Don’t make this mistake when you photograph your interiors for your website! See the difference between a room photographed with a wide angle lens and without!
This was the house Kelly (my design assistant) and her husband Mike bought a few years ago. Renovating the inside of the house was a much higher priority than painting the exterior so when they sold the house this Spring, it remained this colour combination.
But inside, the house experienced quite a transformation!
Today I want to talk to you about why you shouldn’t use a wide-angle lens when photographing your home and when it’s appropriate to use a wide angle lens – basically if you’re a professional getting professional photos of your work taken (almost never).
The problem with wide-angle photos
A while ago, one of my True Colour Experts posted some “after” photos (on our private Facebook group for TCEs) of a project she had just completed.
She said she was upset by how the professional photos turned out. They didn’t look right and she couldn’t figure out why.
The reason she wasn’t happy with them was because her photographer had used a wide-angle lens, which distorted the rooms and made them look much larger than they actually were.
You’ll notice real estate photographers are notorious for doing this. The other dead giveaway of a real estate photo is every single light is on as well. (Something most of us bloggers and designers who post our work don’t do)
This often distorts the colour so much that a potential buyer is totally turned off simply because the colours are not accurate.
It’s the very reason we ask for photos taken WITHOUT FLASH and in good NATURAL LIGHT when we choose colours for our eDesign clients.
First, let’s begin with a little before and after home tour.
Kelly’s kitchen was white so we didn’t have that problem in these photos, but take a look at the difference between the photos taken by my photographer (Barry Calhoun) vs. the real estate photographer:
After (Cabinet Benjamin Moore Kensington Blue)
Kelly loves blues so she painted this entry cabinet the same colour as the powder room, which is located around the corner from the entry to create flow.
Kelly and Mike installed new hardwood throughout their home and completely updated the staircase. They also replaced the kitchen and the powder room. The other two bathrooms you’ve recently seen, were simply given a fresh coat of paint here and here.
Read more: Are Hardwood Floors Considered a Pattern?
Kelly’s Entryway After (Styled by Maria Killam)
Here I am taking a before pic! 😉
I love this playful wall of animals Kelly arranged in the powder room!
And, this was the soooooo 80s fireplace that just had to come out!
If you’re looking to replace a fireplace, I’ve got a few post you need to read:
Don’t install a new fireplace without reading this first and Read this BEFORE you makeover your stone fireplace
Before (living room fireplace)
After – cozier image, colours are more vibrant. (SW Shoji White)
All the lights are on – REAL ESTATE PHOTOGRAPHER
You saw her living room during the holidays when we were talking about how to freshen up brown furniture here.
After – love the herringbone tile surround!
Photo by Barry Calhoun
Here’s another clue. Real Estate photographers obviously aren’t doing vignettes. Ha!
Kelly and her husband also opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room.
Since Kelly was on a budget like I was when I first renovated my kitchen 6 years ago, she bought the same IKEA counter stools I used to have in my kitchen. I bought new ones recently when I refreshed my kitchen design here.
Regular photo (Pendants from IKEA)
I thought they could also have been black (since they are available in black) to create some contrast and relate to the black countertops, so Kelly photoshopped them so you could see the difference.
Which colour do you prefer?
And, here’s a photo below from the real estate photographer. Obviously the lights are on – dead giveaway. But, also notice how the kitchen looks HUGE and it even makes the island look too small.
Here’s another look at Kelly’s kitchen before.
After – cozy, pretty photo
But, in this wide angle real estate photo, the kitchen looks too big and NARROW. Do you agree?
My friend Jan Romanuk helped re-design the new layout of the kitchen, Kelly did not like the awkward corner sink and windows so they moved it.
Here’s a look at the family room photo before (the old and dated millwork was removed)
And here it is after. Kelly colour blocked the books here and I love how she arranged the gallery wall in this room. For more tips on styling bookshelves, read this post.
Photo by Barry Calhoun
Again, this real estate photo makes the room look out of proportion.
A note about wide angle real estate photos
In the end when I compared the real estate photos to the regular pics, I understand why they have to be taken with a wide angle lens.
Many times it’s impossible to get the entire room in one photo unless you use that lens. However if you’re a designer reading this, you should know that magazines don’t feature photos using a wide angle lens.
It’s important to avoid using a wide angle lens as much as possible and usually only in a tiny bathroom when it’s the only way you can shoot such a small space.
Photography by Barry Calhoun
And here’s a photo of my fabulous Design Assistant Kelly! They are in the middle of a huge renovation in the new house.
Here’s a look at her happy yellow bathroom and a bathroom with black and white tile.
Over to you my lovelies, how do you feel about wide angled, real estate photos?
Have you ever felt duped when you arrive to see a house you’d seen online only to realize that it was much smaller than it looked in the photos?
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Love the the storage ottoman in the near the stairs, what a great idea!
Yes!!! Absolutely have felt duped by the gross distortion presented as “fact” in so many listing photos. So many homes are presented as “huge” with “spacious” rooms in the listing photos, but the reality is deeply disappointing when you take the time to see the house. In the US, this is specifically prohibited by the REALTORS® Code of Conduct which “prohibits REALTORS® from otherwise misleading consumers, including use of misleading images” and also requires that “REALTORS® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction.” I do not understand why this is the norm in listing photos now.
