I got an anonymous question today about photoshopping the grass in listing photos. Here is the question:
How far can retouching go before it becomes dishonest and a misrepresentation? The images in question (one of which is the one to the right) show VERY obviously fake PS grass, to the point where it is almost carpet-like. I agree with sky replacements, and slight adjustments (missing light bulbs, hanging TV cables etc etc) but this just looks way over the top to me. The real estate agent who obviously approves of the practice. I was recently in the area and passed by some the properties to view the lawns for myself and found them to be NOTHING like they were in the pictures! and in some cases almost non-existant. I can deal with filling in a few patches and lifting the green, but to me these images are way over the top.
This is a very common question and point of discussion. We've discussed many times on this blog for at least the last 6 years. After doing a couple of posts on this subject I decided to create an Ethics page where I've summarized the attitude of commenters on the general subject subject of photoshopping listing photos. There's a link to this page on the right side-bar under the title "Other Links".
There is no black and white answer. It is generally not standard practice in real estate photography to modify permanent features like power lines, antennas or power poles and physical property features. But when it comes to modifying impermanent or semi-permanent features like landscaping (grass, bushes and the like) there is a variety of opinion. Some will argue that grass and bushes are seasonal and it's not a big deal to photoshop them and some will vehemently take the other side of the argument. I feel especially qualified to present the fact that opinion is split on photoshopping grass because my wife, the 26 year real estate agent in the family, is usually on the other side of this argument than I am. She has asked me to do this kind of thing many times. As the family Photoshop guy, I resist, argue and sometimes do what she wants and sometimes weasel out of it.
I think as real estate photographers it's important to understand that in the end it's the listing agent that is responsible for deciding where the line is in photoshopping listing photos. Don't loose a client over refusing to photoshop grass (as the anonymous questioner did) if you are asked to photoshop grass, document the fact that you were requested to do so and take care of business. You are not victimizing the buyer my modifying the grass. What buyer is going to buy a property without seeing it in person!