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Communicating With Agent/Home Owner About Preparing For A Photo Shoot

Published: 04/12/2012
By: larry

I'm always amazed by how many agents and home owners don't do what it takes to get ready for a photo shoot, even when you tell them what to do. You may not consider this the job of the photographer but I'm here to tell you that it really does help if the photographer sets some expectations about the state of the property at the time of the shoot. A great way to set clear expectations is to have a home preparation is to have a Home Preparation Check List PDF on your web site so you can send it to the agent or the home owner. It's the agent's job to advise and help the home owner get their property ready for the market. But if you have a check list of your expectations it will be more likely to happen.

Here is my check list:

  1. The photo-shoot will take no more than 2 hours. I will be photographing both the inside and outside of your home.
  2. I’ll be photographing all of the major rooms.
  3. We normally do not photograph the garage unless it has special features.
  4. If you have special features of your home that are not obvious please let me know about these so I include them in the shoot.
  5. Contain pets in the garage or out of sight.
  6. Remove all vehicles from driveways and do not park directly in front of the house.
  7. Move garbage cans out of sight.
  8. Remove all garden tools including hoses and sprinklers.
  9. Mow and rake yard.
  10. Sweep driveways, sidewalks and patios.
  11. Clear off counter tops in kitchen and bathroom areas.
  12. Remove photos, notes and papers from the refrigerator.
  13. Turn on all interior lights.
  14. De-clutter rooms which may be excessively furnished. They do not photograph well.
  15. Make all beds and tidy bedrooms. Clothes hung, or folded and put away.
  16. Remove piles of newspaper and magazines.
  17. Tuck trash cans out of view in a closet or cupboard.
  18. Let me know if your home contains valuable works of art. I can edit photos to make these items unrecognizable or make sure the are not in the photographs.

The fact is, most of these items are things the agent should be making sure the home owner is doing to get their property ready for being on the market and being shown. But expect to have a large number of your shoots to not have these things done.

15 comments on “Communicating With Agent/Home Owner About Preparing For A Photo Shoot”

  1. Hi Larry, This is something I have worked on for my business. I have given out 5000 A4 Checklists to my clients to give to vendors. It proves to be an invaluable tool, and is a win / win situation for all, as the agent gets better photos and i am on property for less time. Heres a link to the checklist I give out.


  2. A funny story.... sent my checklist to a seller who called me the morning of the shoot for her small condo. She asked "what do I do with the milk? I have a 2 month old baby."


    She once again stated that she did everything I asked, but didn't know what she should do with the milk, as it needed to be refrigerated.


    She then tells me she emptied her refrigerator, cleaned the inside completely, and put all of her food under the bed in the master bedroom ... out of sight.

    Say WHAT???

    She stated "It said to clean out the refrigerator, so we put everything under the bed, cleaned the inside, etc. as per your instructions, but I have an issue with the milk. Will that be a problem?"

    Of course, I then started laughing uncontrollably... and told her it said to clean OFF her refrigerator, not clean it OUT.

    Dead silence on the other end!

    Gotta love this business....

  3. Thanks for sharing your list! These prep checklists not only improve the photos, but help give clients an expectation of how the shoot will go and prompt them to realize the importance of the end result.

  4. I've had a such a prep list on my web site for 5 years. I even email it to my clients several times a year to give to their homeowners. It doesn't seem to matter. The agents still expect me to pick up the house, put things away, and make the home photo ready. I had one agent that was so bad about this that I refused to shoot for him. He begged me to continue to work for him. I told him not unless he paid me twice my normal rate since his shoots took twice the amount of time. Rather than educate his homeowners, and take the time to make sure the home was ready, he agreed to double my rate! I ask a lot of the homeowners if they were given the prep list, and I would say that less than 2% know what I'm talking about. Maybe it's just my market, but the agents here don't seem to get it, or care.

  5. This is great and something I've thought about a thousand times. As I've told people on several occasions, I'm the photographer, not the stager. I can't justify the time of rearranging and staging each room.

    What's even more important, which I am adding to my list, is to kindly step out of the house for the shoot. More often than not, if you're shooting 9-11 exposures, the owner will walk though the shots at least once. Or, will stand just to your right and left, where you constantly have to politely say "I can still see you." As a friend said he tells his clients "if you can see or hear the camera, it can see you."

