Dress To Impress

Many of the homes I visit in my role as a property photographer for estate agents have been beautifully prepared for their photos to be taken. Their owners instinctively understanding that, in order to get the best from the photographic session, the rooms need to be looking their best; dressed in their Sunday best if you like.
They take care to put fresh, ironed bed linen onto the beds, plump up the pillows, dress the bed with appropriately coloured cushions and throws, they pack away their daily clutter, they clean everything until it gleams, they tame their curtains, they add a lick of paint where necessary, they add a jug of flowers… Oh what a pleasure for a photographer, especially knowing that not only will your job be a joy and a breeze, but that the owner will be delighted with the outcome of the photo session.
But, for every one of these paragons of the house selling world there are many more who do diddley squat, or not much more.
Trying to negotiate my way past a mound of ironing balancing precariously on a pile of cardboard boxes, entangled by a spaghetti of cables, attempting to find enough floor space on which to place my tripod, never mind being able to choose the best angle for the shot…it makes me a little bit mad!! Piously, I think to myself that these vendors deserve what they get in respect of their photos, but that is a short lived emotion actually.
Regardless of how the property is presented to me I do want to provide good, strong images that will attract buyers. Sadly we photographers don’t have the time (or the inclination actually) to tidy up, never mind clean – the state of some peoples’ houses when they know a photographer is due is staggering – heaven knows what they’re like on a normal day.
As the estate agent you could do a few things to mitigate these problems, but I am fully aware that whatever advice you give prior to the photos the advice will often be ignored.

For those homes where cleanliness is obviously not top priority, it would need to be broached in a generic way – saying something along the lines of ‘try to do your weekly clean just before the photographer is due..’
Remind them that dust shows up on photos.
I once went to a house where a huge hairy dog seemed to have free rein, and the owner was completely oblivious to the stench this beast created – I know this doesn’t come across in a photo, but it sure made me hurry up!
Where there is a strong pet smell it usually indicates a house that isn’t that clean, and this one was no exception. I spent much longer than I would have liked waiting while the owner moved things off the worktop, streaky, greasy worktops …horrible. Why she couldn’t do this small thing prior to my arrival I don’t know, and give them a quick wipe while she was at it – is it really too much to ask?
The photos were OK, I managed to cobble something out of the murk, but I am not at all surprised, that almost a year later, that house is still for sale…prospective buyers, I’m assuming, are put off by the lack of cleanliness and the overpowering doggy smell, clutter everywhere giving the impression of no storage and small rooms.
Another property – in the million pound plus bracket – was astounding in the state of it. Someone had obviously had a go at wallpapering in the living room, but had given up when it came to trimming the wallpaper on the chimney breast and had just left the length of paper hanging. There were holes in walls everywhere, the bathrooms were filthy, again a strong doggy smell permeated the atmosphere, a lift shaft had been started but abandoned and left without a barrier for some unsuspecting photographer or other visitor to plunge to serious injury below – I avoided it narrowly!!
As an agent it is a diplomatic assault course, when trying to get someone not familiar with keeping their house looking good, to clean and tidy for the photographs, my advice is to print up a sheet of tips to give to your client,

My top tips for presenting a house for photos
• CLEAN!! Including windows
• TIDY!!
• Clean floors and vacuum carpets
• Touch up chipped and flaking paint, give a whole room a lick of paint if it’s looking tired, it will do wonders – soft greys are the colours of the moment.
• Cover up an old sofa with a nice throw – not a cheap nasty one. Subtle tartans are very on trend at the moment, as are chunky knits – check out Ikea and TK Maxx
• A throw folded at the bottom of the bed can lift it out of the mundane
• Add appropriately coloured cushions to sofas, chairs and beds
• Dress beds with fresh, ironed bed linen
• Add flowers to the kitchen
• Remove superfluous items from the kitchen surfaces, leaving only items which add to the scene – eg a bowl of red apples, or lemons
• Tidy away kids toys
• Bathrooms must be gleaming, with clean, co-ordinating folded towels (not old and faded) (your photographer may remove towels, depends on the agent and their preference)
• Remove anything hanging up behind doors
• Tidy away cables as much as possible
• Remove any paperwork from desks
• Clear the hallway – no shoes, brollies, coats etc
• If the house is a particularly cluttered one, advise the owner to pack away some of their belongings – they will have to do this anyway once they sell, so at least they’ll get a head start.
Your photographer should be able to make the best of a bad situation – poor light for example, but it’s difficult to make a cluttered, dirty house look anything other than what it is.

Written by Jane Thorpe

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