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Real Estate Photos Are Distorting Reality, Frustrating Home Buyers

Published: 17/05/2019

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My post today is based on an article that was brought to my attention by David Williamson in Perth, Australia. The article's tagline was particularly interesting to me:

"Wide-angle lenses, Photoshop, and virtual staging: Real estate photo enhancement is reaching new heights as desperate sellers look to sell imperfect homes."     Rosemary Counter - Macleans Magazine

Early in my career, I made a commitment to my clients was that I would never try to oversell or undersell a property. My goal has always been to create as accurate a representation of the property as possible. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, I stay away from anything that could be considered misleading.

As industry professionals, we have been aware of these issues for years but the topic is becoming much more mainstream now, so I believe it is more important than ever for professional real estate photographers to be on the same page when it comes to what we are, and are not, willing to do when it comes to photo editing, virtual staging, etc.

If you take the time to check out this article, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Brandon Cooper

25 comments on “Real Estate Photos Are Distorting Reality, Frustrating Home Buyers”

  1. I'm a frustrated hamburger buyer, the Big Mac in the advertisement didn't look like the the Big Mac I purchased at my local McDonalds. . .the bun was all smooshed and the lettuce was falling down the side. . I feel deceived by those hamburger photographers making the Big Mac look so perfect you could. . well. . .eat it. . .which I did anyway. . it tasted pretty good. . .I think I'll buy another and super-size those fries this time!

  2. I think the article does a respectable job of presenting the issues involved and presents a good range of points of view. Personally, I have never thought that photos tell the truth in and of themselves. Even if you only use a "normal" focal length lens, there is still the basic issue of what you show in the photos and what you leave out. The medium itself is inherently distorting in a variety of ways. It is up to the photographer to work with that in order to try to present something resembling reality. I don't really see how virtual staging is necessarily a distortion as long as the artificiality is limited to the furnishings and the base photos are reasonable representations of the spaces. As for the use of wideangle lenses, I don't see how you can regulate that. Wideangle lenses are staples of all interior photography and all wideangle lenses distort to some degree. Plus there is the matter how the photographer uses these lenses, in terms of the perspectives and compositions.

  3. Seriously? Someone is going to spend several hundreds of thousands, maybe millions and they are going to be put off by the Photos? Kevin hit the nail on the head! It's advertisement stupid, get over it

  4. Seriously.
    The product RE photogs put out has a life span of an average of 45 days depending on the market. Thinking that the product we put out is so important, deeper, soul searching and in need of regulation.... is just a fool's errand.

    Bottom line, for those of you that don't like, "hate" Ultra wide" .... get over it. Do your thing, but let those that have a market for it flourish. Why the hell does it matter to you? Is it causing you to explain to your clients why you can't/won't provide what they want? Or, is it that you still need to do further training of your clients and what they should want....accordingly to you?

  5. Well, yes, you could use a normal lens if you want to limit extension distortion but the reduced field of view will mean that you'll be showing the corner of a room instead of the extent of it. If sensors were curved like the backs of our eyes instead of flat, we might be able to achieve a similar field of view with our normal lenses (I'm not a scientist so I don't know - I'm just thinking aloud), but we have what we have. I agree that super-wide isn't always appropriate but it might be the only way, in one image, to show a fireplace at one end of a room and fireplace at the other. I'd recommend agents to use floor plans or dimensions at the very least, to get over the criticism that photos might be misleading. As for the implication that sharpening and brightening are somehow misleading, that's absurd. I'm pretty sure that the author, given the option if selling their own house, of an unoptimised image or an optimised one, would choose the optimised image - in all likelihood, the optimised image would be much closer to reality.

  6. OK...
    I had a very embarrassing few days last summer when a local realtor, a friend actually, went on a Facebook rant calling me out on photos I didn't actually TAKE. She reposted photos of running water and a close up of the kitchen faucet. Wide angle views. She basically berated our chosen profession saying professional photos were deceptive. It did eventually work out in my favor. Picked a few good clients. BUT, in the beginning several agents chimed in saying they heard complaints from buyers that the home looked better online than it did on site. Show it and it WILL sell...

