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Eric raised the following question:
I had a situation yesterday at a property and wanted to know how you and others handle religious items.
Yesterday, while on a shoot I was working with two realtors. One was very adamant about removing the religious items without asking. The home owners were the nicest people, but had many religious books, and crosses in the home. Also, the wife was disabled and connected by a very long tube to an oxygen tank. I hid the tanks to avoid them in the camera, but didn’t want to ask them to remove any of the religious articles as they were very active in their church which I could tell was a big part of their life.
This is a subject that the listing agent should handle. Good listing agents try to present a property so that prospective buyers can project themselves into the environment. That is, visualize themselves and their belongings living in the property. This is a natural part of deciding if you want to purchase a property. As a result, a large part of this process is removing personal items of the seller, including items that are strongly religious, while the property is on the market. You are presenting the property, not the sellers. Some listing agents are better than others a doing this or having a stager help them do it. It takes tact and gentle persuasion to get many home sellers to do this. But if the listing agent explains why this is in the best interest if the seller most sellers will understand and enthusiastically comply.
This market preparation process is NOT the photographers job. It is a key part of the listing agents job and it should be done before the photographer even arrives. The photographer should not have to stand around a wait until a property is staged or have to convince the sellers to do what they need to do. My experience is that with many sellers this staging and market preparation process can be very time consuming. With many listings it takes several trips to the property and a lot of discussion with sellers to get them to do what is needed to make their property market ready.
I recommend that real estate photographers have a discussion with clients while scheduling a shoot to determine if the property is ready to photograph and exactly what that means. As you work with clients you'll learn which ones handle this well and which ones don't. Many real estate photographers use a check list to provide clients so that it is well understood what it means for a property to be photographer ready.