the outside in pretty good shape. It's the inside of the house when people get real messy.

“FINALLY: Right before your scheduled shoot time, make sure all interior lights are on, blinds are open, and ceiling fans are off in rooms that will be photographed. If bulbs are out in any room, please replace any that can be reached safely. Please remove all cars from the driveway and do not park in front of the house.”

Final one here just making sure everything is ready to go upon your arrival. Moving the cars out of the way is an important one as well. Can’t tell you how many times people don’t move the cars til you get there. Not a super big deal but it can be annoying. As with everything else mentioned on this sheet, it's designed to try to help you save every bit of time possible and also save you some aggravation. Ok, let’s look at the last little bit at the bottom of the sheet:

“The laundry room or garage makes for a great temporary hiding spot for items that you need to quickly make disappear for the shoot. If there is not enough room in those spaces please hide additional items in closets or under beds. Remove seasonal decorations if possible. REMEMBER: Anything that is in the room will be captured in the photo, so remove anything of value that you do not want visible in photos.

The photographer will be happy to walk through the home with you before the shoot; however they only make light staging suggestions and micro adjustments. Moving items from room to room is not an option while the photographer is there; everything needs to be moved ahead of time. Thank you for the opportunity to photograph your home, we look forward to you seeing the finished media.”

This last section is just reinforcing that everything should be ready for you when you walk in the door and that there should be no straightening up while you are there. Also, pointing out the laundry room, garage and closets as places to hide stuff in is an important tip as those areas are typically not photographed.

Alright, so there you have the prepare sheet I send out to clients before shoots to hopefully get them to have things in order for me when I arrive at a shoot. I can’t even begin to explain how valuable it is to have things in order upon your arrival. It saves you time and ensures things go smoothly and doesn’t throw off your whole day because you're spending too much time at one shoot.

As far as distributing these, of course I would recommend emailing it to the agent and encourage them to share it with the homeowner. That method doesn’t always make it through to the homeowner though unfortunately. Additionally, I would recommend getting these printed and giving a few to your regular agents so they can share them with homeowners when they go to their homes to sign paperwork and conduct their listing meetings. This has been effective in making sure these make it into the hands of the homeowners.

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