Preparing Your Home for MLS Photos

When selling your home, it goes without saying how important first impressions can be.  Staging your vacant home will make it stand out to buyers.  But a client’s first impression, their first view of your home, happens before they ask their agent to set up a showing appointment. 

A buyer’s first look at a home happens online, and it can make the difference between whether  you have several showings or very few.  Using a professional photographer is just as important to the sale of your home as using a professional stager.  If the photos don’t reflect the beautifully staged home, if they’re dark or over exposed, or distorted (think fisheye or a fun house mirror), or the colors aren’t correct, they won’t capture a buyer’s eyes.  That’s why at Element One Home Staging, LLC, we do two things to help our clients who stage their vacant homes.

First, we take care of the professional photos for you.  We schedule the photographer, pay for the photographer, and share the professional photos with our client and their realtor to use for marketing of the property, at no additional cost.  And secondly, we use one of the best photographers in Columbus: Dennis Knight.  Take a look at the portfolio or staged listings pages on my website, and you’ll see what I mean.   I’ve been working with Dennis Knight Photography for the past two years and have never been disappointed with the results. 

Preparing your home for listing photos includes common sense things like cleaning and decluttering, but one item you may not have thought about is lighting. Having the right light for the camera is crucial, especially in featuring the staging you’ve had done or any improvements you’ve made to the home. 

Dennis and I both recommend using LED daylight bulbs as they are the closest to natural light.  When other types of light bulbs are used, it can distort the color of the paint.  In the below example, the recommended light bulbs are in the right and middle sconce, while a warmer tone bulb is used on the left side.  You can see how the color of the wall on the left side looks more brown, unlike the true gray on the right side.

There is plenty to do aside from lighting, and Dennis shares his recommendations for  preparing your family and home for the day of the photo shoot.  While they may seem common sense, there’s usually a lot going on when you’re getting ready to sell your home and having a checklist is key to helping things go smoothly–and be sure to leave plenty of time!   

You can check out Dennis’s Prep Guide and find a printable version on his website.

Just before your appointment

  • Remove cars from driveway
  • Move garbage cans into the garage
  • Close garage doors
  • Turn ON all lights
  • Turn OFF all fans
  • Raise or turn open blinds and curtains
  • Put away all toys from the yard and living areas
  • Put all toilet lids down (otherwise, they will be open in the photos)
  • Crate medium/large dogs or move them to the garage
  • Hide garbage cans from kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms
  • Turn off all screens (TVs and computers)


  • Clean all countertops
  • Vacuum/clean all carpets
  • Reduce clutter on counters, mantle, and shelves
  • Put away shoes and coats
  • Recommended: Replace bulbs with daylight LED bulbs (He recommends Ecosmart bulbs from Home Depot/Walmart)  


  • Mow the day before or the morning of your appointment
  • Sweep porch
  • Arrange porch furniture, set out pillows and chair pads
  • Clean pool
  • Put away water hoses and pool cleaning supplies
  • Turn on fountains/water features


  • Clean out sink
  • Hide dish drainers, sponges, and dish soap, leave out hand soap only
  • Reduce counter clutter and appliances as much as possible, but leave the coffee maker out
  • Remove all magnets and photos from refrigerator
  • Decorate dining table with a centerpiece and/or place settings
  • Remove booster seats and highchairs
  • Straighten chairs and space them evenly

Living Room 

  • Neatly arrange pillows and blankets on furniture
  • Hide visible charging cords
  • Remove stacks of newspaper and magazines


  • Make all beds
  • De-clutter dressers and beds
  • Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos
  • Organize closets that will be photographer


  • Remove toothbrushes and personal items from sink (leave one soap dispenser) 
  • Clean bathtub and shower
  • Wipe down glass shower doors and mirrors
  • Remove bottles and loofahs from bathtubs and showers


  • Minimize the presence of pets by hiding toys and beds
  • Put away collars, leashes, food bowls, etc.
  • Remove outdoor pet tethers
  • Clean pet waste from yard and hide litter boxes