20-Step Checklist to Prepare Your Home for Listing Photos

Posted by Andrew Fortune 42,660 Views

20 Steps To Prepare Your House for Real Estate Photos

Preparing your home for a photoshoot can be exhausting. The day the photographer arrives is one of the most anxious times of the entire home selling process. Everything has to be completely ready by the appointment time. It's a lot of stress to sell your home.

As a photographer, it's common to show up on the day of a photo shoot to find the sellers frantically trying to finish the last steps. If you've ever been in this position, you understand the stress.

Realtors work hard to help our clients get to this point of the selling process without much chaos. They use checklists and coaching visits from stagers to make the home look outstanding before the photographer shows up.

Your home's marketing will dramatically impact your buyers' opinion of your house and your sales price. It would be best if you had the most professional photography and videography possible. This is why real estate marketing has changed so drastically over the past few years.

One of the most important things to know about your professional real estate photographer/videographer is that they are indeed artists. They can make your home look amazing with their skill sets.

Real Estate Photographers and Videographers Are True ArtistsWhen your real estate photographer shows up, they will walk the house and spend some time searching out the most important aspects to highlight potential buyers. Seasoned professionals have developed a unique ability to identify the home's pros and cons. They know how to showcase the property's best attributes. Their experience and trade tools allow them to manipulate light and space to make your home look as big and bright as possible.

Since your photographer/videographer is an artist, you will get significantly more out of their services if your house is entirely ready when they arrive. Artists can get distracted if they have to rearrange and tidy rooms before a shoot. After all, that's not part of their job description.

You want their attention to be focused on a bright and clean home, not on the work it takes to get the house to that point. They're often on a tight schedule, and time spent doing your job is time they can't spend doing theirs.

To get the most out of your professional real estate photographer, follow the real estate photography pre-shoot checklist below. It will help ensure that your house is photo-ready and welcoming before you list your home for sale. Use these tips to prepare your home.

Here's a property photography checklist of the top 20 items to prepare your home.

(Each item is explained in more detail below the infographic.)

20 Step Checklist to Prepare Your Home For Real Estate Photos Infographic

Here's a breakdown of all 20 items


Step 1 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosClear & Clean Kitchen Counters & Sink

When the kitchen counters are completely cleared off, it makes the kitchen look more prominent, and buyers can imagine how they might use the space. Coffee makers, mixers, and decorations only distract buyers and often make the kitchen feel cluttered.

Remove everything but perhaps a few decorative items from the countertops and clean all surface areas, including the appliances, kitchen sink, and backsplash.

Step 2 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosClear & Clean Bathroom Sinks, Tubs, and Showers

Place all of the shampoo bottles, soaps, shaving razors, and other items into a bin that can fit underneath the bathroom sink. This step will help your bathroom look bigger.

Take all items off of the bathroom counter. You want the bathrooms to appear vacant. Clean, neatly folded towels on towel racks are acceptable.

Step 3 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosReplace Burned Out Light Bulbs

This step is one of the most overlooked items on the list. Be sure to check all of the ceiling lights, as well as extra lamps and exterior lights, to make sure that they all work.

If there are dark areas in the homes, such as a basement, add a few extra lamps to brighten them up. Floor lamps that provide up-lighting are great! The more light, the better!

Step 4 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosTurn On All Lights Throughout The Entire House

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. It's essential to have as much light as possible.


Turn on all of the lights in the house, including lamps and exterior lights. Your photographer will be happy to find your home in its brightest light when they arrive.

Step 5 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosOpen All Window Treatments

Natural light from windows brings life and emotion into real estate photos. We recommend opening all of the window treatments throughout the entire house to let in as much light as possible.

If it's too bright outside, your photographer will alter your shades and curtains to balance the shot. Don't forget to clean the windows!

Step 6 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosRemove Unnecessary Furniture & Decorations

This is probably the most difficult request for sellers, but it's one of the most important items on the list. Removing and storing excess or large bulky furniture can be challenging, but it opens up the floor space and makes the home look much more extensive.

It's wise to consult a professional stager to determine which items should stay or go. This is truly one of those situations where "less is more."

Step 7 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosRemove Floor Mats and Runners

Floor mats and runners are great at protecting your floors, but they can make the overall floor space look smaller, making the room look smaller. We recommend getting rid of as many floor mats as possible. Photographers use a wide-angle lens that makes rooms look larger. Floor mats tend to get skewed with this effect.

Make sure to roll up and remove all of the floor mats in the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry areas. If you have any rugs, consult a stager to determine whether or not they should stay.

Step 8 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosTurn All Ceiling Fans, TVs, and Computer Screens Off

Most photographers use HDR photography, which takes multiple light exposures for each photo and combines them into one final shot. Any moving items like ceiling fans or active TV/Computer screens look very strange in HDR. For this reason, we recommend turning off anything that moves or causes motion blur. This is a pro photography tip.

Step 9 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosClear Appliance Surfaces of Magnets and Clutter

It's common to keep magnets, notes, reminders, and other personal information on the refrigerator. This kind of clutter can be distracting for buyers, so de-clutter these areas.

We ask our sellers to remove all magnets, calendars, and personal items from the refrigerator. It will not only make your home appear tidier, but it also keeps your personal info safe from the general public.

Step 10 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosMake All of the Beds

This is an obvious one that surprisingly gets overlooked often, especially in the secondary bedrooms. Be sure to make and decorate all the beds with matching sheets, blankets, and pillows. Use bedding that covers the entire bed and fits the mattress correctly.

