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The Case for Vertical Compositions in Real Estate Photography

Published: 10/07/2019

Author: Pierre Galant

Some of my real estate clients insist on not doing any vertical shots. Their reasoning is that they do not display well on traditional real estate outlets such as the MLS and syndicated sites.

This makes sense to some degree, however, I believe this is a short-sighted perspective. While those sites are fine to sell the home itself, they do very little to build your brand image in the community. In fact, and that is a gripe of many Realtors, those sites aim to minimize the exposure of the listing agent often crediting the listing agent way down in the fine print.

This is how Trulia displays listing agents' information. That is after a lot of scrolling through neighborhood and market stats.

The screen shot here is from and as you can see, the credit is displayed below your competition who is paying to have their info displayed right above your name! Even though you're the one who has paid for the images that are bringing the traffic there in the first place!

In response to this, many Realtors are trying to control their own marketing efforts by using social platforms such as Instagram. That's where detail shots and vertical shots come into play.

You see, Instagram is a platform that was built specifically for being used on a mobile device. In the beginning, the only way to post images was in the square format so that it didn't matter in which direction the device was held.

Now that Instagram also allows for both landscape and portrait images, they are able to measure the effect of the orientation on the level of user engagement. As it turns out, vertical, or portrait images have much higher user engagement than square posts, and a much much higher engagement that horizontal, or landscape images. This is because a vertical image displays a lot bigger on Instagram than their horizontal counterparts, thus grabbing the attention of the viewer much more effectively.

As you can see, not only is the vertical image much more engaging and giving a much higher level of detail without forcing the user to tilt their device, but the scrolling down takes longer, meaning the audience is seeing the post for a longer period of time, and in the world of social media, even fractions of a second make a difference.

Pierre Galant
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9 comments on “The Case for Vertical Compositions in Real Estate Photography”

  1. I don’t see the issue for display inequities as much anymore as 9 or ten years ago... at least here. I’m sure they still exist on some syndicated sites and in other areas.

    A useful idea that I employ at the request of horizontal only (which I haven’t gotten in about 9 years) is to take a vertical and then place it in a horizontal frame so that it will display correctly... when i do this i will either take an additional vertical of maybe a different view or a detail to add with the main very and provide a duple photo in a horizontal format. Say you have small half bath or a shot that really needs to be composed vertically to show enough context or to include important elements like flooring and a skylight or lighting fixtures as well as what’s in the center- vanity or the like... i will take the main shot and then also take a close up (or just crop a detail shot from the main) or take the vanity side and then the shower as separate frames and include them together side by side in a single horizontal frame.

    A template can be set for photoshop but i just use a simple app Frames (i think that’s what it’s called... just search there’s a ton of them out there) it’s realky remedial but it gets the job done quick and i rarely have to use it.

    It does also add to the context for small spaces to include both items in the same frame like in a small bathroom where the shower can’t be seen from mirror and is on an opposite side of room or in separate hidden area from sink ... or even where you have a super talk and grand living room woth lots of detail on both ceiling and flooring. Providing a vertical of the entire space and then choosing a detail or cropping a detail like a fireplace or chandelier or Fresco lol! Is nice as a duple image as it communicates more about the space in a single shot without having to compromise one of the other.

  2. I don’t think it matters. Create what you want to create. Give it to them. They can choose to use it...or not.

    I sometimes provide portrait shots. Not often, but it happens. The MLS will take these and add white “wings” to the right and left side to transform it into a 4x6 ratio landscape image like all the rest. I don’t care. Because you can’t control it. And what you can’t shouldn’t worry about. Water off the back of a duck.

    The Instagram thing though is a bigger problem. Social media is a terrible way to get clients or Realtors.

    Some will certainly object. Saying they know agents who are killing it at social media. That doesn’t change anything. First of all...for every 1 that have figured out how to get ANY consistent business form Instagram there are gonna be 99 who are expending effort on that platform who are getting zero business from it.

