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Advertising is Held to be Boasting and Bragging

In: 
Published: 17/04/2007
By: larry

Drew from NJ just pointed out an interesting recent article on yahoo.com/real estate by Vanessa Richardson of Bankrate.com titled- Altered Photos: Taking the Real From Real Estate.

The article bottom line is that according to John O'Brien Chairman of the Illinois state Real Estate Lawyer Association:

"Advertising is held to be boasting and bragging, not to be taken as holy writ in many states. Consumers should have enough sense to know to visit the house and do their due diligence on the condition of the property. At least for now, power lines are not the thing that will cross the line into reason for a lawsuit."

Via: yahoo.com/realestate

9 comments on “Advertising is Held to be Boasting and Bragging”

  1. This article made me think of the old advertising adage "You sell the sizzle, not the steak." (It also make me think of this b/c it's lunchtime and I'm hungry...) An agent obviously wants to move their property and may not have qualms about posting the best images to achieve this goal, whereas the prospective property buyer (and seller) wants to see the property as-is, zits and all...and guess who's stuck in the middle?

    Does anybody (photographers or agents) have/use some sort of written code-of-ethics for these situations?

  2. Subjective statements (like "The best headache remedy EVER!!) are one thing, but photography is wholly objective, and portrays exactly what is for sale. Using light creatively to show the physical aspects of the house is one thing, actually altering the merchandise is a no-no. Imagine if you were buying a used camera body online, and the seller's photo had a big scratch on the LCD screen edited out. You'd be pretty upset when you got the camera.

    Many of my clients use renderings for the exterior image of their "curb-challenged" properties, which is perceived very differently by buyers.

  3. While I don't condone removing powerlines and homes that are too close from pictures; this thread made me think a little more. When I go to Chili's or Fridays or some other equivalent establishment and and my dinner comes out and it does not look as good as the one in the picture or my drink is not quite as blue as the ones featured on the table tent, I am going to have something to say. Just kidding. Ice Cream in Food photography is typically Mashed Potatos. Motor Oil has a better consistency than Pancake Syrup. Ice cubes are glass - Very expensive glass I might add. Milk - Nope, Elmers Glue - it keeps the flakes looking crispy rather than soggy. Sometimes to get a bowl of cereal it might take 5 or 6 boxes to find a bowl full of acceptable flakes. Food for thought.

    Lets not even talk about high fashion photography. Ever see how plain these models are prior to styling.

    The object of real estate or interior photography is to make things look as good as possible without dynamically altering the physical attributes.

    M. James

  4. James,

    Well put. Pumping a dim basement room full of light goes towards "make things look as good as possible", while cloning out a fire hydrant would be "altering the physical attributes."

  5. I have to disagree with Scott's statement that photography is objective. Photography is a highly interpretive medium, and these interpretations carry even more weight because of the general idea that "photographs never lie". We all know that they do and can, but it's far more pervasive and subtle than removing power lines and photographing mashed potatoes instead of ice cream.

    Look back a few posts about discussions on how shooting from a low angle can make a room look more spacious. That's interpretive. Look at the suggestions for wide-angle lenses. I can make a bathroom look like a ballroom with my 7-14 lens; that's interpretive. All of this is part of our craft that we control and can radically change how an interior looks without a single post-capture manipulation being done. I would also argue that my ability to make these interpretive decisions is the value that I add for my client.

    I fall back on the clause in my contract: my job is to photograph the property in "a flattering and realistic manner appropriate for the client's use". If the client doesn't provide specific direction, then I can safely assume (safely because it's in my contract) that they trust my interpretation.

  6. Just wanted to let you know that MSN highlighted this article on their front page today. I guess that just goes to show that it is a relevant topic and how important it is to take things like these into consideration when we are doing our job.

  7. This is my first reply and it comes after considering what others have said. Although I'm not a lawyer or a Realtor, I've been shooting houses exclusively for over 7 years and have seen & heard more than most, which has led me to these thoughts.

    I think NAR's statement about "an accurate and true representation" serves the purpose of ensuring they have covered all of the ethical bases and cannot be held responsible because their policy prohibits it. Many of the comments describing how enhancing photos will hurt the industry, I believe are sour grapes from Agents who are unable to successfully enhance their photos with a DIY system like Visual Tour. Or they don't want to pay someone who has given up a large portion of their life to learn PhotoShop, the Creative Lighting System (or lighting in general, and spent thousands of dollars spent on photographic equipment or upgraded computers than can handle large files. If a Buyer is willing to spend hundred's of thousands on a house they haven't seen or discussed the virtual photos with the Agent on the phone, then Buyer Beware is obviously lost on them.

    Has anyone ever received a hamburger at a fast food restaurant that looked anything like the photos displayed on their walls? Has anyone seen a dress or suit that looked like the photos of them when the models wore them? Does anyone complain when a Playboy centerfold has had her warts, cellulite, wrinkles or love handles airbrushed out? When a developer pays a photographer thousands of dollars to show gorgeous models sitting around the pool or tennis courts with super white smiles, or aerobics instructors in the fitness center, or the sun setting on the south side of the lake - do buyers seriously expect it to be that way when they move there? And most of us are aware of the EPA mileage estimates which come from a car on rollers in a building with low resistance tires, super lubricants and whatever else they are allowed to use to produce an approved estimate that has no bearing in real world mileage. Does anyone return their F150's because they can't get anywhere close to the 23 mpg the EPA says they should get?

    If my comments sound cynical, then I apologize for my inability to express my thoughts. My intention was to compare real estate photography to similiar events in the real (no pun intended) world.

    With all the above being said, there are things that can be done to make sure we are above the status quo. Law enforcement and legal agencies use authenticated photos for evidence. The motion picture industry uses ratings to distinguish movies which contain specific words, scenes, content, etc.

    If we were to form an association (or other group type) of professional real estate photographers and decide specifically what we will allow or not allow to be changed in a real estate photo. A member of this group can show they are a member of this group which would be an equivalent to UL Approved, or the motion picture industry ratings, or the EPA mileage estimates (which I admit is a bad example). Members would have to provide examples of their virtual tours as part of their application and provide an easy link to the group's website where alleged violations could be easily submitted for review. This group could liaison with the NAR, the local MLS's and others to keep us from having to make branded and unbranded versions or clone stamping out real estate signs. Some pricing guidelines could be published so we aren't having to deal with a Realtor's spouse, child or neighbor who has a $500 digital camera and a copy of Frontpage advertising $50 virtual tours. Maybe some of us could then make more than $4.50 an hour after expenses. We could petition the IRS to change their rules that require a minimum 5 year depreciation schedule for photographic equipment. A 4 year old digital camera doesn't give us much of the control we need to produce good photos.

    We can comment and criticize about these issues or we can start discussing how to make it better. If we don't, another group will take the lead and make rules that someone who doesn't know the difference between a screen and multiply layer, or the relationship that sharpness, resolution, and size have to do with file size. Or worse yet, some government agency looking for a reason to increase their budget by volunteering to create the rules.

    These are my thoughts on this matter and I also want to thank Larry for his work in this blog which can be a precursor to a viable solution.

  8. An association is a great idea. Maybe we could then even get group medical! I used to belong to APA...how about a subgroup there? I don't know if they have subgroups for specialities but it's a good idea. They have done so much work to fight for changing obsolete laws, protecting photographers work and copyrights, etc.

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