Pay For Photos!


5 minute read

April 28, 2011

I have a request for the rest of my colleagues: please pay a professional to take photos for your listing.

I’m tired of looking at new properties on MLS and seeing dark, fuzzy, awful photos.

What are your clients paying you a commission for?

Maybe it’s just me.

Every Realtor runs his or her business in a different way, and when I take on a listing, I spend money.

I spend money to make money.  It’s a good proposition, and has proven results for both myself and my clients.

“A job worth doing is worth doing well.”  Right?

So if you’re going to list a house or condo for sale, why not do everything to the best of your ability?  And I’m talking to Realtors and the sellers.

From the pricing of the property, to the timing of the market, and to the marketing of the property itself – everything should be done properly.

My newest pet peeve, which is also one of my oldest, is the terrible quality of photos on the MLS listings.

As an aside, one of my favourite blog posts was a piece I did on “Terrible MLS Photos” last year.  Click HERE.

I’m constantly amazed by what passes for “marketing” in this industry.

You don’t have to be a genius to realize that it’s hard for people to purchase a property if they never set foot inside it.  So why then do sellers and agents constantly provide inadequate photos of the unit?

Take a look at this:

Does this entice buyers to come and see the property?

Does this give a buyer any reason whatsoever to avoid clicking “NEXT” as they scroll through MLS?

How is this considered marketing?

The worst possible photo you can provide, as a Realtor, is nothing at all.  The “Photo Not Available” is all over MLS, and I can’t figure out why!

If you’re a prudent, rational seller, and your agent emails you and says – “Hey Mabel, just wanted to let you know that your property is now listed on MLS.  It looks great!  There are no photos and the listing let’s people know with a big ole’ caption that reads ‘Photo Not Available.’  Fingers crossed!” – wouldn’t you fly off the handle?

Wouldn’t you wonder what you’re paying your agent for?

Wouldn’t you take your basic knowledge of marketing and apply it to this situation?

For the life of me, I have no clue how these agents get listings.  It boggles my mind.

But even when agents do put photos on MLS, I still don’t think that’s enough.

I’m telling you all right now: pay for professional photos.

It’s not expensive, and it’s a tax write-off for Realtors.

I don’t care how good you are with your CANON SURE-SHOT 5800 that you took to Cabo last Christmas to snap off 250 pictures of you and your friends drinking and getting shmammered – get a real photographer to come and take photos.

This week, I listed a condo in the Yonge & Eglinton area.

The day before the condo was put up for sale, after all the staging was done and every finishing touch had been applied, I brought in a photographer from OBEO to do his thing.

He took 16 still photos, nine of which we put on MLS (that’s the limit), and he did a virtual tour.

Do you know what it cost me?


That’s it.

It cost $100.

These photos were taken with a camera that likely cost a few thousand dollars, and the eye behind the lens was that of somebody who has taken photos of a thousand condos over the years.

Doesn’t that make sense?

There is a huge difference in the quality of photos taken by a professional, and the quality of photos taken by today’s 24-year-old Realtor on her I-Phone, and frankly, I’m tired of seeing terrible photos on MLS.

A professional photographer ensures the lighting is plentiful, whereas the I-Phone photos are dark and dreary.

A professional photographer knows where to shoot from, what angles to use, how the photos in print or online might look as opposed to how they shoot through the shutter.

And a professional photographer has done enough shoots that he or she can effectively give last minute staging tips.  “Fluff that pillow; put that painting on the other wall; centre the bed under the chandelier.”  I guarantee that the photographer has a better sense of staging than 99% of Realtors, and you get that service as a bonus!

I’m sure we can draw some comparisons here to other parts of the listing process.

What if you didn’t pay a professional home inspector to inspect the property and you just did it yourself?

As an aside, yes, I also cover this cost for my sellers.  It’s $400 – $600, and it’s simply part of my package.

But imagine a seller, a Realtor, or both who decide that in lieu of hiring Carson Dunlop or Ken Haller to inspect the property, they’re going to ask their friend Jed.

Jed, like, totally knows a lot about houses, and stuff.

Jed has amazing eyesight and on the drive back from Muskoka one summer he was spotting roadkill like George Costanza spots raccoons!

So forget about paying a professional home inspector – just have Jed photocopy and old inspection, use lots of white-out, and fill in the data himself.

Does that sound like a good idea?

Maybe I’m being overly-facetious, as there are serious legal and financial hazards to not doing a proper home inspection, but I see both ways as cutting corners for what “should” take place in an efficient and complete listing process.

I’ll go back to the beginning – you won’t get people in the door of the property if they don’t like what it looks like, and that has everything to do with the photos.

On the same day that I listed my Yonge/Eglinton condo, a similar unit went onto the market next door.

I could tell right away that the agent took the photos herself, as they were dark.

My photos are incredibly bright and cheerful, and the colours just sort of “pop.”  I don’t know how else to explain it, but the colours are vibrant and sort of jump out at you.

The photos for the other unit looked as if they only contained different shades of grey, brown, and white.  They were drab and depressing, and made the unit look bland.