  7. The human eyes have a visual field of about 210 degrees, more if you include any eye or head movements. Wide angle lens are a fraction of that, and there is clearly no looking left or right to see more.

    The article itself is more about individuals that use technology to hide or cover-up defects than anything else. It is no different than using paint to hide watermarks that indicate a larger issue, or not mentioning the Yak ranch down the road. It's the same game, just different players.

  8. Timely article... I just had a realtor compliment my work because I was showing their homes in a more realistic way. I have no idea why they felt this way, I use a wide angle (20mm lens on a FF body) and tend to crop my photos in a way that hides certain features. BTW, Scott Hargis has a video on how to crop a scene when using a wide-angle lens to reduce that wide angle distortion (closest chair arm appearing twice as large as the one further away).

    In any regard, much of this article is focused on Virtual Staging. I think the scene they use as an example looks great... they haven't altered the walls, windows or the bones in any manner. It's a staged scene and I don't see any issue with that type of shot. The issue comes when you remove power lines, change the scene outside of a window or remove a permanent feature inside a home. To me that's the deceptive part.

    Staging is an art form and just because the current homeowner doesn't decorate in the same way, it doesn't mean that the photograph is deceptive. Possibly a small disclaimer in the bottom corner of the photo that states "furnishings are simulated" would help? I'm also struck by the fact that the realtor cited states "When real estate photography gets too good, regular photographs of real homes can’t compete." Isn't that what we want as real estate photographers?

  9. As a real estate broker and photographer, many of the derisive comments show a lack of reality in the real estate industry. Yes, the agent wants the property to get buyers into the property, even when it doesn't look that great in reality, and they are okay with unrealistic or edited photos. BUT, those photographers who over edit and hide imperfections, or make rooms look larger than reality ARE turning off buyers. Yea, maybe not in million dollar properties, but the average home price in America isn't a million dollars. In my market it is $200,000 to $250,000. When I take clients through properties and they are nothing like the photos, it turns buyers off as the agent wasting their time. They also start figuring out who the photographers are and let the agents know their displeasure in wasting time....we all work on commission, so that is critical. If you want to take photos for a competition, fine, but showing reality in a quality lit and edited way is what most real agents want. Thanks, Bob

  10. @ Neal - that claim is patently, demonstrably, false -- and it's been debunked already, in other discussions where you've made the same assertion. Anyone, including you, can Google "Human eye visual field". The answers vary depending on what you consider to be "vision" -- for example is the extremely blurry, de-saturated image we have past the 50-degree arc really useful in terms of "seeing" detail?
    The experience of "live" vision vs. the experience of viewing a 2D photograph is different enough to make comparisons difficult as it is, but throwing around false information doesn't help your case. The most extreme estimates of human visual field top out around 190 degrees, and that's including the outermost edges of peripheral vision, with eyes rolled medially to their limit. It's primarily useful for discerning motion (as in, a lion about to attack you). Not so good for assessing the workmanship of the kitchen cabinets.

    Here's a great graphic that illustrates the limitations of our vision past the narrow, central core angle:

    Regarding real estate photography generally, I think that the reason we here this complaint so often is that we (collectively) are guilty of pushing images well past accepted norms of photography. Yes, photography, like all visual media, is inherently flawed...but RE photography is known for ultra-wide, hyper-saturated, counter-intuitive images. Simply declaring that all the laypeople who complain about it are simply whiners is not going to make the problem go away.

  11. My issue is more with the article than the content. They presented all the well worn arguments, but the examples they were showing were not deceptive in the least, imo, and did not support their argument. As Chip said, the bones of the house were not changed. I have zero problem with a virtually staged home. In a way, EVERY home is staged in a real estate photo; some just show fake virtual furniture and some show the owners actual furniture.

    Truly deceptive shot are those that remove what is really there, like a power pole in front or a huge crack in the cement driveway. The article should have shown some of that.

