Winning Photography

Fresh from SEBC and the Aurora Awards, my head is filled with amazing images of beautiful houses. I’ve heard it said that award programs are primarily photo contests. While this sounds more like a comment from a disgruntled entrant who wasn’t willing to spend the time and money needed for great imagery, there is some truth to it. The greatest project in the world will go unnoticed if the photos don’t tell the story. This goes beyond award programs, but also for shoppers on your website! Let’s go over some potential hurdles that we experience with photography.

A great photo for selling a faucet - not so much a house.

Viewing Your Project Objectively

The problem is that most people can’t review the photography of their own project objectively. Sure, I can look beyond the kitchen faucet and understand the island's relationship with the rest of the home. Do you know what customers will see? A nice faucet. When you’ve designed, built, or walked through every nook and cranny, you’re able to piece together and “see” the missing parts without even realizing it. Potential buyers and judges haven’t had that luxury, so they might be paying attention to the wrong thing. Your photos carry the full task of winning them over – often in just one quick shot. 

The picture on the left might tell a nice story about the former owners, but the picture on the right shows why you want the house - the view!

Interior Lighting

The next problem is that our eyes see things differently than the camera. For example, you can still see and appreciate an interior space at the same time you’re looking at the amazing view. Our eyes can see more contrast than the camera can and adjust to the brighter exterior light levels in an instant. Try to capture that with your iPhone and you have to choose between either get a beautiful view/dark interior or a beautiful interior/washed-out view in the distance. A great photographer knows how to overcome these hurdles. 

Both homes feature bright and inviting spaces, but the photo on the right truly conveys how the room would be used

Story telling

How many times do customers walk into a home and think “Wow, this is way better than it looked online!” Luckily, you were able to bring those people into the house to see for themselves. Think of all the other online shoppers who glazed over your houses and moved on. The last and most important aspect of great photography is its ability to tell the story.

Yes, you can have really artsy photos that are perfectly lit, but do they tell the story of the project? Do the pictures capture the relationship of the kitchen to the great room and the fabulous view beyond? Does the master bedroom feel romantic? Selecting the correct angle and focal point is critical at telling the story. 

The image quality of the photos on the left is good, but the angle is a missed opportunity.

Create excitement

You want your potential buyers to get excited when they look at the photos. “Wow, honey, did you see this house? And look at the price! We’ve got to go see it!” A well-done collection of photos should allow viewers to project themselves through their computer screen and into your kitchen, imagining how less stressful their life would be preparing meals in that kitchen. Or imagine themselves relaxing in the awesome “man cave”. 

Doesn't this photo make you look forward to 5 o'clock?


Photography is an art, so different photographers have different styles. Consistency is important throughout your projects. Once you find a good photographer who understands your goal, it is worthwhile to use them on all of your projects.

Photography is often treated as an afterthought in the industry, but it can be such a powerful sales tool that there needs to be an emphasis on capturing the right shot.