With property photography playing such an important role in the sale of houses, it is no surprise that sellers and the agents want to see spaces represented in the best possible light in images.
For this reason, it comes as no surprise that practices such as post production photo editing, photoshopping and even virtual staging have become popular with estate agents and the company that provides their property photography.
When does Image Manipulation become Misrepresentation?
But at what point does the manipulation of images become misrepresentation? At what point should buyers feel that they themselves are being manipulated?
The people over at popular property photography blog “Photography for Real Estate” have been asking this question recently, and have drawn on the experience of their large pool of professional property photographer subscribers to put together a checklist that they feel clarifies the issue – which remains slightly blurry in terms of the law in many areas (although one Australian agent has already faced the wrath of the authorities for taking its touch ups a little too far – read more here)
Property Photography Industry Should Adhere to a Certain Standard
While the knowledgeable staff and readers over at PFRE all believe that ultimate responsibility for the images selected and used lies with the selling agent and accept that a photographer commissioned to create and edit images will need to follow the brief supplies, they also support the idea that our profession ought to adhere to a certain standard when it comes to the editing of interior and exterior images.
Property Photo Ethics Checklist
Generally, it seems that the ethics of the issue can be covered in a few key points:
1: The modification or removal of temporary objects (furniture, ornaments, mess, weather conditions) should be seen as acceptable.
2: The modification or removal of permanent features (neighbouring buildings, power lines, phone masts) could be interpreted as misrepresentation.
3: Substantially modified property imagery (for example images that have been subject to virtual staging techniques) should be clearly labelled as such in order that the consumer not be misled
(For a look at the full discussion on the issues affecting agents and their property photographers see the full post on the PFRE website)
“If You Can Change it, I Can Change it!”
Property photographers who are asked to edit images are advised to always ask for their instructions in writing so that it is clear that additions and omissions were made at the request of the advertising agent, and if uncomfortable with the requests should quote a phrase from PRFE reader Kevin Edge:
“If you can change it, I can change it!”
Who believes the soundbite should be the litmus test for any undecided ethical editing issue!