Use decorative pillows to brighten up the bed, if possible. If a room is clean, and the bed isn't made right, it makes the whole room seem off.

Step 11 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosRemove All Personal Photos and Items

It's hard for buyers to visualize themselves in your house if your personal items are everywhere. Buyers want to believe that the home was made especially for them.

Since you want your buyers to focus on the house and not on you, you'll need to remove all private photos and articles from the entire home—including patios, porches, and garages.

Step 12 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosPut All Shoes & Jackets in Closets

When buyers see shoes and jackets on coat racks and entryway floors, they subconsciously assume that the home lacks storage space. This perception is easily fixed by storing these items away.

It's best to remove all jackets and shoes from anywhere they can be seen throughout the house. Store away any loose items to remove all distractions.

Step 13 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosClear All Night Stands and Dressers

Nightstands tend to accumulate items naturally. Half-read books, prescription bottles, tissues, and electronic devices will quickly clutter these areas.

Remove everything but a lamp and one decorative thing, such as a small floral arrangement or decorative book, to make the space look clean and presentable. Think of a freshly cleaned hotel room.

Step 14 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosRemove ALL Pet Items

Not everyone has pets. In fact, some people are severely allergic to animals. It's essential to make sure that your house shows no signs of pets, especially pet smells. Please spend some time getting this part right. It is one of the most significant factors in price reductions and negative feedback from home buyers.

Consider that you could be "nose blind" to the smell, as you live in your home every day. Ask a neutral party for their honest opinion before listing.


Step 15 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosTidy Up the Yard & Landscaping

First impressions are crucial, so make sure that the front yard is cleaned up. All of the landscaping needs to be trimmed back and tidy.

The first picture that people will see of your home will be the outside front yard shot. This photo needs to be presented in its very best condition to grab the buyer's attention immediately.

Step 16 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosSweep up the Porch/Patio/Deck

This step is imperative in the Fall when leaves accumulate daily. Ensure that the entire front and back porches are swept clean, and remove any items you can live without.

If possible, stage these areas with flowers and decorative items to create a relaxing space that invites homebuyers in. Creating an inviting entrance conveys pride-of-ownership to homebuyers.

Step 17 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosClear All Cars from Road & Driveway

It's never good to have cars in the driveway during real estate photos. Always remove all cars, trucks, RVs, and trailers from the house's driveway and front.

Pro tip: Ask your neighbors to move their cars from the road to make the street look quiet and inviting in your photos. This is especially important for drone shots.

Step 18 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosHide All Garbage Cans & Lawn Equipment

Large garbage cans and unsightly lawn equipment can be very distracting in real estate photos. Put all of the trash cans in the garage, along with garden hoses, lawnmowers, and other yard maintenance tools.

Keep the lawn free and clear of any small toys and pet items as well. You don't want the photographer to have to do this step. It will distract them.

Step 19 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosRemove Outdoor Cooker Covers

It's time to show off that fantastic bar-b-que grill, not hide it! Smoker and grill covers should be removed so that cookers are exposed and ready for use.

If it's an old grill that needs to be covered because it's rusty and unsightly, it's better to remove or throw it out completely.

Step 20 Prepare for Real Estate PhotosOpen Up Patio Umbrellas

If it's not too windy during your photoshoot, be sure to open up any patio umbrellas to stage the area. Dust off chairs and set up the site as though you will enjoy it with friends later.

Fresh outdoor pillows and flowers will create an inviting space for your photographer to highlight while they're in your backyard.

A Few Extra Things to Be Aware Of:

Be Prepared to Reschedule

Most photographers work around the weather because it has such a substantial impact on the final marketing materials. It's impossible to fly drones and get footage if it's raining or too windy. Be prepared to have your real estate agent call and reschedule your photoshoot if the weather takes a dramatic turn for the worst. If a professional photographer determines he/she should wait, trust them that it's for the best.

Be Prepared to Leave for a Few Hours

We use 3D imaging technology to scan every part of the home, yard, and garage. If you have pets or kids running through the house during a photoshoot, they are likely to be in the 3D tour somewhere. This is a problem.

It's best to plan to leave your home and give the photographer a non-occupied space to work with. It also helps them not to get distracted. Even if you're shuffling from room to room to "stay out of the way," it's very distracting. You will get the most out of the process if the home is unoccupied.

Leave Instructions for the Photographer to Lock Up

When your professional photographer/videographer is finished, they will usually message the Realtor who scheduled the photoshoot to let them know that they are done. If you aren't home, leave a key and instructions to let the photographer know your preferred method of locking up when they leave.


Your home's marketing is the most important piece of the selling puzzle. It begins with your preparation, paired with a great photographer/videographer. Having the items on this checklist completed will ensure that your home will be ready before the photographer arrives. This move will enable you to get the most out of their time and talent.

You've likely done a lot of work to get your home ready to sell. Don't fizzle out at the end when these details matter the most! Remember, great marketing leads to great offers!

Here are a few more guides to help you through the process of selling your home.

  • 10 Critical Steps to Take Before Listing Your House for Sale

    10 Critical Steps to Take Before Listing Your Home

  • Home Seller Checklist

    The Ultimate Home Seller Checklist - 96 Things To Do

  • How To Prepare For A Home Inspection

    How To Prepare Your Home for a Home Inspection

  • What Happens After You Go Under Contract on a Home

    What Happens After You Go "Under Contract"?

Andrew Fortune

Hi! I'm Andrew Fortune, the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of this website. I'm also a Realtor in Colorado Springs. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. I am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. You can find all my contact info here. Let me know if you need a Realtor in Colorado Springs.

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