  12. @ Neal and @ Scott; This argument is interesting and got me to do a bit of reading. I found that every useful article includes a comment that "the human eye is not a camera system" and "the measured focal length of the eye isn't what determines angle of view of human vision." hhhmm.

    So I grabbed my camera and framed an image in my living room. What my eyes could see peripherally when I looked up from the viewfinder was much "wider" (almost 180deg) than what was framed in the wide angle (18mm eff) lens. But, the "pleasant" view within my vision (try describing that to your client) pretty much matched the frame. Interesting for sure, but this is not what I found to be the most interesting points in the article.

    I had a very eye opening discussion with a home staging company recently when the topic turned to virtual staging. This company had added virtual staging to their services, thinking this might be a good lower cost alternative to some clients. However, the company stopped offering this service based on feedback from Realtors. What the Realtors found was that home buyers would see a beautifully staged property online (often on their mobile devices sitting in front of the property) and were then disappointed or upset when they walked into an empty home. This sometimes caused the buyers to have a lower opinion of the home. This staging company contracts for 30 days minimum, just to avoid this problem.

    This is very interesting information and dovetails to what this article is talking about. Buyers now have a wealth of information on hand-held devices and are reacting to the MLS photos and prejudging what they will be seeing in the home. This is a very new phenomena. Only in the last 5 years or so has so much immediate information become available to home buyers on their mobile devices while out shopping for a home.

    Technology is already causing huge paradigm shifts in the buying and selling of real estate. I wonder what effect technology will have on the housing market, and on the public MLS listings, if a growing number buyers complain that the homes as see on the MLS do not match those buyer's pre-expectations?

    We are not talking about false advertising with gross misrepresentations. This is simply a Realtor and photographer doing their best to highlight the positive features of a home. Or is it? The article mentioned "regulations" which in the context of this particular article seems silly.

    But, this is the kind of stuff regulators love to get their hands on. Just sayin'

  13. @ScottH I think both of your points are flawed.

    First of all, I don’t need a study to tell me what my eyes can clearly see, which is pretty much exactly the range a 12mm lens on a full frame camera shows. Within that range, my ability to isolate different parts of what’s before me differs vastly from a fixed position camera lens- I can in my mind, “digitally zoom” to an element the size of a marble from across the room. My eyes don’t zoom, they are a fixed wide-angle focal length. But I can use my perception combined with my intent to frame what I want to be aware of., and that makes what we are talking about purely subjective, and based on an education of the realities of what and how humans use vision... which isn’t universal.

    Which leads to the second point - lay people are in fact whiny brain dead morons who typically blurt out nonsense they haven’t even given an ounce of thought to. Whining about everything under the sun has become a cottage industry in the US, no doubt popularized by a certain political radio host who has explored it excessively since the mid-90s.

    And really, while it’s a fun exercise in trash talking, this discussion doesn’t begin to address the complexities of shooting an actual pre-defined space that has physical limits. You can’t shoot a tight half-bath without making the sink look 2-3 times larger then the toilet... which isn’t how we perceive it, but short of not shooting it at all, there isn’t a reasonable solution.

    In any case, shooting 1/2 a space by cropping, zooming, or moving closer isn’t any more real then hanging back wide getting the whole thing - it’s just a different choice of perspective. Should I just show Pikes Peak, or the whole Rocky Mountain range from Colorado Springs to Loveland? That depends on the narrative I choose. And whether we like it or not, RE photography is narrative.


  14. Interesting discussion. My first comment was short and not a complete explanation. The field of view for the human eye is between 160 and 210 degrees. You can do a quick Google search to prove that true, or you can place your hands parallel to your eyes and determine if you can see them. We are all a little different, some might not get 180 degree other will get more.

    Now, not all of that version is clear and in focus. We have a central spot were our vision is clear and sharp. We also have a really good optical processor called a brain. It is really good at taking the sharp areas and the not so sharp areas and combining into a picture of the world. Also, that sharp zone is moving around, so our brains will fill in with that. All this together allows me to stand on the edge of the Grand canyon and get a sense of its size. You can also visit your local IMax, the screens are about 180 degrees. Why, because that extra screen give us a feeling of the space being shot.

