Whether you're an experienced agent or selling your home yourself, crafting a quality listing makes all the difference in getting people calling. How you write and market your home-for-sale ad obviously makes a huge difference in how much attention it gets, but there's one crucial facet of the listing that often goes unappreciated: the photos.

Quality real estate photos are even part of a bit of business lore. When the creators of now-massive home rental service AirBnB first started, they initially weren't seeing much success getting rooms rented, according to FundersandFounders.com. They realized that most of the listings lacked quality photos, and went to every apartment currently for rent in New York City to take professional-quality pictures. Only a week later, they were in the black and on the path to becoming a global enterprise. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so use these words to improve the pictures in your home listing.

Invest in interest

Before rushing out to snap photos of your home, you should make sure you have the right equipment to do the job well. While many modern smartphones feature high-quality cameras, they still aren't going to match the versatility and reliability of more professional equipment. You don't have to run and buy the most expensive camera in the store, but if you can, consider saving for one or borrowing a friend's. A basic digital SLR will provide near-professional quality with ease of use for beginners. Using a real camera will also allow you to use a tripod, which will make it easier to compose shots that are stable and level. It's these little things that will make all the difference in the photos you take, and thus will generate greater interest in your home.

Composition is key

Once you've got your equipment, start planning which aspects of the home you most want to feature in photos. This will generally include the main rooms of the home, such as the kitchen, living room or master bedroom, as well as any special amenities like a deck, game room, walk-in closet or whatever you think is unique about the house. If you are not limited in the number of pictures you can include, or just want to be sure you cover all your bases, you could simply shoot each room. Don't forget exterior shots of the entire house out front, as well as the backyard.

When you're ready to shoot a room or area, consider what exactly the focal point should be. Eyes are naturally drawn to whatever lies at the center of the frame. However, framing your state-of-the-art refrigerator in the middle of the kitchen photo won't create the most visually appealing image. One of the central tenants of photography is the Rule of Thirds. As you're setting up the shot, think of what you see in the camera broken into a grid three rows tall and three columns wide. Your camera may even have this grid printed on the eyepiece or optionally shown on the display. Position the elements of the room so that they fit into this frame as best as possible, with the highlights near where lines intersect.

It's also important to make sure you only let in the frame exactly what you want, and leave everything else out. Zillow's guide to home photography suggests tidying up and being aware of the small details - make sure the toilet lid is down, make sure the cat's toys are put away, don't allow any clutter. An eye for the little things will go a long way toward making your photos sparkle.

Lights, action

Since cameras work by capturing the light that reflects off surfaces, lighting truly is everything. Unfortunately, it may also be the most difficult factor to control. The exterior shots may be the easier ones to light, but timing is important. The sun should be your only light source, which means you have to work with what it gives you. A cardinal rule of photography is to never shoot facing the sun. Charlie Borland at digital-photography-school.com suggests researching a property on Google Maps if you haven't seen it in person yet, to know which way the front faces and time your visit so the side you want to capture is getting full exposure. Supervising a home inspection before taking photos may also be a good opportunity to plan.

For interior spaces, lighting can get trickier. Use natural light when you can, and continue to face away from the windows. Natural light makes lighter colored rooms look great. For darker shades of paint, things can get washed out. You can lower the blinds to control the amount of sunlight in this case, and supplement with ambient light from lamps in the room. Avoid using the flash on your camera. Unless you're a pro with top of the line equipment, a flash won't really help light much.

Once you master the basics, you'll be amazed how much better your photos turn out. Take time to practice before going out in the field, and your customers will thank you for it.