Whether you’re selling your home, staging a vacation rental or signing up for “Airbnb,” you’ll get a better return with great photos. You can hire a photographer or take pictures yourself. I took this test shot on my smart phone. Either way, keeping an eye out for certain things can help make your space pop.

First, take some test shots and look at them on your computer. It’s amazing how different a room looks in a photograph versus when you’re actually standing in it. Do you need to edit furniture arrangement? Are there areas that need more height or color? Is a wall looking too blank? You might even realize there’s something you need to run out and purchase.


Here are five common issues to watch out for in your test photos:

No. 1: Can you see yourself?

Pros know about this, but others often forget about reflections in mirrors, windows, TV screens and other shiny surfaces. You probably don’t want that accidental image of you popping up on people’s computers.


No. 2: Is the lighting too harsh?

It’s easy to reduce glare by diffusing light coming in. Find something you can hold up in front of a window or door out of camera range — even a bed-sheet or old curtains will do. If you want to get a little fancier, try creating interesting shadows with things like palm fronds, which also can help to diffuse light.

No. 3: Time of day matters.


Good-lighting times for indoor/outdoor photos are early morning and late afternoon. Midday sometimes can cast hard shadows. Nighttime is great if you have a beautiful setting and want to show off landscape lighting or sunset photos.

No. 4: Look at your foreground and background. Test shots can help you see that lots of small things in the background can look confusing. You may even find that it might be better to edit them out.

And what’s in the foreground? Do you really want to show the ugly side of a cabinet? Make sure the foreground shows things you want to accentuate.

Here’s a trick: You can hold something in a corner of a shot, like palm fronds, for added depth and interest in the foreground.

No. 5: Finally, be aware of photo bombs. Furry friends (like mine) can be especially sneaky about appearing unnoticed when you’re taking photos. Leave them out — unless, of course, they come with the house!


Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style.. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit www.cathyleestyle.com.