Real Estate Staging / Home Staging Blog


Set Your Sites Low... to Raise Your Standards

The brilliance of Active Rain and Localism is that they can work together to everyone's benefit. As Active Rain provides a forum to share ideas and information amongst peers, Localism provides a place to apply this knowledge and better reach clients... immediately. Here is an example to make my point...

As a home stager I believe what a home buyer sees, regardless of where, when or how they see it, matters greatly. (I believe in the importance of this so much that I am ongoingly investing in and building an entire company devoted exclusively to improve what buyers see and visually exprience.)

So to keep my eye on just what is happening with technology and in the marketplace I often go out to realtor sites to research and SEE just what has been put there by realtors for buyers to look at and evaluate. And I have to admit it surprises me to see so much sloppy photography that realtors use to market their client's properties.

The MOST common photo composition error that I see over and over again are interior room shots that feature way to much of the ceiling in the photo. WHY... I do not know. When was the last time you had a client ask you to show you a house with the biggest ceiling? If you ask me, with digital photography being easy, quick and cheap, there is NO EXCUSE for this to to occur in room shots. To me... in the not too distant future bad photography this is going to be the sign of a lazy agent.

Yes, there are times when beams, skylights, light fixture, or some other ceiling feature or element should be featured in the photograph... but let's face it, this is NOT the case for the majority of the rooms that are being photographed. Below are 12 of nearly 50 images I found last week when I sat down for about 1¼ hours to do some on-line research. I know SEEING what I saw will help SEE what buyers are SEEING.

The good news is this does not take expensive photo editing software or classes in photo composition to correct this error. All it requires is that the realtor take an extra moment and look at what is in their camera's view finder and lower it if too much ceiling is being included in the shot. TIP: More floor is typically better then more ceiling.

As more and more consumers rely on internet sites (like to prescreen and preview properties, the knowledge and application of BASIC photographic skills is going to be another critical competence that WILL distinguish the amateur from the professional realtor in the areas that the consumer is selling and/or shopping in.

So remember, simply lower your sites... to raise your standards and gain the marketing advantage shooting and posting good room photos will make in creating a favorable impression of you and the properties you are selling.

Variety of images were taken from random properties advertised in the market where I grew up (NOT Chicago-land). I scanned interior images across 5 zip codes of properties for sale in one evening on January 9th, 2007 and found MANY more equally as bad.


Comment balloon 42 commentsCraig Schiller • January 15 2007 12:49PM


Excellent composition Craig- as clear perspective to how to improve ones product!  Balance top to bottom, side to side, make the photo much more interest and a nicer overall presentation. Well Said Craig.
Posted by Craig Schiller almost 14 years ago

Great post, Craig. I don't think it's so much that Realtors are trying to take such photos as it is just a lack of knowledge and not realizing that's what we've done. I'll have to go take a look at my own. I personally am far from being a professional photographer and could use tips such as these so keep them coming!

Posted by Ryan Hukill - Edmond, Realtor, Team Lead (ShowMeOKC Real Estate Pros of KW Elite) almost 14 years ago

Allison: EXACTYLY you got it! Compostion is as much about what is goign on around the outside edges as it is in the middle.

Ryan:Frist I tweaked my comment a bit... about what I said  about being lazy. You made me think... maybe agents just DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA.

BUT the better thing is you said you are going to go and look at your own images. This one little post could drasticly improve how you go about marketing properties. It is a 1 minute read that can be of great benifit. You gotta love the Rain.


Posted by Craig Schiller almost 14 years ago

OMG - THIS HAD NEVER CROSSED MY MIND!  Guilty as charged..... THANK YOU for pointing this error out; your examples speak volumes!


Posted by Adam Tarr, PC -GRI, ABR, CDPE, RSPS, ePro - Designated Broker (MavRealty) almost 14 years ago
As always Craig, your ideas are spot on. I have shared this before, but I think it bears repeating. A monopod is not only effective in holding the camera steady but also it helps avoid too much ceiling in the shot. If you get a good quality monopod, they are very  portable and easy to use. The very act of using it reminds you to compose the shot rather than just firing them off, hoping for a good one. Try shooting the shot at slightly lower than eye level to better show the room and furnishings. How we "see" things is not always what a picture "shows."
Posted by James Frazier (James Frazier Personal Development Coach) almost 14 years ago

I often offer to help some of real estate agents with taking photos of their listings.  I just recently did one is this too much ceiling?