    Another thing I'm adding to mine is the suggestion that the photog is not scheduled at the same time as the listing appt. It's also common that I'll show up and find that the agent is meeting with them at the same time, which limits my flexibility to shoot through the house. Plus, typically they're meeting in a dining room or kitchen, monopolizing the main part of the home.

    Finally, I have learned that for agents or owners that like to follow you....then prep for the next room- that typically gets into a rhythm of the photog waiting for the room to be prepped, then the agent/owner waits for you to shoot that room....then he/she goes and starts prepping the next room....then waits for you to shoot, etc, etc. I've found its more time efficient to kindly say "So I don't take a lot of your time, if you'd like to work one room ahead of me, I will just follow behind you and shoot." That gets the point across and also makes them feel you're being mindful of their time as well.

    While many of these seem very petty, when you're shooting 3-5 per day, a few 30 minute delays through the day can really mess up a schedule. Plus, in the pricepoint many of us are forced to compete in, it's crucial to be very greedy with our time to maximize efficiency.

  6. Something I ran into yesterday that I think is overlooked is how relative the words "clean" and "decluttered" are. I also send out a checklist with every order. Yesterday I got to a home with counters in kitchen and bathrooms full of stuff. The homeowners asked if they could help so I put them to work while I went outside to shoot. Upon returning they had completed what I asked but kept making remarks about how I should have seen it before they decluttered the first time. I bet that this is the case a lot of times, I'm hoping to have some time this month to add imagery to my to do lists, I think that will help. Maybe even suggest homeowners take a picture for themselves and see how it compares to the image on the list.

  7. As A Realtor, this is something that is a great tool, I think that many Realtors could use some of these tips to just get the house ready to show... to start with.

    To you photogs out there that are having problems with getting the Realtors to hand out the list, encourage them to put it in their listing package and they can use your list to get the owners to understand how important it is to follow these guidelines to make the house look good not only for pictures but for showings as well... and they can blame it on the photographer:)

  8. My take on this is that there has to be a WIIFM for the client. Happily I photograph high-end property mostly and owners are pretty clued up but I've had a few who have been oblivious to the need. So I've prepared a sheet as many of you have, which the agents give to their clients on marketing appraisal. In it I've made the "what's in it for me" point that the photos are the FIRST impression that their buyers will have of the property they're selling, and it's their bottom line that is affected positively if they get the preparation right: .

    I do think that agents are missing a trick if they don't prep the client to make the property ready for the photos AND for potential buyers. Otherwise they're paying out lots of money to promote property that's presented badly. What's the point in that? All that happens is that the agents wastes his/her money and the client instructs another agent after a few months of negative marketing impact. Agent AND client loses out.

  9. Speaking from the UK, I was at a rightmove seminar last week ( and the figures indicate good property presentation and quality photography are high on peoples agenda when choosing an agent. It was mentioned that many photographers and agents are having to become amateur property dressers which certainly fits with my experience - in some high value homes I have spent as much as 35% of my time removing washing, toothbrushes, forests of toiletry bottles, pet blankets, bins etc.

  10. @Matt - Great looking list! I like it better than mine. Those of you that don't have a home preparation list I would have a look at Matts and John Durant's lists too.

  11. I would be happy if the real estate agents could learn not to park in the driveway when they meet me for a photoshoot! As for the owners, what they consider uncluttered, is not what we consider uncluttered. I can't count how many time I have heard "you should have seen what it looked like before."

  12. I try and encourage as much as possible for the property to be ready to shoot, have a preparation list on my website, also as a pdf/print for agents to give to the vendors. I have great long term clients/agents, they are all aware and go out other their way to ensure the property is ready, I have a disclaimer on my site and brochures that says "property photographed as presented" and encourage the use of stylist if they feel they are not up to the task. At the end of the day I promote myself as part of my agents team, so if the property is not ready or has to be done we just get in and get it done, I still move things, clean up and sometimes even make beds, pick up unspeakable things..... but its worth it if it gets my agent over the line and the house sold...

    ... sometimes it makes me very unhappy but next time the phone rings and its a booking I know it was worth it.

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