We all want to make our homes look amazing, and whilst it might be tempting to use some Photoshop magic to improve things there are some things you should definitely not do with your real estate photos.
But first …
What can you do with your real estate images?
Add a new sky
This is not a permanent feature of a home, and is simply a result of the photographer not being there at quite the right time. So if the photo was taken on a cloudy day, your real estate photographer will often do a ‘sky replacement’, and drop a much nicer looking sky into the photo, and brighten the photo up.
So here’s a boring house photo with a grey sky:
And here’s the same house with a fantastic blue sky:
The new sky photo looks better, but has had no impact upon the house itself, and I think it’s important to note that.
Make the grass green
This is another one of those things which is fine to do. If there hasn’t been any rain around for a little while, the grass can start to go a little bit brown, and loses that lush green look. However, in most situations a few good days of rain and the color is back, and the lawn looks great.
So if the photo just happened to be taken during a dry month, then the grass won’t look its best. But we all know that it will look great again when the rains return, so giving it some extra color now, in anticipation of what will come later, is not a problem.
Here’s an example of a before shot:
And here’s a photo after the grass has been greened:
As you can see, the change is a subtle one, and is more an issue of emphasizing the colors that are there rather than making dramatic changes.
The problem comes when areas that will never be green, such as totally dead patches of grass, or areas that are now just dirt, are greened up. That’s never right, because those lawn areas will remain brown and dead even if the rain comes back.
What should you NOT do with your real estate images?
Don’t remove powerlines
Some agents think this is something you can do because it’s not part of the house, but they’re wrong. Powerlines are permanent features of the surrounding area, and cannot be removed from a photo legally.
According to one real estate agent, the removal of powerlines from images is not uncommon in real estate marketing, and I think that’s disappointing. It’s all very well to try and present the home as well as it possibly can, but it is never right to be deceptive in the marketing of a property.
There was much discussion of a home in Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago when it seemed as though some powerlines covering a very expensive view had gone missing. Here’s a screen grab from the sold listing at realestate.com.au:
However, on close inspection I suspect that the lines may have just been lost in the small, web-sized image, and that the photographer and the real estate agency in fact did nothing wrong.
Don’t digitally remove anything permanent
If something permanent is there, like something really ugly and awful, you can’t just Photoshop out. That would be wrong, and can get you in all sorts of trouble.
However, there’s a difference between deleting something and simply not showing it in a photography.
For example, this photo of the house with the water tower behind it that went off like crazy on social media, and again, I don’t think they did anything wrong, except perhaps be very – how would you say, “creative” – in their use of angles and what they chose to show within the image.
Here’s a screen grab from The Daily Telegraph article comparing the image used with what you can see from the street:
The Daily Telegraph photographer attempted to replicate the image used by the real estate agent to see if any Photoshop work had been done to digitally remove the tower from the photo, and he was successful:
However, The Department of Fair Trading was still critical of the real estate agency selling the home, but did not take any action against the agent. The house was eventually sold, down from its initial asking price of $1.1 million (the house is in Sydney where prices are, to use the technical term, insanely high), going for $870,000.