Making your home look great for photos

Estate Agents send out tips to home owners on how to stage their home for photographs.
Here are my tips, and some photographs of the best staged house I have ever photographed... in a surprising location.
Vacant properties never look as good in photographs as lived-in properties - fact.
That's because a lived-in home looks more welcoming than an empty house.
For your rooms to look at their best for the photographer, you have to find the balance between decluttering, and showing off the homeliness.
Here are a few tips for a room-by-room guide:

Kitchen: it is often the best room in the house for photographs, because it is so different. Full of machines, gadgets and colour. Cleaned more frequently than all other rooms in the house. It should sparkle and glisten.
Make sure the washing-up has been put away - all of it. Any fruit or flowers must be fresh. Oven cloths and towels can be on show if they are clean, neat and match the colours of the kitchen.
Remove all evidence of pets - dog bowls, litter trays.
Bins should only be seen if they are neat. Don't have bin liners showing under the tops of bins.
Get rid of cereal boxes. And washing up liquid containers. They draw attention to themselves. You want to draw attention to the space, the permanent fixtures, and the sparkle.

Living room: Television off. Remote controls hidden. Unsightly wires and extension leads tucked away from view. Cushions neat, and matching. Magazines, papers, letters, documents... if they have to be on show, then they must be neat. But it will be better to hide them from view.
Shoes, slippers and casually discarded clothing should be out of view. Pictures, wall-art and photographs should be straight. Birthday cards, Christmas cards, and other temporary items should be removed. Flowers always look good, if they are fresh, and especially if the colours match the room.

Beds should be made, and as flat as possible. Many photographers will use a low-level tripod, so the duvet needs to cover under the bed ...... If it cannot, then the area beneath the bed needs to be tidy.
Electrical wires (televisions, phone chargers, hair-straighteners) need to be hidden. Most photographers will want a shot of the bed towards the window. They will also want a photograph that shows the door. So remove the dressing gowns that are hanging behind the door. Linen baskets almost always look unsightly. They are best moved. After-shave and perfume bottles look fine. Arrange them with some style.
Curtains open. Let natural light in.

Toilet seat down. Toilet rolls taken away, if possible. Towels can look good, if they are clean, dry, neat and well matched. Otherwise, move them.
It's ok to have some fragrances, soaps etc. on show. But make sure they look classy and are neatly arranged. Otherwise, hide them. Showers are spoiled by shampoo bottles tucked in the back corner of the floor. They draw attention to themselves.
Toothbrushes and razors should be moved out of sight.
Toys, ducks, sponges and brushes should be hidden from sight, too.
Bedroom en-suites should follow the same rules as bathrooms.

Gardens: Washing lines with pegs on spoil the look. Gardens need to look tidy, whatever the season. Movable toys, footballs, bikes and scooters need to be hidden. Bins of any sort need to be hidden. Garden pots and tubs look good if they are well arranged and matching.

Front of house: the most important photograph. Vehicles and bins need to be moved out of sight. A tidy entrance is a good advertisement, whatever the property.

The photographs below are all from the same house - a terraced home fairly close to a large city centre. It didn't sound promising. But it looked amazing. The owner had used her creative talent and love of style to make each room special.

First, the dining room. Not just tidied and polished, but decked out as if ready for a full scale dinner party. matching dinner set, wine glasses, spotless white tablecloth, flowers...

The glasses are cut glass. The cutlery is classy. The Persian rug beneath the table looks superb. The picture on the wall adds a flash of colour to the dark wood in the room.

The decor is neat and symmetrical; it looks tidy, but not ordinary. The paintings either side of the fireplace balance each other out. The two pieces of fossil either side of the fireplace are beautiful ornaments. The fireplace itself looks antique but immaculate. Even without the dressed table, this room would have looked good. The dinner party addition gives it a real pizzazz.

Not only was there a banquet scene set up in the dining room, the kitchen was also set for a continental breakfast.

Freshly baked bread, two slices cut, to release the aroma. Croissants on the plate for a bit of French style. Fresh coffee in the cafetiere. The red and white striped tablecloth adds to the Continental feel. Fresh flowers match the decor, as does the wall art.

The long view of the kitchen shows an immaculate space. Sparkling, stylish and functional on the left side. Homely on the right side.

The patio in this perfectly presented home is also ready for a social occasion.

The grass is immaculately manicured. The fence newly painted. The patio surface swept. Every feature is tidy and attractive.

The patio table is set for an alfresco snack. Tall glasses for bubbly, wide glasses for soft drinks, a small stack of plates, all in matching amaranth, with a neat candle holder at the centre of the table, and stylish chiminea in the patio corner. Such an eye for detail.

A great blend of blues and turquoise in the bathroom. For photographing, keep the towels visible if they match. These do. The light blue is a bold choice with the darker colours. Look at that ornamental glass fish on the window ledge. It brings in both colours perfectly.

Every room has a neat symmetry in this house. The pictures on opposite sides are a good example in this bathroom. The two hand towels go well together, and blend the two main colours. The chrome towel warmer matches the neat soap and shampoo rack on the left of the room. Too many shampoo bottles can be a distraction, especially if they do not match the main colours. Keep them to a minimum for photographs.

The bedrooms match the rest of the home for neatness. On the left, the DVDs and books, perfectly arranged. The antique cabinet has a symmetrical arrangement on top, with the two end pieces facing each other. Low beds look very stylish... and they reduce the opportunity for shoving unsightly clutter underneath them.

The lounge looks great, too. Those perfectly arranged DVDs, the cushions coloured in neat pairs, the throw on the edge of the sofa, the carpet looks immaculate, the red lampshades and curtains, too, and the gold shapely ornaments match the wood colour. A room of red, blue, white and gold. Not flashy or glossy. It looks refined, elegant and established.

Here's a view of the lounge from the door. These old houses have great windows - this is a first floor lounge. Windows that let in so much light are good for photographs.. They reduce the need to have the indoor lights on. Some estate agents recommend having house lights on for photographs. I would only have house lights on if the natural light is low. Or, in some instances, to light up a dark corner. A table lamp can light up a corner, but the colour that emanates from it is often a little too yellow.
The attention to detail by the vendor for these photographs is evident in the choice of flowers. The pink and white lilies match the cushions in the opposite corner of the room. The fossils and rocks make excellent ornaments - they are ancient. But the home has flashes of the modern, such as the cat wall art above the television.

One final photograph from this beautiful home. The attic bedroom. The window is superb, and the bed makes best use of it. The pillow cushions are pleasingly symmetrical, as are the bedside lamps. And why cover up a beautiful varnished floor with a carpet? No need. The Persian rug beneath the bed is just right. In function and in style.