Posted by Blanca Cholewczynski, XCO (U) almost 14 years ago

Blanca... NO not at all! Actually this is a VERY good example of how to feature the beams with out the room looking like it is all ceiling. Now if BLANCA a mortgage person gets this this fast... realtors should get this too.

THANKS BLANCA for being a novice and showing how it is done.


Posted by Craig Schiller almost 14 years ago

It is just a lucky shot Craig! LOL

How I increase my chances for a better shot is by taking many shots of each room.   By doing this I am bound to capture a good shot.   I think the biggest thing to ensure you take good photos is to make time to get familiar with your camera and its features, play with the angels and lightning.  That is my best tip!  

Posted by Blanca Cholewczynski, XCO (U) almost 14 years ago

Craig: Have you come across pictures with fuzzy, blurry images? Those are much worse than having a bad composition. Above that, how about having dark interiors that you wonder what's going on in there.

I'm just curious: Do you or other stagers take professional photographs of the staging work that is done, then share or charge the realtor instead of relying on their skills to take those pictures (hint, hint: Danger!).

I normally pick a good time of a day (depending on weather), and ask the Sellers to leave for a few hours so that I can take my photos uninterrupted. It's not easy to "feel" the composition while trying to be friendly to the Sellers (following you around the house).

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) almost 14 years ago

"...simply lower your sites... to raise your standards..." Love this quote.

I've been reading your posts for some time even though I just joined; I find you always seem to make great contributions, written with such eloquence and purpose.

Posted by Tina Parker, CNE, REDM, SRES, CSP Home Staging REALTOR, Halifax (Keller Williams Select Realty) almost 14 years ago
A lot of people think they need to be designers or "creative" to take good photographs with good composition.  All we need to do is open our eyes.  The exercises you give here are great to teach us all how to look and how to scrutinize our own work.  Thanks Craig - you know you're AWESOME.
Posted by Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate (Majestic Properties) almost 14 years ago

I totally agree Chris. My husband is an amateur photographer and trained me early on how to take pics of rooms. Like you, I can't believe some of the pics. realtors upload to the MLS of their listings. I have seen animals walking across the room, dirty dishes on the counter and clothes strewn across the furniture. Unbelieveable.

I have a question off the photography subject. I am now a realtor in SC and will be moving to GA this summer. I am very interested in becoming a home stager and would like to get trained (certified) before I get to GA. Problem is, there are NO home staging businesses in my city so I can't get training here. What do you suggest?

Posted by Lisa Kolb, Evans/Martinez~Real Southern Homes (Keller Williams Realty~Augusta Partners) almost 14 years ago

Hey Craig I still fall short in the pic area. My problem is, if the room is small where the heck can you go to get a full shot in?? I am still working on this but short of cutting a hole in the wall don't know what else that can be done.

Phyllis Pafumi  

Posted by Phyllis Pafumi, ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ (ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey) almost 14 years ago

Phyllis, I have been known to stand in the closet or the hall to get as much of the room as possible.

I take a lot of photos and hope to get a few good ones.  Occasionally I use a photo editing program to lighten or crop when needed.  I learned that turning off the lights is better than having them on because they are too bright in the picture and confuse the auto flash feature of my camera.  I do try to notice when there are clothes strewn about and when the sink is full of dirty dishes, etc.  I also discovered that taking a flash picture straight on to a shiny surface causes glare in the photo.  As a result I have learned to stand at an angle for the same shot. 

Posted by Bonnie Erickson (Tangletown Realty) almost 14 years ago
These look like most of the ones on my mls and sadly probably still some of mine. I have so much to learn.
Posted by Carole Cohen, Realtor, ePRO (Howard Hanna Cleveland City Office) almost 14 years ago

Clever slogan!  It took me a while to figure out what it meant.  More stagers should offer photography as part of their services.  They are the ones with the artistic flair after all, and taking them just after the staging is complete is the best possible time. 

You inspired me to invest in a digital SLR with ultrawide angle lens (plus flash and tripod) and my photos are shaping up quite nicely. 