    Our brain also has the ability to "digitally zoom". When we concentrate our vision on an item, things on the side stop being processed. We really don't have any better resolution, we are just discarding unneeded pixels.

    How does this all fit in with photography. The wide angle lens allow us to somewhat mimic the sense of space that our eyes can determine. When we walk into a room, we very quickly get a sense of the size of the space, wide angle when used correct convey that. As we move to a narrower angle we are mimicking a human focusing on specific objects. We do this to draw attention to object of importance. We also use blurred background and other techniques to do this.

  15. The eye/ brain "zooming in" or correcting image distortion is processing fluency. A known result of complicated processing fluency is a negative emotion. Photos for the purpose of advertising would want to avoid spawning negative emotion, no?

  16. Reality distortion? Yep. I photographed a HUD home yesterday that was in rough shape. A 1950's beginning with a couple of rounds of very strange addons to boot. The objective was maximum reality, a documentary. The house and property need a complete makeover and anybody making the investment needed to know what they were in for since I was told by the broker that rennovation financing isn't much of a possibility on a property like this. Did I "Photoshop" anything? Welllll, yes. It was a windy day and the regional HUD manager complains if there is any debris on the properties so I did a little trash removal. On the house? Nope. It was manipulated with light, natural and flash. Since there was no power and no fixtures, practical lighting wasn't in the cards. The spot healing brush stayed in it's holster as well as the clone stamp tool but there is still artifice. That's just the nature of modern photography whether it's digital, film or a classic chemical approach. The same goes for how we compose a shot. This project home was laid to bare in the photos, but I often carefully choose to leave things out or let the light fall off in an area that doesn't look very good. If I'm asked to make images to tease a property before it goes on the market, I am a bit freer with what I'll change by installing a new lawn, removing holes in walls and stains on the driveway. I strongly suggest to the agent that once the home is officially for sale, those images could get them in some trouble if the work hasn't been done.

    The human vision system is extremely interesting. We see much wider than what most of us would consider prudent for a photograph, but that's our raw visual input and we don't process very much at the edges which is why the tiger can get a couple of extra steps on us before our brain screams "Tiger!, Run!" We are also not processing everything that our eyes can register. We are constantly moving our focus and detail field of view. As photographers, we are trying to get as close as we can to an image that tells the story we want to tell encumbered by all of the limitations of the photographic process and converting our 3D perception to a 2D presentation that still communicates the 3rd dimension.

    I already am finding it hard to see the value in the old MLS system and if they were to start trying to add style regulations to images, they become more of a hinderance than a business tool. Some things are obvious. The removal of power poles/lines, covering up damage, adding features that don't exist and compositions that go a bit too far in covering up something (that huge water tank behind the bungalow that can't be seen if you shoot up from ground level).

    I don't see any issue with virtual staging. What would be the difference in putting physical furniture in the house and taking it back out after the photos were done? What is the case when the owner/occupant moves between the time the photos are made and a showing? It should be common knowledge that there are certain things that commonly stay with a home and other things that don't, such as furniture. Major appliances should be asked about since some may stay or go. Furniture? If the home is being sold furnished, that's usually something that's spelled out in the description. It wouldn't be good to assume that furnishings would stay or that they will be there at a showing. It's probably best to put in the description if a stove or dishwasher is not included. I think virtual staging is a good way to add some context to a vacant home. A good vStager will scale furnishings properly.

    Anybody buying a home should "get their eye in" to judge what they see in photos and what a house will actually look like before they sign papers. A 1,200 sqft 4 bedroom home is not going to have rooms that will work with a king size four poster bed even if the photo of the master bedroom makes it look palatial. There is also going to be a very good reason that a house is being advertised with what seems to be too good of a price. If a property is that good, the agent/broker likely has people lined up that will scoop them up with cash if they aren't in a position to grab it themselves. The ease with which photos can be changed and all of the shows on TV that do exposés on the extreme cases, I don't see why there would be people that will buy homes without seeing them in person or have their own agent look into them before committing. There is only so much that can be done and if people have more money than brains, they should get help, but the rest of us shouldn't have to suffer due to their diminished capacity.

