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Photography tips for marketing property

Great photograph of a chalet's bedroom

A beautiful alpine chaletYou’ve heard the old cliche ‘A picture paints a thousand words’, it may be overused but holds true no matter how many times it’s said. Another relevant cliche- first impressions count. Both of these sayings should be taken into consideration when selling or renting out property, no matter where in the world it is. The first thing seen by the majority of people looking to buy a property are the pictures of it. So good pictures are essential when marketing your chalet, house or apartment.

Competition in the alpine property market is high and small family run businesses compete with large holiday companies to attract visitors or buyers. Smaller businesses might not be able to afford expensive photographers to market their chalet but with a little know how and effort it’s possible to take fantastic pictures without going to the experts.

In this article I will give you some tips and suggestions on taking great pictures without having to hire a professional or spend a fortune.

We spoke to Dan from the ski holiday accommodation site ChaletFinder and he gave his view on this issue.
“Great pictures are certainly essential to successfully marketing a chalet. Recently a chalet let down by poor images has sent us brand new ones and we were stunned at the difference, we couldn’t believe they were the same chalet. Enquiries for that chalet tripled the following month!”

Catharine, owner and director of the alpine property gurus, France Property Angels, told us this
“We see a strong correlation between the length of time a property is on the market and the quality of it’s pictures. Many of the estate agents we work with also take photos of the properties but taking great pictures often requires the right light, weather and setting out the property in an attractive way, no one is in a better position to do this than the property owner”

What equipment you’ll need

First and foremost you’ll need to get hold of a decent camera. A mid range digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) would be ideal and you can get one from a few hundred pounds. However, although the latest cameras will undoubtably be the best, you’ll still be able to take great pictures with older models so you could consider buying a second hand camera. Alternatively you might know someone who has a good camera & could borrow it, although I’d recommend getting your own as it’s important to practice using the camera if you’re new to photography.

Top tip

Avoid the temptation to just use your camera phone, they may boast their ever increasing number of megapixels but that’s not the only thing contributing to excellent photographs. The ability to manually change settings like aperture size and exposure are important to getting the best quality photos. Digital SLRs also have bigger and better sensors as well as wider angles of view.

Although not absolutely essential it’s a good idea to get a tripod to steady your camera while taking shots. The smallest of movements while taking a photograph can blur the picture. You could use a stack of books or worktop to stand the camera on as a reasonable alternative. However, getting the right angle & holding it there securely can be tricky. Best save your time and the potential of ending up with a broken camera by investing in a tripod, even a cheap one will do.

Some stepladders can be useful to get the most out of your shots as pictures taken from different heights can have very different effects on the impression a picture gives. Small rooms, for example, can be made to look smaller in pictures taken from a height whereas large rooms can benefit from high shots.

Light is everything in photography, and getting it right can make a world of difference. Having too little light can make a room look dark and dank and light coming from the wrong angle can cast unwanted shadows. Natural light is ideal for photography but often the natural light entering a room through windows isn’t enough. So get together some extra light sources such as lamps and make use of your internal lighting. Incandescent lights, such as regular light bulbs, provide a source of good light but CFL (compact fluorescence lights) curled energy saving light bulbs don’t provide very good light for photography. If you are going to use lamps then a lampshade might be a good idea so the light isn’t too harsh or projected at one area of the room.

Top tip

Avoid using your cameras inbuilt flash it can cast ugly shadows on your pictures or make objects in the foreground too bright.

To store the pictures you take of your chalet or apartment you’ll need an SD card, these can be bought online fairly cheaply at £5-6 for an 8GB card which could store around 1500 high resolution pictures. Some laptops come with built in SD card readers, for those that don’t you’ll need a USB SD card reader which cost a few pounds.

Last but not least you’ll need a pen and notepad. If you’re new to photography it’s imperative that you practise using your camera. This doesn’t just mean taking photos and seeing how they look on your cameras view finder. It’s important to learn what settings work best after looking at your practice shots on a regular sized compeer monitor. The LCD screen on cameras is ok to have a quick look at a picture, but the quality isn’t good enough to determine the best camera settings to use. So try taking some pictures & note down the settings you’ve used, then you can compare them. If you’re stuck & aren’t sure where to start take a look at the settings used by the automatic setting. Looking at your camera manual is also advised so you know what settings you’re changing!