In the last few years, I took a photography course on how to use my DSLR camera properly with all the correct modes, manual, use of natural lighting etc. I could have continued on to take courses in specialized areas, with real estate photography being one of them. I wonder if the wide-angle lens technique is what is taught in that course…? I think if I were to do a lovely renovation like Kelly’s, I would probably have it professionally photographed and then hand the photos over to the real estate agent to use in the listing. Partly because where I live, there are VERY FEW agents who use good photography in selling homes — in fact the real estate photos in this blog post look 10 times better than what I have ever seen here. It is so bad that I actually did consider taking the real estate photography class and offering my services to real estate agents. I’m just not so sure that the agents place much value on good photographs, so I doubt they would be willing to pay for the service! Someone should refer them to your blog, Maria!! 😉
I have all my projects photographed by the same photographer who lives abroad . For one of my projects he had to cancel last minute and I found someone else locally.
I didn’t brief her correctly and when I received the proofs pretty much everything had been shot with a wide angle to my horror.
The photos looked nice but didn’t reflect the space accurately.
Needless to say that I waited and rescheduled a shoot with my trusted photographer.
Yes Maria the photos taken to display your rooms for your website and the real estate photos should be taken by a professional who knows how to do interior photography. It definitely makes a difference how the rooms are presented. I think that realtors often spend thier own money so they cheap out. Lately I have been fortunate to have a realtor that uses a good photographer I would say on the party of your Barry Calhoun. I can always spot his work when I see pictures on Zillow. My realtor friend says she has had more immediate sales since she started using him.
Real estate photos in general are very bad, unless you’re looking at high end properties. In those cases, they may still be bad, but what is being photographed is much more attractive, so you don’t notice as much. Why agents don’t care about getting good photos is beyond me, since seeing them makes you want to see the house in person, and bad photos might put you off of a house you would like in person.
Maybe your other readers occupy rarefied circles where they never see this, but I cannot believe the appalling messes showcased in photos of some houses. You can’t even tell what the house looks like for all the junk on display. And even in nice houses I’ve seen photos with the toilet seat up. Really, what are people thinking?
To get back to your question, wide-angle lenses not only distort the space, they make it look unreal.
And I wanted to ask you about photo vignettes. Do you think they belong in real estate listings? Do they pull people in? Because they annoy me. They’re wasted pictures, taking up space that could be used for more photos of the actual house. After all, I’m not thinking about buying the previous owner’s design sensibility. Vignettes are great in other contexts, of course. This is not meant as a criticism of them!
I agree about photography making a huge difference.
Out of curiosity, what were they going to paint the exterior? What would you recommend?
Those wide angle shots are awful. And the ones with artificial light. Although natural light can be bad too. We had photos taken in the fall while our maple was in full bloom. The living room was not only grossly distorted, it was orange! Photographer did no color correction…I’m surprised anyone came to look at all.
I think one other thing contributing to the distortion is that many professional real estate photographers use a special ’tilt-shift’ lens that ‘corrects’ angles to straighten them, similar to what is used for architectural photos. That stretches out whatever is on the edges and can make it look twice as wide (I remember a chair on the left in one of the photos of my home that sold last year looked almost like a loveseat instead of a normal chair). Perhaps those lenses are normally only wide-angle. I wanted one until I noticed the stretching effect… and the price.
That said — lovely post!
I totally agree that the black bar stools in the kitchen would have been the way to go, matching the counter top.
I literally just walked in the door from touring a house for sale in my area. Rooms were way smaller then the photographs portrayed. For a house that we thought on line was a “10” ended up being one we would not even consider. I represented photographs are my pet peeve as well.
Thanks for the great before and afters. Your photographer takes beautiful pictures.
What is the wood flooring used, looks great, a medium tone, and was it installed and then finished in place, or prefinished? Many thanks. Lee
It was a laminate floor purchased at a discount flooring place. Maria
I really love this remodel. I especially love the flooring. Can you tell me what manufacture and color that this is? Also I have to say that I like the white stools better than the black ones. I feel like the black ones make the space feel smaller, and draw too much of your focus on to them while they do create more contrast. I do like the white ones more. So it’s just perfect that those are the ones they have <3
There is a huge difference between photographing work to make a lasting impression (and a lasting impression via your website) and photographing a home to make a quick sale (they hope it will be quick!). Most realtors pay very little (a couple/few hundred bucks) for their photography and there are many companies who sell realtors photo packages/subscriptions. It’s all about maximizing the dollar (spent and earned). While I might pay well over $1000 for a single room, a good interiors photographer is spending an incredible amount of time in post-production… not to mention the extensive hardware they bring to site. It’s just a different business model and there is no judgement here. Yeah, it’s too bad real estate photos aren’t better (especially after we spend so much time as professionals making a space look great for our clients to live in it), but they are not really photographing for our clients… they are photographing for the future owner and they want big, big, big and bright, bright and bright. Now, don’t get me on the subject of bad staging or no staging!!! 😉
Haha, you’re right Chris and I did come to the conclusion (as I wrote in my post but maybe it was buried) that in the end there’s no way to get one photo of an entire room (which you need in real estate photos) WITHOUT using a wide angled lens. So the bottom line of my point was that if you are a designer, make sure your photos are not mostly taken with a wide angle. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! x Maria
It’s the norm here to see photos in the real estate pages that are all shot with a wide-angle lens. When I sold my property early this year I was stunned, as I too, felt it was not a real representation. I guess that is why open inspections are so important. Wha
I really dislike wide angle shots as well and believe that the photographer should not go beyond 18mm, but that is what the agents are taught to ask for and it is considered de rigueur now so it’s the standard. The only way to change this is to tell the agent, agency, home seller specifically “I feel misled!” Maybe even yelp it, I don’t know. Sometimes, however, the houses are so dirty that the way the pictures are distorted are barely the issue. Agents are often expected to sell disorganized homes and the picture quality can’t possibly affect what the house is really like. While we are on the subject of annoyances, here in the Michigan Most Of The Agents Capitalize The First Letter Of Every Word In The Listing Which Looks All Kinds Of Crazy To Me! Grammar anyone?
