Truth In Advertising (And Real Estate Photography)

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Since about 2000, the importance of real estate photography for advertising has exploded.  It seems every time a new Google, Redfin, or National Association of Realtors study comes out, the number of buyers reported having started their search for a new home, online, grows significantly. Reports vary, but since about 2006 they have all reported >80% (more recently, >90%)of all buyers start their search using the web.

When driving through a town looking for a restaurant, the most attractive store front tends to grab the most attention.  The same is true online. When skimming through hundreds of listings online, the properties with the most attractive, most well-presented images, stand out.  It is natural human behavior.

Given the strong effectiveness professional photography for real estate can create, it is equally important images reasonably represent the property in question.

Occasionally we hear stories of photographs grievously misrepresenting property…generally favorably for the property owner.  Examples of misrepresentation stem from what I feel are inappropriate photo edits. Examples can include removing unflattering infrastructure (e.g. telephone poles in middle of a yard), erasing large cracks in a driveway, or adding things that don’t exist.

If the edit modifies a material (e.g. unchangeable) aspect of the property, it crosses the line.

The world can focus on ‘photoshopping’ images, a product name-come-generic reference to post-processing of an image. But viewers of real estate photos need to appreciate, you do not need Adobe Photoshop or similar picture editor to be misleading. Simply changing the camera’s perspective can wildly change perception; leading to, “It’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Much more grievous, and literally ubiquitous, is the damage done to property values by unfavorable misrepresentation.

Much more common than overstating the allure of a home is the dramatic understatement, even damaging to home values. Doing an internet search of ‘misleading real estate pictures’ actually does not return many notable results. Doing a search for ‘bad real estate pictures’ brings back long listings including numerous blogs dedicated to nothing but bad real estate pictures.

Here are a few wonderful sites to visit, especially if you like morbid humor….morbid because, if you’re the property owner, a fuzzy picture of your $1,000,000 home’s living room isn’t funny.

Let’s look at the Positive Side of ‘Photoshopping’’

In recent weeks I have been trying to educate local realtors as to the value of professional photography. In viewing over 1,700 agents’ listings in my region, I have found fewer than 10 that used high-quality photography. Using live listings on realtor.com I selected various photographs—in whatever size/resolution is provided—and worked to clean them up.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Foyer, $750,000
    imageimage
  • Living Room, $1,000,000+
    imageimage
  • Dining Room, $550,000
    imageimage
  • Kitchen, $2,700,000
    imageimage
  • Condo, $200,000
    imageimage

As the before/after comparisons demonstrate, post-processing, or ‘photoshopping’, images can often be about simply correcting technical deficiencies in images themselves.

The end goal is to present the property in a flattering manner, appealing to the potential home buyer.  Of course, the images themselves are a defining baseline. The stronger the original images, the more effective the final result.

When you think ‘photoshopped,’ remember it can often be a strong positive, not just a gimmick or come on.