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Here's What Can Happen If You Do Too Good A Job With A Front Exterior Shot

Published: 27/01/2014
By: larry

RobertHolowkaMost real estate photographers and listing agents would be proud of this fantastic twilight exterior shot that Robert Holowka of Birdhouse Media shot for this listing in Mississauga, ON, near Toronto. But this beautiful shot has become controversial!

This article in outlines the controversy  over whether this photo being used for advertising distorts reality. The contraversy as described in article are as follows:

... after a day of investigating online allegations from real estate watchers and amateur photographers that a key image in the marketing efforts around so-called “Saxony Manor” was photoshopped.

The show-stopping photo, with most of the home’s 30 front windows softly lit against a deep blue twilight sky, appears to double the length of the heated cobblestone driveway.

Star photographer Bernard Weil tried to mimic (somewhat) Holowka's marketing picture, using an 18-mm lens that makes the driveway look long. The end effect is millions of dollars’ worth of added curb appeal — at least at first glance — and makes this Mississauga Rd.-area mansion appear more sprawling country home than what it really is: a builder’s dream that got much too big for its Saxony Court cul-de-sac neighbours.

Oh my god, the photo was Photoshopped! And shot with a 16 mm lens. Apparently the key issue is that because a 16 mm lens was used the driveway looks longer than it is.

For heaven's sake people loosen up! There is much more serious deception going on every day in advertising than this! What are you going to do, pass a law that regulates what focal length can be used for advertising photos?

23 comments on “Here's What Can Happen If You Do Too Good A Job With A Front Exterior Shot”

  1. From this website in another article:

    Use of Ultra-Wide-angle Lenses
    Although some people find the use of ultra-wide angle lenses (below 24mm effective focal length) to visually overstate the size of rooms, use of ultra-wide-angle lenses is generally standard practice. It should be done with discretion.

    Use of Telephoto Lenses to Enhance Views
    This seems to be a borderline practice. That is, some do it and some don’t. There doesn’t seem to be any standard practice in this area.

    So, using a 16mm lens must be used with great caution, and in this case perhaps did mislead the length of the driveway!

  2. Through the use of the chosen lens and shooting position, Robert created a very compelling photo. I wonder what photo software he used to blend the images if it wasn't Photoshop. The article is more telling of the commentators ignorance of photography than anything else.

    Agent photos are misleading in the other direction. The burger pictured on the marquee isn't the burger you are served. The hotel room you get isn't as nice and clean as the one on the website and the check-in agents at the airport are never gorgeous tall ladies wearing broad smiles while trying to be helpful. I find it funny that several times a year there is a big hew and cry from some large news agency about how RE photos are all massively manipulated to deceive the public. The agents I deal with are all cheap skates and none of them would spend the amount of money for all of the "Photoshopping" claimed. A quick chat with a graphic designer in the ad department might dispel some myths.

    Part of the problem might stem from the demonstrations shown on new programs about how a property is dolled up in Photoshop. The person just grabs some landscaping from here, deletes the ugly building on one side there, adds a garden fountain and a white picket fence in less then a minute. There is no disclaimer that it took a fair amount of time to prepare and practice the makeover so it could be used in a short news segment. The actual time might have been a couple of hours.

  3. Bear in mind the point of view of the "authors". Photojournalists are not accorded the same "liberal" rules editorial and advertising photographers are for using photoshop, at least in theory. Even something as simple as perspective correction is a no-no at many news organizations.

    Although I don't do PJ work anymore, I have a friend who is still in the business. They tell me that they get constant pressure now to "duplicate" some of the work they are getting as online submissions from readers, readers who are not constrained by the same rules. They are hyper sensitive to how good the "dad with cameras" have gotten, because their work is being compared to it, but they can't compete on a level playing field. At some papers, they are literally being laid of as content is bolstered more and more by the online submission.

    Not sure if this plays into the genesis of the article, but thought it might be worth mentioning.

  4. An unfortunate dust up. If I were 'seriously' modifying the image, I'd at least get rid of the tree branches in the upper-left of the image.

    It's unfortunate the amateurs get so worked up over something being 'too good,' something they might not be able to produce themselves. Rather than decry the abysmal quality...destroying far more value than this image created...of most real estate images.