  17. I think we need to stop blaming the tools and instead focus on by whom and why they are being used badly. And a wide angle lens is thrown into the same grab bag as virtual staging. And photo processing software is also made a boogey man.

    Its not what is used but how it is used. Is any equipment and technique being used to mislead the viewer, to convey what a property is all about? Yes, a wide angle can be misleading as to the volume of space, but on the other hand, if you keep objects away from the foreground, it can be far more truthful in showing the extent of the space. I was just shooting a 600 sq ft studio this morning that would have died if I had not used an ultra wide. All you would have been able to see would have been a kitchen sink and fridge when in fact it was an open plan room with dining area and small living room area with a bedroom leading off behind a partition as well. Is it more truthful to show the space as a closet or an extensive room however small that space may be?

    The discussion should not be about the tools but about how some use them to lie about a property.

    But lets face it, a photograph by its very nature is a distortion of reality. First it is static while our eyes are forever moving. Second, its flat, we, those that have two eyes working, see in stereo. Third, the part of our eyes that see sharply is a small part of what the eye sees when you include peripheral vision. Sort of like having a focused telephoto mounted inside an out of focus ultra wide lens. So right from the start, a photograph is not and never will be reality but only an interpretation of reality.

    But don't we all know this? We have all been bombarded with advertising in print and on TV all our lives, or most of our lives depending on how old we are, and who the hell believes everything that they see and hear? Only the naif amongst us. Having recently been on the buying end of the market, I can say that I visited various properties where the photography looked nothing like the property I subsequently visited. Others gave a pretty damn good idea of what I was visiting. But nothing can take the place of an actual visit in the flesh. Our job is to get people interested enough to pick up the phone and contact the agent. We are advertising photographers driving, hopefully, people to act.

    And we all use the same equipment: cameras, lenses, lights when necessary and today software to process our images. So its how we use it that counts. I take it as a complement when buyers and renters say "it looks just like the photographs" which happens all the time thankfully. I just shot a mansion in a gated community that had been decluttered and styled and it looked fabulous, thus making my job a whole lot easier. No need to crop out the family snaps on the fridge under advertising magnets. That all changed when I shot the guest house that was being used as a rental. It looked like a hurricane had upended it. So I just shot it that way. It was what it was. But I did shoot it so despite the mess, you could detect the light coming in the windows and the view out of them, the fire place and kitchenette and so on.

    The important thing for me and for my clients is that when a potential buyer sees the photos, talks to the agent and then the agent walks them through the house, the house looks like the photos and videos. If it doesn't, then you probably have lost a buyer since they feel hood winked and mislead. But I do that with all the equipment and techniques listed in the article except for virtual staging which I do feel is untruth in advertising, sort of like putting marbles in a dish of soup to keep the bits of chicken and veggies up at the top making it look like the can is filled with food when in fact is it mostly broth.

    And how many of us visit a car lot and find a compact that looks in real life like the glossy ads in the magazines. Buyers have to take some responsibility for questioning what they see. Hopefully we all will not shoot in an attempt to deceive. But some will. That is not a reason to negate the tools of our trade but to negate those who use them with the wrong intent.

  18. I have to agree that the article is very good, but the example photos given are actually not deceptive at all. They are very good and far from what I (or my clients) would call misrepresentations of reality. To each his own I guess.

    That said, I am very careful to mention carpet stains and bare patches of lawns etc, to make sure the seller agrees to correct these minor things in reality before I do so in a virtual sense. I MAKE THESE KNOWN upfront and reach an agreement if only verbal.

