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How To Deal With A Huge Flag On The Front Of The Property You Are Shooting?

Published: 05/09/2016

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pexels-photo-27869-largeEric in Florida asks:

I recently had an issue (actually happened a few times) that came up.

While on a shoot, I got to the property, there was a huge American flag flying from the front of the home.

Since I am a disabled Vietnam vet, I love to see people flying the flag. But this one was attached to the home next to the front door and it was huge, almost as large as the one we flew on my destroyer.

Since I was shooting without the agent, I was only working with the owner. When I explained that I would like to take the flag down for the shot, she got very upset. I tried to explain that I was a disabled Navy Vet (I was wearing my Navy Ships hat) and loved her flag, and as a vet, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I told her the flag was covering the beautiful entrance, and we needed to make the house look like it was in homes and garden as to make people fall in love with her beautiful house.

She was still hesitant to let me remove the flag, so I told her I would shoot it both ways and let my agent choose which she liked best. If I was with the agent, I would have had the agent deal with the situation.

I wanted to know how others deal with this.

When you do something that is against the homeowners wishes the listing agent should be consulted. Although I must admit that shooting it both with and without the flag is exactly what I would want to do. I would sure try to get hold of the listing agent via phone or text before you left the property.

If you (the photographer) are doing a good job of communicating with your listing agent clients they will know to have the home ready for the shoot BEFORE you come. But getting a shot with and without the flag gives the agent options.

Larry Lohrman

14 comments on “How To Deal With A Huge Flag On The Front Of The Property You Are Shooting?”

  1. I've only had this problem only once. I asked the owner if he would move it and he said no problem. Most of the time, I have the listing agent and home owner do a walk through for anything that needed to be moved or replaced before I photograph. I've found 99% of the owners really care how their home will look. And I've had agents that said it made no difference, just photograph as is, it'll sell no matter how it looks.

  2. I am a disabled combat Army veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. I would have asked if the flag has an attachment to or has meaning toward someone before even suggesting removing it. If the answer was yes I would have not touched that flag and praised her for reason to have the flag. I would have never asked to take it down if flying it has meaning in her life.

  3. I have shot many homes with flags left up. It depends on the size and location of the flag and like Dave said, if it has a particularly special meaning to the homeowner. In the case of a huge flag that is obstructing the view of the entrance and they don't want to take it down, then shoot it the way it is, contact the agent and tell them why you shot it that way, then if they want the shot without the flag tell them you can reshoot the front exterior for an additional fee. If the agent previewed the home then they are aware of the flag and should have dealt with it before you got there. Issues like this (condition of property) can be addressed in your terms of service contract to avoid confusion.

  4. I wouldn't have ask them to remove it myself.

    I did have a huge flag on the porch of one home I shot and the agent ask if they thought it wouldn't be better to remove the flag so the photos would show the lovely front and the homeowner turned and looked at the agent and said if they don't love this flag I would prefer them to chose a different house to buy.

    I was smiling all day after that!

  5. This is one reason I refuse to hire out to private sellers.
    If I see something that won't look right, I make the recommendation to the agent and go on with something else while THEY work it out with the seller.
    My life became much easier wit has the practice.

  6. I have mixed thoughts on this - mixed because the US Old Glory is a symbol that means a different set of emotional and identity factors in different people. To some it is sacred, almost a religion of nationalism and/or patriotism. To others it is simply an acknowledgement of country. Everyone has a different mix. So definitely a potential land mine.

    As RE photographers, our job is to make the house/property look its best and show it off in the best light and the clearest imagery of its architectural details. To owners and even some agents, that is weighed against emotional attachments that can trump (if you will excuse the use of the word) other sales/marketing considerations. And if the property is located in an especially nationalistic/patriotic community, then we can all understand both the property owner's feelings as well as the marketing potential of the inclusion of the flag even if it obscures some of the architectural features. And it would be unusual for just one photo to be used in the marketing of the house. So shooting additional shots from different angles of the house that emphasize the architecture and allow the flag to play more of a supportive role should be considered.

    And the agent should have recognized the situation in advance if they were paying attention to the property. But this is one of the many reasons I always do a walk though before I shoot to identify such issues of property shoot preparation as well as to work out what equipment I will need to remember to bring with me. Naturally only feasible for larger property (read higher cost) shoots. And then you can bring up such considerations with the agent rather than the owner.

