How to Take Amazing, Professional-Looking Photos of Your Rental (Even With an iPhone)

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Have you ever seen an ad for a property for rent and were immediately turned off because of the awful, quickly shot, low-quality pictures? Online ads are especially guilty of this, and in fact, the majority of rental ads you will find on Craigslist (for example) are full of ads that were obviously taken with a cell phone, usually at weird angles, in poorly lit rooms, or of awkward things (toilet seat up, anyone?). Your ad is usually the first time your prospective tenant is introduced to you, so it’s logical to aspire to make a good impression. Taking some time and putting a little effort into your pictures will help accomplish that goal. In fact, the majority of prospective tenants won’t even look at online ads without pictures. Here are some tips for using pictures in your marketing.

Lighting

Lighting plays a huge role in determining the outcome of your pictures, as it makes the space look more open, warm, and inviting. You want your prospective tenants to imagine themselves sitting at your kitchen counter, sipping a steaming cup of tea with the warm, bright sunlight shining in on them. That’s going to be hard for them to imagine if you took your pictures in the evening or in the middle of a rainstorm. For this reason, consider taking your pictures on a bright, sunny day. In addition, make sure you turn on all the interior lights in the property and open all the blinds and curtains to make the property look as warm and inviting as possible.

The best time of the day to take your pictures is going to be when you have the most natural light available, most likely in the middle of the day. Avoid taking pictures when you have dark shadows to deal with or when it is dark. If you live in an area where it rains frequently (such as Northwest Washington), consider taking at least exterior pictures of your property when the sun is out, even if you aren’t advertising it at that time. Those pictures will come in handy when you have a hard time getting bright pictures during the dead of winter.

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Related: 6 Tips to Craft a Highly Coveted Rental — Without Over-Improving It

A Rent-Ready Interior

Before taking the pictures for your ad, make sure the unit is orderly, clean, and rent-ready. Don’t take pictures mid-rehab or before the unit is completely ready to show. Take a look around and make sure there is nothing that will stand out as “awkward” in your shots, such as your purse or clean- ing supplies sitting on the counter or open toilet lids. Consider staging the interior with a few items — such as a vase of flowers or fruit on the counter, or curtains in the windows — to make it appear more “homey.” If you have tenants currently in a property and you know they have nice furniture and decorating skills, offer them an incentive such as a gift card or rent credit for the opportunity to take a few “furnished” pictures for future marketing. Those will be very useful in the future for showing tenants a visual of how the unit looks furnished.

A Rent-Ready Exterior

The exterior should be free of any items that don’t normally belong. If there is off-street parking, such as a driveway, make sure your car is not in it. The lawn should be freshly landscaped with nice lines and the flower beds weeded. If it is a property that has bark mulch, it’s not a bad idea to freshen that up as well. Your goal here is for the property to look well-maintained and in tip-top shape.

Ready, Set, Shoot: Equipment

Now that the property is ready for its glamour shots, it’s time to actually take the pictures! For high-quality pictures, you will need high-quality equipment. No 1997 flip-phone camera photos allowed!

The Camera

A normal point and shoot digital camera or even an iPhone camera will do the job; however, consider investing in a DSLR cam- era if you really want a professional look. A DSLR camera is going to take higher quality, crisper images, give you wider angles, and allow you control with the depth of field, creating that beautiful “blurred” background that makes the image you are focusing on really stand out. The Canon T3i is the camera we use, and it takes beautiful, high quality shots. This particular camera is currently around $550 dollars but is worth every penny. And as an added bonus, you can use it for candid shots on family vacations! If a DSLR camera is not in the budget, at the very least use a camera that takes high-quality images — the outcome will still look professional if you take the necessary steps to prepare the property ahead of time for your pictures.

