Truth In Advertising (And Real Estate Photography)

Truth In Advertising (And Real Estate Photography)

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 have, it is important images reasonably represent the property in question.

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

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

The world likes to jump all over ‘photoshopped’ images, a product name-come-generic reference to post-processing of an image, as though every corporate head shot hasn’t been photoshopped as well. 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 alter viewers’ perception; giving meaning to the phrase, “It’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Much more grievous–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 caused by poor photography, 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 lists 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 working 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 I selected various photographs—in whatever size/resolution is provided—and did what I could to improve them. Oh, my, I photoshopped them :).

The results speak for themselves:

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

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

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