  5. What a silly non-issue. The listing photographs are a visual enticement for a buyer to view the property in person. Surely no buyer would be foolish enough to purchase the home sight unseen relying entirely (or at all) on the listing photographs. False advertising might be a possible complaint if the home was purchased without being viewed AND the buyer relied on the photographs to make a decision to purchase AND the photographs substantively misrepresented the property.

  6. There are two types of listing agents, documentarians and marketers. The first group focuses on accuracy, the latter on getting showings. This is not an ethical issue. Who would you hire to sell your home?

  7. +1000 on what Chris said.
    I often tell my clients that the goal of the photo is to tell a story of possibility that piques the interest of a potential buyer.
    So are they advocating bright lights in all restaurants so our dates will know that we aren't as charming as the candlelight might make us seem?

  8. its called marketing! Designed to produce showings. If you don't like the home after you see it in person don't buy it and for goodness sake don't buy and then look for misrepresented marketing photos. My fish sandwich from Arby's had a tiny filet despite the commercial had a gigantic filet. Get over it!

  9. This is so ridiculous, its actually funny. When I saw the title, I was thinking they had photoshopped another wing to the house...As an agent, I only had one client complain about the use of wide angle lenses. Come to think of it, she was a journalist - which possibly reflects the situation that Ty brought up with respect to photojournalism. That lady was very adamant that she felt wide angle shots were a deliberate attempt to "deceive" the buyer. This isn't deception, it is simply photographing the home in its best light. The set back from the road is something that can easily be viewed if the buyer decides to actually see the house.

  10. I love it! Love the leading lines, perfect composition! 😉 This is what we get paid to do. I love the comparison images they included. I did get a chuckle on the short driveway. We aren't paid to make the property look bad, we get paid to make it look good.

    Regular people must not realize if you stick your face right where he set the camera, they will see the exact same view. It's all in where you place your tripod.

  11. Looks pretty normal to me, but then again, I'm not an uneducated moron either. Plus, I use 11mm, so 16 seems more like a telephoto... 🙂

  12. THIS has NOTHING to do with PHOTOGRAPHY or COMPLAINTS. This is a straight up marketing WIN for the auction house selling this property. I clicked on the link of the linked article that claims people "complained online that the photo was "photoshopped"" that link lead to nothing. Even if there were complaints on an blog they could easily be fabricated just to create a story. Then this story gets eaten up by other bloggers and the news is out there. ESPECIALLY when you're talking about an exclusive listing like this where a national audience will help tremendously.

    I think there is a great lesson here for all of us it's how to win at online marketing. Yes the photo is superb of course but I've seen equally good if not better RE photos posted on this Flickr many a time. No articles written about them and how "fake" they are.

  13. And the place has sold. Wonder if they did this story on purpose just so it gets better exposure. Would not surprise me in the least.

  14. Wow! Next time any of the haters need to do a resume and include a photo of themselves they better make sure it is of them with all the warts and blemishes or they are misrepresenting their appearance. Oh yeah, how about the photoshop tan:)

  15. Food stylists have been creating memorable images for as long as anyone can remember. Is that any different than what we do to present a home in its best light? ABC ran an article in 2012 (still on its site at: about how much trouble McDonald's goes to for their product photos as opposed to how little they do to actually prepare a burger. I also watched a photoshoot for a burger where the sesame seeds were glued on to the bun just for that "perfect" look. And, a cereal commercial where the milk was actually white glue! They were'nt selling the milk - they were selling the cereal. Don't get me started on what models, politicians, actors, etc. do to prepare for their "glam" wouldn't want to wake up next to most of them in the morning! Suffice it to say...What you see is NOT necessarily what you get! If you buy a property sight-unseen except in photos...Caveat Emptor!

  16. @BNC, that's fantastic. Can't wait till the opportunity presents itself as I fully intend to deliver a similar image to the agent. It will be interesting to see if they use it. Thanks for the link..really nice.

  17. That was a hack job piece. An attempt by a poor report to create a controversy where one doesn't exist. I think we need to be questioning Susan Pigg ethics instead of the photographers. The photographer did what he was paid to due, photograph a home at it's best. Susan Pigg failed to due what she was expected to do, and that is to write stories based on the facts and without false accusations.

  18. I'm so guilty of this. I shoot wide shots with a low perspective over pools all the time. It makes the pool look bigger and creates some fun reflections. In fact I see it all the time. This is the first time I have heard anything about it being unethical. I think its ridiculous!

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