Tripod

Although a tripod isn’t necessary, it’s just one more tool you can add to your tool belt to create professional-looking pictures. You can find a tripod for around $20 on Amazon or even a tripod adapter for your smartphone for under $10, which will give you an even angle (you don’t want potential tenants thinking the walls are slanted) and steadiness.

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Related: 5 Tips for Writing Rental Property Listings Your Ideal Tenants Will Read

Cheese!

Lastly, take lots of pictures! Besides being descriptive with your ad wording and including all of the pertinent information like rent, deposit, utilities, and lease specifics, your ad is going to make the biggest impression with pictures. Remember, the majority of people won’t even bother with an online ad without pictures. First, you will want to include a picture of the front of the home, followed by pictures of all the main rooms, such as the kitchen, living room, dining room, recreation room, bathrooms, and bedrooms, as well as the garage, yard, landscaping, patio, garden, and all the special features of the property, both inside and out.

When creating your online ad, include as many pictures you can since you are giving your potential tenant a virtual tour of the property and you will want to show them as much as possible. Craigslist, for example, allows posters to include up to 24 photos, and Postlets allows you unlimited photos, so feel free to take advantage of that space!

[This excerpt was taken from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties. For more tips on marketing, managing, and profiting from your rentals, be sure to check out the full read.]

Have any tips you’d add for taking amazing pictures of your properties?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

5 Comments

  1. John Ford

    Great tips. One tip I’d add is that off-axis flash can be a game-changer once you learn it’s tricks! Your pictures are great but even as good as they are, the windows and lighting still dominate the pictures because they’re so bright compared to the rest of the frame. In order to allow in enough light to capture enough ambient light to get rich detail, those bright light sources get overexposed. So the idea is to raise the level of ambient light to be closer to those bright sources which will even things out and make the photos even richer and more balanced.

    With a flash unit and fast shutter setting, even on a very bright day, you can still capture all of the interior detail without allowing as much light in from the windows. But if you’re using that much light in the same axis as the lens, the pictures will come out very flat. By taking the flash off-axis, even just bouncing it off the ceiling, you can get a much richer pictures of both the inside of the house and a non-washed-out view from the windows in the same shot.

  2. Alex Craig

    Great photos is probably the most underestimated marketing tool by landlords. Our internal move in surveys show 75% of our tenant placements came from online advertising. With that in mind, why would someone not want great pictures. We use a professional photographer for each house, but if you can’t, that camera you recommend is perfect. Certainly need to use wide angle lends too! One other suggestion to further enhance the picture is to go to fotor.com.

  3. Bryan Otteson

    I would still recommend getting a professional photographer if you do not have a professional or high end amateur camera. It doesn’t matter how well you stage the photo, the quality of photo from the typical smart phone or digital camera is light years different than a high quality camera.
    When my daughter was born I didn’t want to spend the money on an amateur DSLR. I ended up buying the $850 camera and had my wife take 2 identical pictures at the same time. One with the DSLR and one with my $450 digital camera and email them to me at work. 100% different. Technology has advanced, but that difference is still the same. If first impressions are important, understand that it is your photos that are the first impression.

  4. Nathan Gesner

    I used to have a DSLR camera with a great wide-angle lens. The whole kit was well over $1,000. It took amazing pictures and decent video (the wide-angle lens was “soft”). I upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy S7 and quickly learned it took great photos! I bought a wide-angle kit for it. It’s not quite as nice as my previous setup but it’s much cheaper, I don’t have to remember to grab my camera every time I leave the office, it fits in my pocket, the video quality is actually better than my DSLR, and even though it has “barrel distortion” from the cheaper lens, I’ve never had anyone complain or question my photos or video.

  5. Katrina M.

    There are many young people now who are very much into photography. I had a student take photos of a house. He took several photos with different exposure, overlayed them and in the end the room in the photo had a very soft light, looked welcoming and bright.
    I don’t have such skills so wouldn’t attempt to photograph my projects for portfolio (I design houses). When I do, these photos never make it to my website, they are just not good enough.

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