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Real Estate Photography / MLS Photos

There is a growing epidemic in the real estate community. In fact, it has spread so far and wide that if you are in real estate and aren't infected with it, you are in the minority. But before we pull back the curtain and expose the smoke and mirrors that is the real estate photography of today, let's take a trip down memory lane.

Remember when lying was a problem in lending? I mean, it's not anymore, but remember when it was? Like in 1968 when they wrote the Truth in Lending Act? Or what about 2004-2008, pre- real estate bubble? It's almost as if lenders would say anything to close a loan, or lend money to just about anyone? After all, once the loan closed, the home buyer was in the hands of the bank and no responsibility remained with the agent that "sold" the loan. Many lenders figured out if they could cloak certain line items here, make light of information over there, they could talk there way right through a maze of financial details, qualifications, points, disclosures, and simply make sure that loan closed. It's the ABC of deal making. Always Be Closing. Ultimately, that flood of dishonesty created a melt down and yielded more regulation. I know that kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore, I was just reminiscing.

History tends to repeat itself doesn't it? It's a song & dance that goes something like this:

Investors demand growth >> Thirst for profits ensue >> Lying commences >> Problems occur >> Regulation results.

Around and round we go around the merry-go-round of making money.

So let's take a look at real estate photography. We can all agree that a seller needs to post good photos of their home. In fact, they need to post great photos, if not amazing photos. Fortunately, for less than a $1000 you can get a great camera and a copy of PhotoShop. You may even be tempted to call yourself a Professional Photographer just minutes after your purchase. But whether you become a professional, or hire one, you must know that it only takes a few clicks of the mouse to go from Professional Photographer to Professional Liar. I'll explain.

The home buyer of today is shopping for homes online. They are virtually walking in and out and taking tours of homes at a mind bending rate of a dozen per minute. To catch the buyer's eye, the seller needs amazing photos to stand out in the crowd. However, it's that desire for amazing photos that has many swimming in a sea of photo manipulation, and the water is murky at best. This is where photographers and real estate agents need to understand the difference between editing and manipulation to mislead.

Is that sky not blue enough? No problem, just import whatever sky you want. Grass not green enough? A little click of color correction could have your yard looking like the 18th fairway of the PGA Masters. Oh what Photoshop can do. It can wash away the blemishes of celebrity skin, and it can turn your home into castle, French decorated and fit for a king.

So where is the line?

To find the line, you have to be honest. Are you truthfully representing a space? I'm not talking about touching up, color correction, contrast enhancement or even applying one (or ten) of those stupid filters. Did you distort the proportions of the space? Did you stretch that image to make the kitchen look bigger than it really is? If you did, you're a professional liar, not a photographer. If you plan to take your photography skills beyond the pond of real estate and into the rest of the business world, misrepresenting a photo like that will get you fired. Stretching, transforming, and distorting a space to better market it for sale is false advertising. There's the line.

When the world is looking at your photos, the round clock on the wall should still be round like it is in person - not a stretched oval. That TV mounted on the wall should look like the 16:9 ratio that it is - not the 24:9 that it looks like in the stretched photo.

Photos like these litter the MLS sites on the internet, and they are sending a message to the buyers out there. The message is this: Hey buyers, you're too stupid to notice that we're lying about this space. When lies and selling cross paths, you have to ask yourself: what else are they lying about? What else are they hiding or misrepresenting?

For you real estate agents that hire these professional photographers liars, you're lying too. Lying to make the sale. It's no different than the hated wall street broker that fudged some tiny numbers to make a million. Misrepresenting a space to make the sale is lying, and it's false advertising.

Don't make your living from lying.


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