    But more important is this...

    It’s not what you DO...but what you DON’T do that determines your success.

    In this case that means what would happen is an agent chose to NOT spend time messing around on Instagram but rather re-directed that time resource to some other activity?

    Most likely they would get more business. Because there are activities that have proven to be far and away more productive than social media.

    But everyone wants a silver bullet. And easy activity that one can engage in from the comfort of the couch. Social media has promised to be that thing for over a decade now. Really it’s just a time-suck for 99% of agents. For that reason I would never talk to my agents about using Instagram at all. I don’t want to encourage them to jump in that quagmire if they are not already doing so.

  3. Pierre - I agree that verticals show off some spaces much better, PLUS the longer captive audience time on Insta is great in your comparison screen shots.

    We've been so "trained" to take horizontals so often that sometimes it's hard to remember to turn the camera for the new composition! Good food for thought for the agents who DO Instagram. (And in California, that is absolutely the platform so many of our clients are using....) Adapting to the current needs of our clients and the shift in marketing trends is vital for our continued growth.

  4. Creating a diptych out of 2 (preferably related) vertical compositions is a simple way around the horizontal MLS issue.

    As for Instagram, if you're 88 years old and still have a land line, then for sure you should not try to use it.
    Everyone else -- it's just part of how you do business in the 21st century. Three of my best (top-billing, most fun, killer work) clients found me directly via social media. My own real estate agent uses Instagram brilliantly, she's not one to waste her time, either.

  5. Frank wrote: "...Some will certainly object...Saying they know agents who are killing it at social media. That doesn’t change anything...."

    Seriously? The fact that people are demonstrating that you are wrong "doesn't change anything"?

  6. : "Shooting Requirements
    Shoot landscape (horizontal) images – they look best on"

    expedia :"Photo orientation
    Expedia Group sites display horizontal photos best, so use photos that are wider left-to-right than top-to-bottom. Vertical photos (portrait style) are accepted but not recommended, as they don’t fully use available space."

  7. @Brian, I agree. Instagram isn't set up for finding real estate like Zillow or Realtor are. I've also found it far more productive to get out and meet agents and brokers rather than spend endless hours on social media. Some people have been able to make it work for them, but many others I know spend too much time trying to make it work and don't see much in return. It's like the hardware section at the supermarket. If you happen to be grocery shopping and need a few picture hangers, it's worth a look to see if they stock them. If you are making a trip specifically to get picture hooks, you are better off going to the hardware store.

    The suggestion of making a diptych is a good one. I'm going to have to remember that the next time I have a small bathroom or galley kitchen where a horizontal image isn't going to be the best choice. I rarely make vertical images as they throw away so much space on listing sites.

    I keep in mind that many viewers are going to be using a tiny screen to look at images which is a good argument for not going UFWA. If people are looking at images in pairs or larger groups, they are going to be on a tablet or larger screen where a gallery of vertical images isn't going to be all that great. Since we perceive the visual world in a wider more than vertical way, a horizontal ratio is much more natural. People will turn their phone if they are interested. What can lose their attention is to make them switch back and forth.

  8. @Alex Torozerov, If you are making photos for some organizations there are also bans on submitting vertical images since they don't fit their layouts. It's always important to know your customer's requirements and maybe even their customer's requirements. It's a poor use of time to have to return to a location and reshoot images.

    I've never had an issue with normal real estate clients, but leasing companies and government contractors (HUD homes, for example) have strict guidelines on what they will accept. Some agents may also need images a certain way to integrate with their website, especially if they purchased a stock template and can't make changes.

  9. I've only had a few agents say that they don't want verticals. That's usually when they see a vertical I shot for them.

    It's so easy to flip a camera with an L bracket and recompose the image that its not worth even asking ahead.

    That way they have two options. Always better than too few.

    Younger agents seem to be more tuned into social media as a marketing tool. More often the benefit is for brochure layout.

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