What a great way for stagers to add value to their service and to set themselves apart from the rest!

And with the Kodak that Jeff Turner recommends, it can be easily done for an investment of less than $300 (currently $230).

Posted by Jessica Hughes (Ambiance Staging) almost 14 years ago

Great post again Craig.  I always love your posts that feature good/bad camera pictures.  You always have great examples to share.  A lot of people don't always notice things like this, but if you step back and look for a moment, it really does make a huge difference. 

What do you use for photo editing software Craig.  I need to upgrade. 

Thanks for the great examples.

Brian Ortiz


Posted by Brian Ortiz, Chicago Real Estate Broker (RE/MAX Vision 212) almost 14 years ago

For those of you who may have missed one of Craig's previous blogs about photo's, here is one of my favorites.  As I just mentioned Craig, always great examples and excellent suggestions that so many people (including me) don't always see. 

Here is the earlier post from Craig I mentioned.  His TRIX-FIX-12-PIX is another excellent photo resource.

Brian Ortiz


Posted by Brian Ortiz, Chicago Real Estate Broker (RE/MAX Vision 212) almost 14 years ago

Craig - thanks for yet another good tip. You don't have to buy anything or go through a learning curve - just lower the angle!

To get a good photo of a room, be sure to get a wide angle lens. So many camera emphasize the zoom aspect that you really have to look to get a good wide angle. 

Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) almost 14 years ago

Ever have one of those 'Aha' moments?  Thanks for the tip.

Posted by inactive AR account almost 14 years ago

Hi Craig.

Thanks again for sharing your staging wisdom with the world.  Couldn't agree more.

You inspired me to blog on about how I believe providing AFTER photos to all of our staging clients is just part of doing our job.

Providing AFTER Photos for Home Staging Clients...

Have a great day!


Posted by account deactivated (not listed) almost 14 years ago

photographing is an art most realtors don't get yet...but they will, they have to...ha


Posted by Chris Ward (Eagle Realty) almost 14 years ago
Craig, great article as usual. I find smaller homes are harder to do. I take along a 2-step ladder to stand on so that I can shoot 'down' into the room. That shows more floor space plus, I don't have the sight-line blocked by the back of a sofa, since I'm not that tall. Small bedrooms are often hopeless ... can't get far enough away even in the hall.
Posted by Elaine Reese, REALTOR® in central Ohio (Real Living HER, Powell Ohio) almost 14 years ago

Elaine- that's a really good idea to use a ladder. 


Posted by Brian Ortiz, Chicago Real Estate Broker (RE/MAX Vision 212) almost 14 years ago

Brian, I came upon this idea once when I was on a tall ladder in my own home.

From that perspective, the room looks a lot larger. It especially works in living rooms if they have large bulky furniture. From a higher view, you can see the floor around the sofa and coffee table, etc. Of course, if the home has a loft, so much the better. Here's the same room - one from the loft - one from the floor. See how bigger the overhead shot makes the room look.

living room floor

 Beech home LR above


Posted by Elaine Reese, REALTOR® in central Ohio (Real Living HER, Powell Ohio) almost 14 years ago
Good photos are one of my "pet peeves". I have been known to reshoot them several times if I am not 100% pleased with the result.  (and sometimes you just have to accept that no amount of reshooting is going to fix the property if it is a dog!)  :)   Your post makes me wonder how I did in the less is more (ceiling) category.  I will have to go check my archives.  Thanks.
Posted by Debi Braulik, Selling Maple Valley to Fife WA Homes For Sale ( almost 14 years ago
Train Outta ChicagoThe only problem is, how to carry the ladder; seriously lol. I LOVE the idea. Seem to recall an info mercial from a few years back about some foldable ladder. I'll have to scour the web
Posted by Carole Cohen, Realtor, ePRO (Howard Hanna Cleveland City Office) almost 14 years ago


As usual you are both brillant and right....but you have to admit that even a bad picture is better than a 700k or more listing with NO photos. Every time I see one of those (those are luxury listings in this neck of the woods) I want to scream.  Then I want to call up the seller and offer to do a decent job of representing their property for them...haven't yet but it sure is tempting.

