Staging a home for a photo shoot

Now that I have more than a few photo shoots under my belt, I thought I would take some time to discuss staging a home. I’ve ran into a few instances where a property¬†wasn’t ready to be photographed. In one case, I returned the following day to give the seller more time to de-clutter. In another case, I simply shot the home as-is.

There are times where I will move small items out of the way of a well composed shot. Things left on a kitchen or bathroom counter-top, pillows or even chairs I can easily move out of the way and then back into place once I have captured the images. To be honest though, it’s not my job to stage a home. I leave that up to the seller and the realtor. I’d rather not be held liable for items that may get damaged in the home due to me handling them to make the photos look better. I am covered by an insurance policy should anything happen to the property (or my camera gear) while I am shooting a home… but I’d rather avoid moving or touching anything if at all possible.

Here are some basic tips for staging a home that I recommend prior to me arriving to shoot the photographs.

  • Thoroughly clean whole house (vacuum carpet, mop hard floors, clean counter-tops, clean windows)
  • Turn all overhead lights and lamps ON (replace all burned out light bulbs)
  • Turn OFF ceiling fans, TV’s and Computer Screens
  • Open blinds/window treatments (and make sure they are level and even) to let in outside light
  • Make all beds (including decorative pillows/shams if available)
  • Remove small floor rugs to reveal actual flooring
  • Place all shoes/jackets/bags/backpacks in closets
  • Close garage doors
  • Remove cars from driveway and front of home
  • Clean up landscaping (mow, trim shrubs, clear leaves)
  • Remove empty planters
  • Remove visible water hoses
  • Remove outside trash cans
  • Remove toys, sports balls, basketball hoops, soccer goals, etc.
  • Clear outside of refrigerator of magnets, papers, photos, etc.
  • Hide garbage cans in pantry or closet
  • Remove dishes from sink, place in dishwasher
  • Clear nightstands of all personal items
  • Store away phone/tablet charging cables
  • Remove all clutter from top of dressers
  • Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos
  • Clear bathroom counter-tops completely. No soap, toothbrushes, medications, deodorant, etc.
  • Put toilet seats down
  • Close closet doors
  • Remove dirty towels – leave out only new, unused towels
  • Place pet food and water bowls in pantry or closet
  • Place pet beds/toys in pantry or closet
  • Contain pets in hidden crate or outside
  • Clear back yard of pet waste/toys

Staging a home is a critical step to creating nice photography. I do my best to make sure that each photo I take showcases the property in the best possible way. I have a lot to think about when I walk into a home¬†and set up my camera equipment to create photographs. I’m concerned more about making sure I capture the space adequately and that everything in the photograph is technically accurate (exposure, focus, metering, etc). There are times where things do get missed however. Re-shooting a property due to staging concerns will likely result in an additional fee per room (or per shot). When possible, I can also attempt to “photoshop” a staging “mistake”, but that would also be an added charge.

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