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So you’ve decided to sell your house. Excellent decision. Part of the process of selling is taking photos to advertise the property. Unless you already have another place to move all your belongings, you’ll probably be occupying your house until it sells. Since you know you’ll eventually have to pack up your belongings to move, why not take this time to also prepare your house for real estate photos. As you prepare for photos, think like a professional who stages homes. Be sure you and your realtor have allowed enough time to declutter. It is often a monumental task and people underestimate the time it takes. Because of coronavirus concerns, I avoid touching things inside an occupied house, so it’s best if the homeowner can move items before I arrive.

I have been doing real estate photography for about seven years, and these tips are from my experiences photographing houses that are occupied versus those that are staged or empty. Staged homes often look better in photos. Why? Because they show an ideal view of a property in the mind of a buyer. These same tips will also help when it comes time to show your house to potential buyers.

Throughout the house

  • Reduce and eliminate clutter! Allow the buyer to see the space without distractions. For photos, less is better. If you do nothing else, at least do this and your home will look 100% better.
  • Do the rooms look lived-in or spartan? When you’ve removed enough clutter that the room looks spartan, remove a little more and the room will be ready.
  • Make rooms appear spacious by removing excess pieces of furniture. Too much in a small space makes the space appear even smaller.
  • If available, use the garage to store excess furniture or boxes of items. If you don’t have a garage, consider renting a storage space.
  • Don’t cram exposed storage spaces full, especially built-in shelves and walk-in closets. Avoid too many items on shelves. You want to give the impression that there’s more than enough storage.
  • Remove personal photos and items. You want to make the viewer imagine themselves living there.
  • Unplug electronics including phone chargers, Google and Alexa devices, or just about anything that uses a AC adapter. Dangling wires and transformer blocks are unsightly. Extension cords and power strips suggest that the house doesn’t have enough outlets.
  • Remove any packages that prominently display a brand name. Legally, they can’t be in a photo without prior permission.
  • Ensure that furniture and decorations don’t block doors from opening completely. 
  • If you have nice wood floors, keep as much of the floor exposed as possible, use rugs to hide blemished areas.
  • If your wood floors are old and unsightly, cover as much as possible with rugs.
  • Remove anything hanging on a wall or cabinet that doesn’t have a frame, including calendars, post-it notes, postcards, etc. These things often become invisible to you if they’ve been there long enough.
  • Remove cobwebs. Although they rarely appear in photos, they are unsightly to people viewing the house in-person.
  • Remove kids toys from main living areas. Keep the toys confined to kid’s rooms, or designated playrooms. If possible, put them into storage.


  • Clean appliances, removing fingerprints and smudges, especially if the appliance is stainless or black.
  • Remove freestanding microwave ovens, toaster ovens, stand mixers or any unnecessary appliance from countertops. The idea is to show the spaciousness of the kitchen countertops.
  • If you have lots of countertop space, you can add a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers as accent pieces. If the countertop area is small, leave them empty.
  • Remove photos and magnets from refrigerators.
  • Put excess knives, utensils, pots and pans away. The exception can be a teakettle on the stove.
  • Hide wastebaskets and recycling containers.
  • Hide dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Put sponges, washclothes, scrubbers, and brushes inside the sink or, better yet, in the cabinet under the sink. 
  • If possible, ensure that all cabinet doors and drawers can fully close. This is especially important for older kitchens with worn out hardware.

A properly staged home will often sell quicker and for more money.


  • If the room feels crowded because the furniture is large or there are too many pieces, consider putting some of the furniture in storage, leaving just a bed and nightstands.
  • Use a contemporary bedspread to cover the bed. Anything old-fashioned will make the room (and house) seem old and outdated.
  • If the bed doesn’t have a headboard, use lots of decorative pillows inside shams.
  • If there is a TV in the bedroom, consider removing it temporarily. Many people don’t like having a TV in the bedroom and seeing photos of a bedroom with one can create a negative impression even before they’ve seen the house.


  • Remove cosmetics, plastic soap dispensers, toilet brush and holder, unadorned (not covered or hidden) tissue boxes.
  • Remove shampoo and conditioner bottles, racks hanging from shower heads, and loofahs and bath sponges. 
  • Thoroughly clean glass shower enclosures. Spots on glass really show in photos.
  • Add nice towels to every towel bar or ring, preferably ones that match.
  • Remove towels and robes hanging on hooks on the back of a bathroom door.
  • Hide wastebaskets. 
  • If you have full-width mirrors facing the entrance to the bathroom, have a decorative item, such as a vase, available to help hide the reflection of the camera.


  • Typically, the inside of garages aren’t photographed, but if the garage is tidy, walls are finished, and the floor is painted, it may be beneficial to take a picture of it.
  • Remove your car from the garage or driveway and park it on the street away from the house.


  • Have your windows professionally cleaned, especially if you have a view. You want nothing to distract from that view.
  • Fully close all windows. The fewer lines from window frames to block the view, the better.
  • Fix drapery to hang evenly. Fix or remove blinds that are broken, bent, or will not hang evenly. 
  • Don’t leave drapery rods hanging empty.
  • If blinds won’t hang evenly when fully drawn, leave then down but open the slats to allow a view from about chest height.
  • If you have plantation shutters, leave the shutters open and level.
  • If the view out the window is the side of another house, leave the blinds closed and slightly tilted. If the window has curtains, use shears to allow light to filter in but block the view.


When I arrive to take photos, I will turn on all the lights inside a house. Even on a bright sunny day, interior lights will help brighten rooms in a photo and will show viewers where lights are located. Even though the HDR process will brighten the photos, dark rooms or rooms painted in dark colors will sometimes appear unnatural in photos. Additional lights usually help.

  • Ensure that every light works and that no bulbs are burned out. You want to show just how bright the house can be.
  • Strive to make dark rooms appear bright. If a room seems dark, even with the lights on, consider replacing the light bulbs with brighter ones. Add table or floor lamps if necessary to brighten especially dark corners.
  • Lights have a color temperature. Avoid mixing different temperature lights in the same fixture or groups of fixtures. If all the other light bulbs in a chandelier are warm white, don’t replace the burned out one with a daylight bulb.
  • Position track lights to illuminate walls and art work. Never point them toward a door opening or entrance to a room.


  • Clean roofs and gutters, especially if the realtor wants aerial photos of the house and property.
  • Remove flaking paint and repaint those areas.
  • Have bushes, hedges and trees neatly trimmed. Have the lawn mowed the previous day to give the grass some time to recover.
  • Mulch flower and garden beds.
  • Sweep walkways and driveways. Pressure wash if mossy or extremely dirty.
  • Uncover grills and patio furniture. Hide the covers. Open patio umbrellas if the weather permits.

Special considerations for 360 virtual tour photos

Since 360º spherical photos used for virtual tours can see everywhere in a room, including ceilings and floors, it’s especially important to remove all clutter that can be seen from the center of a room. Unlike traditional still photos, viewers can zoom in on 360º photos to see details. Be sure you have nothing confidential or embarrassing sitting in view near the camera, such as credit card bills or personal hygiene items. If you don’t want viewers to see into closets or adjoining rooms that won’t be included in a virtual tour, be sure to close doors to those areas.

Following these suggestions won’t guarantee your house will be featured in Architectural Digest, but it will help it sell quicker and for more money. Each home is different so be sure to ask your realtor for any other suggestions for your particular home.

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