    Wide angle capture is pretty much expected these days, by both buyers and sellers. Now, when it comes to power lines, water towers, railroad tracks, or roof and structural repairs? -- Sorry, no changes or cosmetics allowed in my book. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

  19. Finally got around to reading that article and I don't see any real examples of deception stated or shown... what's the point of the photos, two of the same with diff virtual staging... nothing is deceptive about that... i was expecting to see a hole in the floor in the one without the staging, or a giant stain on a wall or something... lol! The case that the driveway on the mansion appeared longer???? UWFA does that every time... who would buy sight un-seen and complain about that particular fact?? really? Oh... and is there a "normal conventional camera"?? I want one!!!! and Wide angle lenses and photoshop must have just come on the market apparently and thats what's leading to all this hub bub... lol!!!

    So funny to me... An ultra wide angle lens used at its widest setting DOES manipulate the scene... every time... it pushes things in front farther away, stretching them and making them smaller to the background... as well as stretches the sides ... and, quick processing on bracketed images without attention to color and lighting etc... produce very ugly images.. soft, muddy, color cast dominate photos that do not represent the scene realistically even a slight bit.. add to that a very stretched and elongated scene, making a small guest bedroom in a 1200 sft home look like a huge master bedroom in a 5000 sft home... a full size bed look like a queen... etc ... this is the deception.. and in my 10 + yrs of experience the reason that buyers are disappointed when they visit a home in person... because, generally, non photography experienced folks don't know anything about lenses and don't know anything about photography so they just know that they thought the home had large rooms .. its simple, not everyone thinks like photographers...

    I don't think people really are disappointed when seeing a virtually staged home and seeing it empty in person... unless there was some serious things being hidden by the staging... now that would be a problem.

    Also, cameras require technique to use... there's no "normal camera"... smartphones, point and shoots, any camera that someone might think is a conventional normal camera always manipulates the photo... it just does it 'In Camera' and to a jpeg but the result is a manipulated photo... no matter what... its no diff than a photographer with a dslr and wide angle lens using Enfuse or HDR, just automated by the camera itself during capture. All photos require some sort of processing called "manipulation" or "photoshopped" by most people... actually meaning "not real or deceptive" apparently to lay people.

    So, anyway, all in all, this article attempted to discuss something but Im not sure it hit any of the real issues and didn't really have a point after all said and done... the author should have maybe interviewed several diff real estate photographers and provided some real examples to the subject...

    I don't like to shoot wide because I want people to see the "things" and features in a scene on their small phone screens or small photos on syndicated sites...Ultra wide angle shots dont ever really show anything except empty floor and empty ceilings and throw all the real subject into a distant tunnel... I want the scene to appear as close as possible to believable as I can .. and yes, sometimes I have no choice but to go wider and usually do but there's a definate line and techniques to doing it without making it deceptive... or "wide as heck" ... using an ultra wide angle lens is a challenge and a lot fo fun to learn how to use appropriately for interiors and architecture... I think everyone should learn how to use them.

    Cloning should be kept to a minimum like trash cans and cars and signs... etc... absolutely nothing that would misrepresent the property as that is not our job ... and I think greening up a lawn should ONLY be reserved for developer or builder catalogue or portfolio type work... it has NO PLACE in realestate as it is a misrepresentation ... if you do, please let people know by watermark or something that states, lawn enhanced as seed is not installed at time of photo or something like that... When I was growing up, I remember my dad working so hard to get grass to grow in the shade sections of our property... he was determined to do it... but it never really had full grass there... so its a physical part of the property for sale and should be treated just like the actual home structure.

    Its not as complicated as all these discussions seem to get... RE photography is Documentation photography with a small pinch of advertising thrown in to make the image stand out.. but that pinch should be so slight and undeterminable.. a fixer upper should always look like a fixer upper in the photo... but that doesn't mean that you can't photograph that fixer upper at the right time of day and make the photo pop... but it should still be obvious that it is what it is...

  20. Pretty much proves my contention that buyers can figure out if they want to see the property regardless of color balance, verticals, composition and etc.
    BTW what are the standards of professional real estate photography.

  21. Could have closed this topic after that first comment.

    The real noodle twister in this equation is the people who are complaining are the same ones who are buying a home "sold" largely due to the idealized photos.