    And we have to remember that home owners tend not to see their properties and houses with the objective eyes that we rushed photographers do especially since we are usually seeing the property for the first time and they have been living with the property for years and no longer notice obvious photo problems. God forbid I should ever have to shoot my own home for sale! Declutter would require a Big Bin parked at the curb. So I am very sympathetic especially for older folks whose kids were born and raised in the house and every part and everything has cherished memories and they left off selling until their health makes packing up and clearing out a major and sometimes impossible operation.

  7. Is the flag part of the sale?
    If not, it should not be in the photos.

    (Vietnam veteran with a flag in front of his house)

  8. @Ken - That logic doesn't completely make sense... The homeowner's furniture typically doesn't go with the property but it is routinely shown in photos.

  9. You could kinda hold the flag to one side, then the other and combine the frames if you're familiar with compositing, and it could be a lot easier to clone the flag pole out in post.

    At real estate rates I would have just shot it myself. I don't even think twice about stuff like this. If you're making a fifty or 100 dollar photo it's one thing, when we're making five dollar photos it's an entirely different ballpark.

  10. I ran into this once and it worked out just fine. Before I start any shoot I introduce myself to the homeowner. When I introduced myself that time, I told the homeowner that I was a vet and I thanked him for flying Old Glory. I then offered that before I “start my assignment” I’d be happy to shoot a few pictures of his house proudly flying that beautiful flag and email them to him as a courtesy and to thank him. Of course, he was happy to accept my offer and I’d established that I was going above and beyond what I was being paid to do.

    When I came back later and explained that I was having a hard time getting the shot I wanted because the flag was dominating the picture, he quickly agree that “temporarily” taking it down to help him show his house was a good idea.

    Whether it’s a flag issue, or any other, I like to first establish a connection with the homeowner. Whenever possible, I like to call him to make an appointment. That’s when I briefly explain how I’d like the house to look (lights, etc.) to help make his house look as good as possible. He needs to know that I’m there to help him get as much money as possible for his house. After that’s established, it’s a little easier to ask them to “move the dogs bowl” or anything else that might “show” the house better. To the homeowner, you’re a stranger. Take a few minutes to assure him that you’re there to help him.

    Lastly, you need to understand that many have died protecting what that flag stands for. There are some very patriotic people that have deep feelings about our flag. People have gone to court against associations, villages and anyone else trying to stop them. Don’t ever assume that it will be OK to take it down.

  11. The flag of the country is really a non-issue for MLS photos. Now if it is going to be a cover photo on a 'homes' magazine, that is a different issue and a separate shoot/photo intentionally composed portrait for magazine. The issue becomes when it is some other type of flag - sports team or political - which lowers the population appeals to - or turns off it they identify with a rival. Probably the bigger issue is dealing with the burial flag in a triangular case on display on a bookshelf/shrine for the deceased. Those types of issues I let the listing agent address. Another that I ran into was a framed nude portrait of the owner in the master bath. Luckily, I could shoot around it, but gave the Realtor a heads up to discuss with the owner as strangers would be traipsing through the house.

  12. If it was huge and exceptionally distracting as described, I'd ask that it was taken down or a smaller flag substituted. If the owner said no, I would have to shoot the home with it in place and the agent will have to use the image or talk with the owner and have me reshoot the home for an additional fee. All I can do is recommend, not demand.

    If I was shooting a twilight photo, the flag would have to come down if there were any breeze at all. I would not be able to deliver a good photo or it would take a long stretch of time in post. The homeowner's patriotism doesn't add any value to the marketing, in my opinion.

  13. Defining our purpose in being there seems clear, options seem simple and obvious.

    We are there to provide marketing materials. Period.

    We can usually shoot two versions of any shot we like. One shot the way it is when we get there and one the way we might think it is better. Shoot the first one. Ask about the best way to move the object you plan to move. If the answer is not to move it, then go on to the next image. If it can be moved, then move it properly. Shoot the second version. Put the object back when you're done. Send both images to the agent.

    Not understanding why this needs to be about anything else. It is a real estate property image. Period. Get the best shot(s) you can for your agent.

  14. I've found that "normal" sized American flags, tastefully located, engender a positive response on the part of most potential home buyers. A big obtrusive one? No. My worst example is the home that had both an American flag AND a Confederate flag. Their agent convinced them to take both down for the photos and for the remainder of the listing.

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