Marketing Involves Making Stuff Look Better Than It Really Is

June 25th, 2012

Mike Yother (aka: Swampman) sent me a link to this video that was hot last week. The video shows the food styling that goes on by MacDonald’s of Canada in preparation for shooting marketing photos for fast food.

There are some lessons for real estate shooters here because what real estate shooters are doing is very much the same as the food photographers in this video; the product is just different:

  • Did you notice the key phrase that Hope uses, “we want to show the product in it’s best possible light“? She is not in the least apologetic that products you buy at Micky-D’s look nothing like the marketing photos. In fact she is proud to be showing her product “in the best possible light”!
  • Great interior photographs work the same way. Most great interior photographs have a stylist/stager/designer involved… they arrange furniture and decor instead of pickles and condiments.
  • This video got 5+ million views in about 3 days, probably because people were stunned to see what’s done to promote burgers. Many of these people were probably outraged by the deception but you have to be pretty naive to not understand that this is going on.
  • The same kind of styling should and frequently does go on when selling mid-priced and upper-end properties. Frequently when we sell homes we spend considerable time and energy to stage/style the property. It’s usually worth it.
  • Frequently people bring up the use of photoshop, wide-angle lenses and believe that some how showing a product in it’s best possible light is some how deceptive. Perhaps, but those that have that point of view should get over it and realize that in most modern cultures this is what goes on and you need to do it to compete in the market.

Over the years we’ve had discussions here on the PFRE blog about where the photo editing boundaries are for real estate photography. I’ve summarized the several discussions we’ve had on the Ethics page (it’s the “Code of Ethics” link under Other Links on the right side-bar. One special factor in real estate that isn’t present in most other sales professions is that agent licensing law usually specifies that real estate agents can not materially misrepresent a property. Generally that means agents should not misrepresent the physical properties of a property.

Share this

10 Responses to “Marketing Involves Making Stuff Look Better Than It Really Is”

  • Larry this is great. And as I’m watching this, I’m thinking what a perfect comparison to real estate photos. It’s the “same ingredients” = “same house” but we just moves things around to accent and make it look better . . . PERFECT. I’m all over this for a re-blog.

  • This is a great blog and the video is amazing. Thanks for sharing it and keep posting.

  • Smart move on McD’s part. It makes the company look consumer-friendly and transparent. Much like a paper plate after their fries have been sitting on it.

  • I am a real estate agent and, yes, I take my own pictures, sorry. I think that Larry’s “guidelines” are very helpful. I’d like to see the PFRE community work together to refine these guidelines. As a real estate agent I am responsible for the “ethical” nature of my listings. Based on a previous PFRE post a few years ago I do NOT remove power lines or permanent objects or defects. I do try to do as much pre-photography staging as possible, and I will do some post-processing staging–like removing power cords behind a desk, garbage can in the picture, etc. But I then try to have the owner make these changes for real. Note that it is common for a house to be nicely staged and pictures taken and then the owners change back a lot of things that make the house more livable for them but less attractive to buyers. So often the pictures look better than the house. As an agent I want pictures that make the house look as attractive as possible. Not as well as you pros, but I try. And I see nothing wrong with that unless it does violate these guidelines. I have also sold two quite expensive houses to buyers that I never met until after the Offer to Purchase contract was agreed to. Yes, they bought it off the internet. But, they did have a right-of-refusal if the house did not look in person as I had represented it. Both deals closed. One last point, I have on several occasions “created” pictures that were NOT REAL. I’ve put a new roof line on a house, and added hardwood floors to another, etc. HOWEVER, these pictures never go in MLS or on the internet. They are available to buyers at the house and are clearly identified as “Phantasy Photos.”

  • This is so true. I actually use these words in listing presentations – “showing the home in its best light”. And you know what? I also use that to explain to agents why hiring a professional really works to “show the home in its best light.”

    There you go.

  • I have seen that program on the Dish TV and it was also published in the Times.

  • Thanks for the video, it was great. I attended one of Scott Hargis’s workshops two years ago in Vero Beach, and I believe Mike Yother was also in attendance. I am a licensed REALTOR® and have been shooting real estate photography sporadically. The past 33 years, I have been a commercial photographer, mainly shooting food and jewelry. Years ago, one of my mentors told me “you are not selling the food, you’re selling the sizzle”. That seems very appropriate in real estate photography!

  • As an aside, the words “in the best possible light” must be the most hackneyed phrase in photography. 8-[
    It must be eradicated! 😉

  • This is exactly why one should also focus on detail shots and lifestyle photos.
    Yes, you and/or the agent might want some sort of photojournalistic approach where you back up to every corner, shoot wide, and document the house factually.
    But the one’s I’m working with see the advantage of doing the hotel or destination style shots and selling a lifestyle.

    Anyway, does it truly matter what you crop out in a photo? Is the buyer going to purchase this home over the internet based on your photos? Obviously not. They might think you or the agent untrustworthy when they shop up to tour the home and find power lines across the view, but they didn’t enter into a contract with you over the exactly validity of the photos.

  • I don’t think this is missleading the customer or that is making stuff look better then it really is. It’s not like they changed the product, that they added other ingredients or something. They showed the product as it really is. It’s a matter of prespective how you see things.
    Bringing this to real estate photography, it’s like making a good staging and good photos. It’s not like you are going to remove a power line or something. That’s very different.
    Perspective is everything in real estate. How the customer percieves the property etc.
    Actually if you show a customer better photos then a house it really is you lose the customer. But if you show bad photos of a good house then the house will lose percieved value. If you show good photos but without making them better then it really is the perception of the customer will still be very high when he visits the property.

Trackback URI Comments RSS

Leave a Reply