Checklist for Preparing Real Estate for Photography

Thank you to photographer Oliver M. Zielinski of Berlin for this comprehensive list of things to do before photographing a property. Some things are obvious to us photographers that may not be as obvious to others. Agents, FSBO homeowners, other photographers: this checklist is here to help you (and save us time in Photoshop!). This article was copied with permission (with a few minor “Americanizations” to the language ) from Oliver’s website, See the original article here, and be sure to check out Oliver’s amazing real estate photography.

1. Slenderize Furnishing

  • Create space – remove all unnecessary pieces of furniture.
  • Place furniture and decoration only where they are appropriate. Put children’s chairs and toys back to the children’s bedroom and the computer to the office.
  • Remove all used-looking furnishings (worn upholstered couches, stained carpets, scratched sideboards etc.).
  • Move all domestic animals to another place – sounds tough but promotes the success of the presentation.

(On a personal note, I can attest to this last item, not only so you don’t capture Fido and Fluffy photo-bombing in the mirror, but to make the shoot go easier on you. On one occasional I did a shoot where the family hound kept stealing items out of my equipment bag! Another time, one of the family dogs–or so I thought–wandered into the front yard while I was setting up a twilight shoot. Time being of the essence, I ushered him quickly back into the house–only to discover that I had just let in the neighbor’s dog! NL)

2. Perform Basic Cleaning

  • Let professionals clean the whole space.
  • Clear all floors, furniture’s surfaces, wall tiles, mirrors and windows from dirt, streaks and dust.
  • Remove spider webs, especially in corners and around ceiling lamps.
  • Remove all lime and drop marks from faucets, sinks and bath tubs.

(I would also add: remove/hide all the personal items from the bathroom. No one needs to see razors, goopy bars or soap, and  six bottles of shampoo in the shower. And for Pete’s sake, CLOSE THE COMMODE LID! NL)

3. Create Clarity

  • Care for uniformity. A table should only be surrounded by chairs of the same model. In a glass cabinet only display dishes of the same series.
  • Align all chairs at dining tables, kitchen counters or working places.
  • Sort books according to their size. Remove extreme formats and very colorful publications.
  • Straighten all lampshades.

4. De-Personalize all Interior

  • Hide all family-related photographs and other mementos.
  • Remove any signs of religious or political preferences of the owners (unless you want to sell only to a specific target group).
  • Clear the whole property from hints to preferences in sports, hobbies and brands.
  • Don’t show records and certificates of the owner.
  • Remove all kinds of souvenirs and trophies from walls and shelves.

5. Minimize Decoration

  • Hide all small images, any bric-à-brac items and hobbyist collections.
  • Remove all pillows and blankets from the living room.
  • Place only one piece of deco on one table.
  • Remove all newspapers and magazines.
  • Remove trash cans and waste baskets.
  • Clear all tables, trays and cabinets in the kitchen.
  • Keep only one or two items per panel of glass cabinets.
  • Remove all magnets, photographs and children’s drawings from fridges and pin boards. (Don’t forget to wipe the smudges from stainless steel appliances that appeared right after the cleaning crew left! NL)
  • Hide all cables and electricity distributors.

6. Straighten Fabrics

  • Straighten blankets, bed sheets and bed covers.
  • Plump up the cushions and smooth them out.
  • Care for evenly hanging curtains.
  • Remove all waves from carpets.
  • Take down all towels from their hooks, fold them and stack them near the sink.

7. Control Stocks

  • Display only new packets of expendable items (toilet tissue, paper towels etc.).
  • Remove all opened bottles from a bar.

8. Check Lighting

  • Switch on all lamps and replace broken light bulbs. Maintain the same wattage/performance for all bulbs within one lamp.
  • Check the proper function of all outdoor lighting (garden lamps, door lights, patio lights, pool lamps).

9. Get the outdoor area ready

  • Remove all vehicles from driveways.
  • Hide the garbage cans.
  • Put garden tools, garden hoses, sprinklers and used barbecues into the garage.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Rake garden beds and drive ways.
  • Sweep pavement areas.
  • Give the pool a professional cleaning.
  • Shut all doors and windows for the first outdoor images.
  • But open all door and window shutters/shades.

We recommend to check this list again on the day of shooting. Often there is some time at the beginning – when the photographer takes a scouting tour around the property – to conduct last small corrections. Have some cleaning equipment (floor cleaner, feather duster, bucket, dry and wet cloths, vacuum cleaner, glass cleaning liquid) ready.