  22. All this discussion makes me think of the cable show "House Hunters." It's like a documentary of house shopping twenty five years ago, before the internet, re-enacted my millennials. In each episode, an agent leads buyers through three "mystery" houses they've never seen even in even one picture. It's deliberate, with the surprises played for dramatic effect, snark or delight.

    If this is the way America fantasizes about shopping for homes -- and it's a very, very popular show -- what does that say about our business? I wonder...

    More on topic, it's a fine line between fixing a photo and implying a repair. Just today I was working on a beige carpet that was color-shifted by reflected light from a colored wall. Using a desaturation brush, I was cleaning up that when I found it easy to move over to the dark patch nearby. Before I thought about it, I was giving a virtual carpet shampoo, one that probably worked better than a real scrubbing.

    In general, I don't add or subtract from the real property on the lot. There are just things I try not to show.

  23. Just take the damn photo normally without a wide angle lens or fake furnishings. we are all adults. We can make decisions based on reality.
    With wide angle I have no idea how big that room is. When i go to look at the house and each photo depicted a completely unrealistic view it wastes everyone's time.
    it's one step away from telemarketing and a kick in the nuts. I really don't have time in my small lunch break to go to a bunch of homes that look nothing like the photos.
    grow up real estate photographers. just grow up

  24. "Wide-angle" lens is undefined in the article you reference. You might use a lens that replicates the field of human vision, which would get you into 12mm territory on a full-size sensor, or replicate the angle of human vision, which might approximate 40mm. Use either focal lens and it does not truly replicate what we see. Not to mention that our imagery is 2-D and is not a composite of imagery our brain is taking in from multiple angles. Over time, I have tended to retreat from my 11-15mm takes and work more comfortably in 20-28mm lenses. I guess I have gained more confidence in my ability to convey a "spirit" or "sense" of the room from a narrower angle.

    Of more interest to me as a photographer is the effect of introducing lighting into a scene (other than what one chooses from available fixtures). In high-end listings this often means highlighting or evenly lighting parts of the house that will never have that kind of lighting in real use. One might call it a form of "light-staging", whereby a room has a luminousness that that is beautiful but manifestly false. I prefer to show the flow of natural lighting through the house with some supplementation from fixtures and lamps. I don't kid myself that it is more beautiful than light-staging, but a potential buyer gains a truer, more realistic sense of how the house works.

    Lastly, I think were a missing a critical point here. If buyers and the public THINK that they are being mislead and that photographers are manipulating images to deceive them, then we are in deep trouble. We cannot overcome this by explanation or education. We need to adjust our methods so as not to lose the trust of the public. Like food photography, everyone expects that the sandwich in reality will not look as good as the picture, but they need to know how much to discount the hype. There is a law of optimal return in real estate photography. You need to show enough of the good stuff about the house to excite potential buyer's attention and interest, but enough of the mundane, careworn or undramatic so that they can get a handle on the what the property is really like. That way you are helping them see the best in a house, but won't leave them feeling deceived on what is not so great.

  25. Absolutely true, and totally annoying. Now I have to check Google Earth for actual outside photos of a house -- when they are available --, because I've seen cases where the real thing was a nightmare. And inside photos are a joke, totally frustrating for home buyers like me -- I have also to sell my house, but I definitely won't create alternative reality photos of it. It is acceptable to improve the light on a photo, something that may not come up right due to technical issues or limitations, but unreal results should be prohibited. Unreal reflections from sunlight through windows all over the place on perfectly new floors, in perfectly staged homes. I'm seeing photos of TVs with a 23:9 ratio, in rooms so distorted that they feel like hallucinations. I've seen some people leaving, presumably by accident, photos of the actual and the unreal versions of the same rooms (some actual versions are scary), and two houses that were in the interior of my state had their maps (showing the actual street names) taking to a beach. And an extreme case that I suspect is turning more common: someone from another state bought a friend's house here without coming to see it. So, what can go wrong when the new owner moves in and finds a different, way worse house? There's a limit to it, people, and a point where it starts to be misleading advertising.

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