How to get your property photographed beautifully

Home styling for the complete novice

You’ve decided to let out your property for short-term holiday rentals while you head for the sunshine, and the agency is sending over a photographer to do some spiffy pics. As a rent-virgin, you are not sure what to expect and perhaps a trifle uneasy about splashing photos of your intimate sanctuary all over the interwebs. However, the success of your rental, and therefore the exoticness of your own holiday, is in direct proportion to the attractiveness of your property, so how to you make the most out of what you’ve got? I’m a partner at posh London agency AccommodateLondon.com so I thought some practical guidance would be useful:

Q: By spooky coincidence, we booked your photographer to come on laundry day. Is it okay to leave the house festooned with knickers and damp tracksuit bottoms?
A: No. Unless you have booked a super-model to wear them, please hide all extraneous undergarments and clothing.

Q: We restored all the original Victorian fireplaces, so how do we show them off?
Immaculate decor, nice fireplace, Hurlingham Park, Fulham, London
A: Don’t leave them empty. Empty fireplaces are mainly large, black, fire-damaged rectangles so they look best with a lit fire in them or piled up with logs. Second-choice would be a big vase of fresh flowers, something arty or something antique.

Q: What is the best time to photograph my pad?
When is the best time to photograph my property?
A: Daytime… daytime during the summer. With gentle sunlight caressing all your beautiful bits and a gentle breeze sending a sensuous shiver through your curtains. Not nighttime, not on a dark winter’s day, not when the world has turned to grey. Not when you’re not in the mood for it.

Q: We are packing for our annual holiday and we’ve got the builders in, but you can kind of picture what it’s like under the dust-sheets and suitcases.
A: We can picture the chic interior underneath, but our cameras have no imagination whatsoever.

Q: We have a huge media centre, game consoles, gadgets galore and computers in every room, so that’s going to look great, no?
A: It’s probably going to look like the Robert de Niro scene from Brazil. Try to hide all the wires neatly, including the rat’s nest that always tangles the telephone and answering machine. Perhaps play a movie on the TV so it looks attractive. If all your gear is made by Apple and B&O then you may smugly ignore all this.

Q: Oh dear, so what about all my kitchen appliances?
Nice, stylish Chelsea kitchen
A: We should keep the important ones and the good-looking ones. Hide the rest. If you have spent the equivalent of the Eurozone bailout with Boffi or Mila, you probably don’t want to display all the brightly coloured cleaning products either. If you have really good quality pots and pans, let’s show some of them. Most posh kitchens seem to have a bowl of lemons in them and if you have lemons, we will use them.

Q: How do we make our eye-wateringly expensive stainless steel kitchen appliances shimmer like new.
A: Clean thoroughly with a degreaser, rinse, wipe dry, then apply a thin coat of Baby Oil with a kitchen towel, and polish. Also, consider temporary removal of the children’s’ crayon drawings, calendars and Val d’Isere fridge magnets so we can see that your refrigerator is a Smeg.

Q: I’m dreading the next question… bathrooms?
A well-presented bathroom in Bow, London
A: You are right to be worried; the ‘smallest room’ can be the biggest pain. So, get rid of all the clutter, the rubber ducks, toys and neon pink toothbrushes. Keep nice stuff, posh fragrances, Jo Malone candles and bath oils. Towels must be clean, neutral or an accent colour, and possibly rolled up in piles rather than draped over the chic Bisque radiator. Show the world that you have new toilet rolls, and keep the toilet seats down.

Q: There is a bit of mould in the shower, but you don’t really notice it unless you are sitting down.
A: Granted, penicillin is usually a damned good thing, but it should be nurtured in petri dishes, not in our domestic interiors. Please try to get rid of it.

Q: The dining room is gorgeous, but it’s a bit of a domestic backwater. How can it be brought to the fore?
Beautifully laid dining room in ST John's Wood, London
A: Easy, just get rid of the kids’ homework stuff and deck it out for a dinner party. If this strikes you as a bit of a hassle, just pretend that you are about to have a dinner party and place tasteful stacks of plates, cutlery and tableware ‘in preparation’ for a glitzy affair.

Q: The spare room is full of boxes now but will be re-decorated and furnished. Can we work around that?
A: Yes. You can tidy the room, perhaps put a bed in there temporarily, and explain the situation to potential clients. Or we can postpone the photography until the property is looking it’s best.

Q: This all sounds like hard work! Surely the agency or the photographer is responsible for all this, isn’t it their job?
A: The photographer will try to achieve the best results for you, but may have limited time on each property. You could demand that he arrive early with a selection of household cleaners to give the whole place a thorough going over and just see what he says to you.

Q: I’m sure you can Photoshop all the horrible bits, can’t you?
A: Photoshopping will cost you from £40 per hour and can transform a scruffy spare room into a palatial boudoir. However, we want to show what the interior looks like in reality, so we shouldn’t do this. Ever.

Q: Is there one styling trick to rule them all?
A: Declutter ruthlessly, put the best bits back very neatly. Then position one item at an arty angle.

Words: © 2011 Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved. Written for Accommodate London and conceived whilst dismantling a kid’s novelty Disney bed which the property owner had insisted was perfectly suitable for a grown man. Top photo: Tracey Emin – My Bed (courtesy Saatchi Gallery).
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sprks

Photographer, creative director and posh London agency partner.

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