Are Your Front Exterior Shots Attention Grabbers?

April 26th, 2011

In real estate  photography the front exterior shot is THE most important shot. Why? Because a thumbnail of the front exterior shot needs to have the visual power to grab the attention of the home buyer scanning through lists of listings on real estate sites and entice them to look at the listing further. On most real estate sites there is an initial scanning step where the viewer scans all the listings that match some search criteria they have entered and the only image of the property shown during this scan is a thumbnail of the front exterior image. You have a split second to get the viewer to click. If they don’t click this thumbnail they will never see the other 15 to 20 interior shots.

In this video Seattle real estate photographer Dan Achatz shows you the dreary shooting situation he has to deal with every day and how he pumps the image up to turn it an attention grabber. Dan replaces skies, brightens and pumps up the saturation. From the finished shots you’d think these homes were in the tropics! They are bright, upbeat and really pop. They grab your attention. They will get way more clicks than if he’d left them dreary.

You can see from the difference between the in-camera shot in the video and the delivered exterior still shot that Dan puts a lot of post work into making the final shot snappy and attractive. This is what advertising is all about and it’s a big deal. Exaggeration? Yes, your job as a real estate photographer is to make the home look outstanding even if it is pouring rain when you shoot it and Dan’s three examples are excellent examples of how to do this. Do your front exterior shots grab attention? Thanks Dan for sharing these examples!

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16 Responses to “Are Your Front Exterior Shots Attention Grabbers?”

  • Is there any credibility issue with this? The retouched photo looks as fake as can be, reminding me of an old hand-colored print. Is the local Seattle market used to this? (I wouldn’t know, working in sunnier climes. In Denver, we often just wait a day for the sun- I guess that wouldn’t work up there.) I’m not calling these photos misrepresentation, just not very convincing.

  • This really is a good idea. I should do that on the two jobs I shot today. We usually have sun here in the Denver area, so when you have to shoot on a cloudy day, like today, it’s hard to make a photo stand out.

  • @John- I don’t think misrepresentation applies here. In real estate, generally misrepresentation means misrepresenting some physical aspect of the property. Replacing the sky, making the image brighter and increasing the saturation does not physically misrepresent the property in any legal sense. I submit what Dan doing is standard practice all over the world. In fact, I would argue if you’d not seen Dan’s video you would not even notice the difference and it would not look “fake” to you.

  • In the rain, under an umbrella… Awesome! Thanks Dan.

  • @John – A real attempt is made to avoid the retouched look by maintaing a folder full of skies. There is a slight hesitation in post edit to match any shadows or a brighter area of the image with the drop in sky. Waiting isn’t always what a client has in mind in getting a property to market. Dan had three shoots that day. Would waiting a day mean six shoots the next?

  • My broker is very conservative when it comes to pictures. She would never go for replacing a sky! She claims that she once came under fire for increasing the saturation of the grass color, and that there are strict regulations on what can and can’t be done. Does this vary from state to state?

  • @John – there might be a credibility issue if there were NEVER blue skies in Seattle but, despite what you see in movies, it doesn’t actually rain 365 days of the year here.

  • We we only shot during nice days in Seattle we would only be working 2 months out of the year. It is just a sad fact that in this part of the country we have to do edits like this. I try and avoid doing it at any cost. I am a little crippled too because I lost my folder of replacement skies a few months ago. I am working to rebuild it. Here are some tours I did during really bad weather. (Very Very Rainy and Windy) (Rainy) (First attempt after having lost my sky replacement folder)

    Loosing my sky replacement folder of images was a huge setback. I lost it this winter too so there was not many days for me to spend re-shooting. Now that it is summer though I have more time to take sky photos.

    I can shoot in the rain and in some forms of wind. If it is too windy though and I can’t keep the lens dry it sort of kills the shoot.
    It is very helpful when the agent holds the umbrella for you. Makes life much easier. Also make sure to bring some plastic camera sleeves for heavy rain.

    @Larry I disagree. I think that poeple with sophisticated eyes can tell the difference. I worry that their opinion on a property might be affected by being able to tell it is fake. I have been pointed out to clients and friends what to look for to tell if it is fake or not. After I taught them what to look for they usual report back how often they notice fake Skies, TVs, and Fireplace fires.

  • @Scott S. The rules vary from state to state. Also the clients understanding varies from client to client. Usually what they tell me is not correct. Take the time to research your states MLS rules for photography.

  • I have to agree that peoples “understanding” of what constitutes material change is subject to gross misinterpretation. Generally, I will offer a blue sky guarantee, and there are few occasions where that woulld have been near impossible – but luckily, it was a bright sunny day. Specifically, there were high tension wires to the rear that I couldn’t frame out. If I had replaced the sky, the wires would have been removed in the process – which would have been a material change.

    Florida is the “Sunshine State” and overcast skys are not a Chamber of Commerce moment. Reality is, some day – most days – there will be a blue sky. YOu are materially changing nothing – and people other than yourself and the customer do not know the conditions when the photo was taken. Likewise with grass which is dormant brown during Jan and Feb. Simple hue ajustment masking brins back to an appropriate shade of green, while retaining the texture of the original grass. It would appear that the photo was taken in Sept or Oct…and the grass will be gree again in the normal listing period.

  • Larry,

    Thanks for including me.

    A few comments;
    With good sky replacement techniques the wires stay in the shot so do tree branches.

    As far as skyreplacements go in general, it’s not like adding snow flakes in Florida, or apple trees to the grand canyon. I use local skys, and if anyone says otherwise, they’re lying 🙂

    Here’s an ethical question for that broker. If a home is in the flight path of a major airport is it ethical not to have a jumbo jet in the front shot. If it’s there should you remove it?

  • @Scott – I have never heard of an agent complaining for making a picture look better than what mother nature is dishing that day. I would ditch that agent fast. If you are leaving gray skies on her photos and other agents see your work, they are going to pass on hiring you. Open up Architectural Digest and tell me how many gray skies you see. Thats a big fat zero. Those photographers do not want to put out a single picture that looks bad. Why ruin your reputation. – My 2 cents

    @Dan – Well put with Jet example. Great video as well.

  • Dan you have some great shots in your portfolio.

    Maybe this says more about me but I wouldn’t think twice about replacing an overcast sky, not for ethical reasons, but how long does it take to do a sky replacement?

  • Chuck, it only takes 2 seconds. There are a few tutorials on this site.

  • Chuck,


    It takes me about 2 minutes to do a sky replacement. Most of that time is taken up picking out the sky I want.

  • I like the part where Dan goes to the wrong house! And I like the fact that he left that part in the video to amuse us. Since I have had some tuff luck w/sky replacements, I am looking forward to a dependable method for accomplishing this enhancement. My wife, “The Realtor”, is always after me to make it “more blue & pretty.”

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