Plan ahead

If you’re selling your property taking pictures throughout the year will help paint a better picture of what it would be like to live there. Alpine properties are popular for their proximity to the slopes so obviously winter pictures are a must but don’t forget to show off how beautiful it is in the summer, spring and autumn.
For those wanting to rent out their chalet or apartment you could target a bigger audience as the Alps are also very popular for their range of summer activities available.
Even if you’re not planning on selling or renting now it may be something you’ll want to do in the future, so plan ahead & take pictures all year round.

Consider what time of the day is best for taking photos? If you want to take a shot showing the gorgeous view from your balcony windows it’d be advisable to chose a time when the sun isn’t shining directly through them as it can be tricky to deal with direct sunlight in photography. It is possible though so try it out. Dusk can be a good time to get an impressive shot of the outside of a chalet. With the lights on and the chalet silhouetted against the darkening sky it can look very warm and welcoming.

You might want to plan an internal photoshoot on a slightly cloudy day. As I said before, working with direct sunlight can be tricky and on cloudy days you can still get plenty of natural light inside the property. The best approach is trial and error, every property is different and each room if different zoo give it a try and see what works best for you.

Camera tips

  • Exposure is the length of time the camera shutter is open for, a longer exposure allows more light to hit the sensor and so is needed in shots with low light.
  • The aperture is the hole through which the picture is taken, again it plays a role in how much light is allowed to hit the sensor but it also affects focal depth. If you take a photo or something close up with a small aperture the background will be out of focus which can create some really nice effects.
  • White balance (WB) is how much the camera compensates for certain colours of light, or colour temperatures. An obvious example if the yellow-orange tinge of tungsten bulbs which can result in yellowish pictures, but a properly set WB will remove this giving a more accurate representation of colours. Although digital cameras have presets which compensate for different colour temperatures it can be useful to try different settings if your camera allows you to change them. Some cameras also have presets you can select depending on your light source.
  • take high resolution pictures, if your camera allows you to select the picture size or quality always go for the highest, they can be reduced in size if they need to be but enlarging pictures is very often a bad idea as . (take as high res pic as you can- they can always be reduced in size later- but small pics cannot be blown up)
  • don’t forget to clean your lens. A simple one but often forgotten, make sure you use a lens cleaning cloth for this as tissue or other fabrics can scratch the lens.
  • Prepare the property

      Clean the rooms, tidy up & remove unnecessary clutter
    • Simple touches like smoothed sheets, fluffed up pillows & cushions, folded towels or a fruit bowl on the dining table can all add a welcoming feel to your chalet or apartment.

    Setting up the shot indoors

    • Getting a good frame. There are an infinite number of ways to photograph a room, think of all the different perspectives you can get from different positions, angles & heights. You might want to centre your shot around a particular feature in a room such as the fireplace or you could take a wide angled shot of the whole room. Try not to take all of your pictures at head height, some of the most impressive pictures are taken from positions that give the viewer a different perspective of a room.
    • As a general rule try to avoid getting a shot with three walls in it as it can create a shoebox effect. Although this depends entirely on the room and could work well.
    • Arrange your furniture and decorations for the shot. Your room might not be set out ideally to get the best photograph so you could try moving things around a little. Getting large pieces of furniture at an angle as opposed to straight on can look better. In the kitchen, lay your dining table as if it’s about to be used, in the bedroom you could put a few books on the bedside table and lay towels and soaps out in the bathroom. All of these touches can help the viewer imagine themselves in your chalet or apartment which is an important step in the purchasing process.

    Photography tips for interior roomsHow to get good chalet photographsGetting a good angle for your chalet photos

    Setting up the shot outdoors

    • Again, make sure the outside of your property is tidy, clear away any clutter & give the windows a clean
    • Getting a good frame. As with indoor shots you should try out different heights and angles in your photoshoot. If there’s a gorgeous view of the valley, a piste nearby or surrounding trees, try to get them into the frame
    • Watch out for direct sunlight as well, as I said before it can be difficult to get a good picture with the sun in frame as the intensity of light in the frame varies so much. Trial and error is the way to find out what’s works & what doesn’t
    • Look out for shadows cast across the property, if there are tall trees nearby you might want to wait until their shadow is cast away from the shot.

    Once you have a set of photographs you’re happy with the first thing you should do is copy them & save the original files as a backup. If you want to resize or edit your pictures do this on another copy so that if something goes wrong you still have the originals safe.

    Now you should be ready to get started with your own photoshoot, don’t forget that practice is important for beginners and there’s lots more advice & information out there to help you if you get stuck. If you have any pictures you’d like to share with us or have any questions or comments then please leave them below.

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