So glad you addressed this Maria! Most of the time they make the room look so awfully distorted. BTW…the black counter stools really stand out and add interest in that kitchen!
Amen, amen, amen to wide-angle real estate photography. And the photo examples you show here are actually not so bad compared to what they’re doing here in Arizona. Two homes on my street went up for sale this week. The large model (1824 SF) had been very redone by the owner and it looked downright convention hall in size and extremely garish with all the light. The second model (1600 SF) is a home I’ve visited and a model I dislike. In the photos, the home looks like a mini convention hall but in fact I dislike the fact that, of our three models, it’s the most chopped up and confining plan. It’s also the darkest of the three models, partly because of the closed floorplan but also because all our homes have eaves so they are all relatively shaded throughout the day. This home looked as though there was sunlight flooding into every room when, because of the eaves, the floorplan, the orientation and the trees, I don’t think any room in that house every gets direct sunlight. A terrible practice and definitely not truth in advertising.
I love the coffee table in front of the beautiful fireplace. Do you have any information on that?
Hi Kelly! I love your home! I can’t wait to see your next one. Would you mind sharing where you got the cute animal paintings? I would love a few for my daughter’s room.
Thank you and congratulations on your new home!
I too would appreciate the source for the sweet powder room animals. So cute! Thank you.
They were from HomeSense. Maria
I agree 100% about wide-angle lenses for RE Photos. I HATE them. When our house was listed, I told the agent that I did not want wide angles lenses to be used. She did it any way. I made her have them redone. That delayed the listing from going on-line and she was not a happy camper. While we are probably not going to move to France, we have been looking at a number of houses. Many of the agents use wide angle lenses. However, they also describe each room by actual square meters which really helps.
The house we currently live in is less than 2,000 sq feet but it “lives large” due to the way the rooms flow AND the way it is oriented on the lot and to the sun. The same floor plan in our tract has a very different feel when reversed or facing another direction. Like finding a life-partner, when buying a house, you have to have to kiss a lot of frogs.
Maria – Beautiful house. I was aware that real estate shots use a wide angle lens to make the rooms look bigger but I never thought of it the way you present it. I see what you mean about distortion and proportion, especially in the kitchen. It looks like you’d get tired walking the long distance between counter and island.
That was quite a change to the staircase; have you written about it elsewhere? I am curious what makes the mill work in the family room dated. Is it the skinny shelves and molding around the cabinets? It doesn’t look too bad to my eye but I’d like to learn why it needed updating (or removing).
Good to know that realtor photos are done using a wide-angled lens. My son and his wife purchased a home in another city, and we weren’t able to see it until moving day. I was surprised that it seemed much smaller than the online pics we had been able to view. That explains it. Maria, you taught me something new AGAIN!!!
Love the black stools in the kitchen and how they tie well with the counters and light fixtures. White works well, too, but I’ve owned a lot of Ikea pieces, and in a kitchen, I think the black plastic will hold up better and stay cleaner-looking than the white (e.g. mustard might easily stain the white bar stools’ plastic surface). Once again, I’m always amazed at your transformations!
I am singing “Halleluiah” in my office, eyes closed and swaying back and forth. Maria, what you say is WORD TO ME! 🙂 I never knew why the colors were impacted and this is an awesome article! I also wanted to mention that in my 20-year real estate career, the BIGGEST mistake I made during a listing was using photos that were TOO GOOD. Yes. TOO GOOD. Because, the Buyers arrive and they feel disappointed!! Wide angle can sometimes maybe be appropriate as you say. But pictures are so incredibly important AND there IS A SCIENCE TO WHAT YOU USE people!! Loved this article.
Whoa, love this home! Is the kitchen counter actually black or a dark gray or blue? Lighting in the last kitchen photo has me questioning that. Also, would like some buying information on the counter. Looks like it’s quartz, right?
It’s black but it does look blue in the photo! Maria
Love the island lights. where were they purchased? lovely home