Nathan Stewart, a photographer for HomeVisit, photographs a kitchen in a model home. Professionally photographed homes command a 47 percent higher asking price per square foot, according to Redfin, and preparing rooms for colorful, high-impact photos can pay off. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Photos are one of the most useful tools for selling your home. They allow buyers to peek inside it from anywhere — their couch, their office or on the bus while they are commuting to work. It’s like having an open house without opening your house.

“We are a visual society,” said Sharron Jones, a real estate agent with Weichert Realtors. “Go to successful retail stores like Nordstrom or Target and look at photos for ads, commercials or merchandising displays in stores. All of them are designed to show their products at their best. Likewise, a seller should show their property at its best.”

Because photos provide buyers with their first impressions of a home, sellers shouldn’t overlook this crucial marketing tool. It’s worth noting:

84 percent of home buyers said they wouldn’t even consider a property that didn’t have listing photos, according to Trulia.

87 percent of home buyers relied on photos to help make their decision, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Professionally photographed homes sell 32 percent faster than other listings, according to VHT, a real estate photography company.

Professionally photographed homes command a 47 percent higher asking price per square foot, according to Redfin.

“Professional photographers know how to make the ordinary look extraordinary,” Jones said. “It is well worth paying a professional photographer that understands photographing for real estate.”

This room has been staged poorly; some of its most appealing features are hidden from view. The fireplace is blocked by the furniture. The back of the chair faces the room’s entrance, creating a visual barrier and cramping the overall flow. (HomeVisit)

By removing the chairs and table, the room looks more open, inviting and larger. The placement allows viewers to imagine themselves in the space. The fireplace is clearly visible. The drapes are open, allowing sunlight to play on the floor. (HomeVisit)

HomeVisit, a real estate photography company based in Chantilly, takes photos of many homes listed for sale in the Washington region. It also produces 3-D modeling, floor plans, virtual tours and video tours of houses.

Here are some of the company’s tips for creating high-impact photos of your house:

●Clear all surfaces of clutter. Two or three objects are fine if they are deliberate.

●Clean mirrors, floors and surfaces.

●Furniture should be sized for the space. Oversize pieces can make rooms look cramped.

●Furniture should be in keeping with the architectural style of the home.

●Balance the furniture and the decor. Create a color scheme to make the space pleasing to the viewer.

Clever staging calls for setting a stylish table, so the viewer feels invited into the space and can imagine having dinner in the room. The dining chairs, which are small enough to see over, are pushed neatly around the table. (HomeVisit)

This kitchen — including countertops, sink and stove — has been cleared of clutter. Strategically placed objects — the bonsai plant, the canisters and the candy dish — are neat and orderly. Pillows are fluffed. (HomeVisit)

●Create a better flow by removing furniture.

●Open blinds to allow natural light to fill the space. Bright, inviting photos work best. The brighter the room, the larger it will appear.

●Too much contrast can be distracting. The more colors and objects, the more contrast the room will have. But low contrast can seem muted or boring. The key is to have the right amount of contrast. Place a few framed pieces of art on the walls and try to stick to a single color scheme.

●Two-dimensional design principles play a role in photographing a home. The composition needs to be balanced to captivate buyers.

●Don’t forget to stage the exterior. Mow the lawn, rake leaves, tend gardens, clean the pool. Add extra props — table settings on an outdoor table or towels by the pool.