Posted by Deb Hurt, ABR, e-Pro,Green, TRC (Realty Pro Albuquerque) almost 14 years ago
Craig... right on the money, buddy! Right on the money.
Posted by Jeff Turner (RealSatisfied) almost 14 years ago
The post Brian mentioned was one of my very favorites and one I have bookmarked.  I never thought about ceilings until I read that one and now I'm obsessed with it.  LOL
Posted by Linda Davis (RE/MAX Home Team) almost 14 years ago

Great post Craig and some mighty fine tips.


Posted by Monika McGillicuddy, Southern NH & the Seacoast Area (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty) almost 14 years ago
Wow, Craig, Thanks so much for such a great and Simple tip, that is going to make such a difference in my photos from now on. I never would have thought of just lowering my camera!!
Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) almost 14 years ago

AWESOME post, Craig, as usual. Looking in the viewfinder can save people *so* much time..and taking lots of photos.

Bonnie - send tips ahead of the shoot so you won't have to pick up stuff (feel free to use our list to begin your own).

Loreena - I think it's a great idea to take before *and* after photos and post them on your site to show your work (but as you point out, I don't think it's wise to simply offer them after photos). "Following you around." I *love* that .. glad I'm not alone ;)

Brian - I use Photoshop Elements. Not the most expensive but it does everything I need in real estate photography.

Debi - It's the classic "don't shoot the messenger." If the home is in poor shape, all you can do is have the homeowners follow that list of tips, take the most complimentary photos possible, and avoid a virtual tour at all costs....because the camera doesn't lie.

Love you guys!



Posted by Anonymous almost 14 years ago


That was my response just above and I wasn't logged in. Sorry!

I still love you guys! and gals!


Posted by Dawn Shaffer Life is good! almost 14 years ago


You made me STOP and CHECK my SELF !!  Yes, I had a few pics with too much ceiling.... and I vow to think of you whenever I take photos again...  no more ceiling for me!!


Posted by Fran White, Kansas City North Real Estate, 816-682-3897 (North Kansas City Real Estate, Reece and Nichols Residential) almost 14 years ago

The area that I work in has many, many huge homes with high ceilings.  My personal pet peeve (I work in a vacation area where most homes are rented all summer  & for sale... got to love the Jersey Shore) is seeing nothing but furniture and decorations and never seeing the scale of the room.  Our perspective and it does work, is showing the architecture of the home.  Your example shots all show rooms with low ceilings and I totally agree with you on these types of rooms.  The B-52 view of the room doesn’t fly down here with sellers or agents. I totally see where you are coming from, but I guess different markets bear different styles.


Posted by Andrew King (Avalon Real Estate Agency) almost 14 years ago

Thanks Craig for some great examples. I  bought 3 of my last 6 homes because I found them on the Internet and I wouldn't have bothered to even see them if the room shots didn't properly showcase the home's best features.

I'm always on the lookout for my next property and even if I've seen a a newspaper ad for an open house, I look for the home online before going in person to visit. If the photos are missing or just plain bad, I assume (rightly or wrongly) the agent is too lazy to do a proper job of marketing their listing.

That may sound harsh to some, but in a world of information overload, the reality is that people make very snap judgements and then move on without a backward glance!

 Debra Gould

P.S. And for gosh sakes, close the toilet seat before shooting the bathroom! 


Posted by Debra Gould, The Staging Diva (Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc.) almost 14 years ago
Craig thanks for the tip, I am not good at taking picture; thus your advice on composition will be heeded in the future.
Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) almost 14 years ago


Thanks for the post. As usual, educational and yet entertaining. Thanks!

Posted by William Collins, Property and Asset Management (ERA Queen City Realty) almost 14 years ago

Another great post  - I find myself not taking the time to really frame the photo, make sure that I have the lighting set the way I want and in general rushing through the process.

Thanks for the another post helping us think about what we want to accomplish!

Posted by David Abernathy, Palm Beach County Real Estate (Waterfront Properties & Club Communities) almost 14 years ago
Hello Craig DARLIN - - just wanted to let you know your post was featured in the week in review:

Active Rain - Week in Review 01/15/07 to 01/21/07

Posted by Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate (Majestic Properties) almost 14 years ago
More great info Craig!  I'm going to check my photo's right now!
Posted by Don Rich (West USA Realty) over 13 years ago