Now I’m not saying that the unit I have listed is necessarily better, but it sure looks it from the photos!

Talk about “Making a good first impression!”  The first thing you see when you click on a listing are those nine darling thumbnails, and they can make or break your opinion on the property.

If you’re a seller, and you’re about to sign a listing, ask your Realtor, “Who are you hiring to take the photos?”  If your Realtor doesn’t throw out a name within one second, then he or she doesn’t know the first thing about marketing.

Maybe not everybody pays for home inspections, flyers, newspaper ads, and the like, but professional photos are a measly hundred bucks.

If your Realtor won’t spend a hundred bucks to sell your property, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe you should question your own judgement and how you came to hire him…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Joe Q.

    at 7:18 am

    It’s a pet peeve of mine too. Realtors seem to forget that buyers (and not just agents are now using MLS extensively. It is the main marketing tool for sellers.

    It is ridiculous to have a listing with poor-quality photos or images that show a home full of clutter. It’s even more ridiculous to not have any photos, or just a single photo of the exterior of the house, or to have a listing with no address visible on (These are surprisingly common and uncommonly frustrating for buyers!)

  2. Ralph Cramdown

    at 7:23 am

    Let’s not forget about agents who upload portrait (vertical) shots which are automatically stretched horizontally — what a great feature that is!

    And why are the pictures on MLS so small? It’s almost like CREA wants to enforce a standard of mediocrity so good agents won’t outshine bad ones too much. There’s often better, larger pictures from people trying to sell their $3,000 used cars on Kijiji.

  3. Duncan Scott

    at 9:40 am

    As I always say… ” A good picture is worth a 1000 buyers”! A good stager and photographer will make sure that there are no “Polka Dots” in the pictures and the buyers eye will be drawn into the room.

  4. Mila

    at 9:52 am

    Although I’m all for good photos on MLS, it really is not a rocket science. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good photos of units. Just a little bit of common sense and a camera.

    (And what constitutes a “professional” photographer these days anyway?)

  5. Sam

    at 9:58 am

    Totally agree. I don’t know what people are thinking uploading those stupid stretched pictures (“Makes the room look larger!”)…And why would anyone not take advantage of the additional features: links to ‘view multi-media’, the brochure, and additional photos? You’re marketing an asset worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, but can’t be bothered to upload additional photos? Seems crazy to me.

  6. jeff316

    at 11:28 am

    Absoultely, although I think there is a difference between poor photography and strategic photography.

    Some houses we saw that only had the standard seven or eight average-looking MLS listing photos ended up being totally beautiful. And thinking back I can see how having people think “this looks ok” online to “wow this is nice!” in person could really benefit a sale and turn visitors into buyers, particularly in a hot market – but it is a risk.

    Similarly, there’s a house down the street from me that has only two not-great photos of the front up on its listing – nothing else – it is all siding, covered windows, and isn’t the nicest place on the block so we assumed that it was a d-u-m-p.

    Well, we went to the open house just for fun and again, pleasantly surprised – sure, it’s old, out of date and totally tacky, but not terrible.

    In a strange way, it was pretty smart of the agent where they are stuck dealing with a house that was not stageable but not a complete dive either.

    (Now, they over-priced it and the listing is a bit misleading, but that’s another story)

  7. Kyle

    at 2:02 pm

    I thought i’d mention some of the other real estate photo silliness that i’ve seen:

    – Agents that upload photos that they think are artsy but have nothing to do with the house being sold. Ex: A pic with a softly focused background and a sharp close up of a daisy in the yard, or a shot of a vase with flowers sittingon a sunny window sill. Sure they’re pretty but it’s an mls listing not a gallery.

    – Agents who upload more pictures of the neighbourhood or of a park nearby than of the house itself. Anyone shopping for a house in High Park, already knows what Grenadier Pond looks like. And anyone who wants to buy in the Beaches, does not need to see a picture of the boardwalk.

    – Agents who only upload pics of the interior of houses and none of the outside. This isn’t so much silliness as it is a HUGE red flag!

    – Agents who take a picture of a whole row of houses, leaving you to guess which one is actually for sale.

    – Agents who take pictures with their car in their driveway. Hmmm how come in every listing has, there’s a black Audi in the driveway?

  8. George

    at 5:34 pm

    My photo pet peeve is when there is only one photo, and the photo is of the outside of a condo building. So helpful!

  9. Clara

    at 5:47 pm

    The funniest are when the listing agent takes a photo of the bathroom that shows their reflection and the giant camera flash in the mirror.

  10. Rebecca

    at 11:30 pm

    Even funnier than having only an exterior photo of a condo building is when it’s the same grainy, dreary, underexposed photo that has been reused 100 times on every listing in the building for the last 15 years. It makes me wonder if some buildings have been devalued because prospective buyers are repeatedly turned-off by the recycled 1987 pic that was shot with a Vivatar 110.

    Unless you have a DSLR, wide-angle lens, decent external flash and the skills to use it all properly, then professional photography is the only way to go.

  11. So Succexxy

    at 2:17 pm

    How about some better photos of yourself on your website.

    Maybe something sexy.

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