Fake Fires and Cloned Grass: Real Estate Photography Tricks Revealed

A video has revealed the tricks that real estate photographers use to make properties look better than they do in reality.

Guardian Australia picture editor, Carly Earl, went to a property in Sydney and took photos of the same location alongside a professional real estate photographer to show the vast differences the two captured.

In the first example, a photo of a pool was taken in which the real estate photo editors had increased the saturation of the trees and sky “to make it a lot sunnier and vibrant than it actually is.”

“The other thing you’d notice is that it appears to be Photoshopped in the fact that there are no leaves at the bottom of the pool anymore and that definitely makes it feel a lot more inviting,” says Earl.

Fake Fires

In the next example, a shot of a living room is shown where the professional had filled in the shadows as well as shooting on a wider lens to make the room appear larger than it is.

“This is something they generally do in smaller houses to create the feeling of space,” explains Earl.

Perhaps most shockingly, the professional had Photoshopped a fire burning where there was none before.

“In my image, there was definitely not a roaring fire going on at that point, but they add this in order to showcase that warmth and to get that feeling of being snuggly in the lounge room,” explains Earl.

For the exterior shot of the property, the professional had filled in the lawn where it was mainly mud.

“The whole image looks really bright, it looks like there’s grass all up the driveway when we know there actually isn’t,” says Earl.

And like the pool photo, the editors had increased the saturation to make the greens and the sky look extra punchy.

Accurate Information

According to the accompanying article on The Guardian website, fair trading rules in Australia dictate that real estate photographs must convey “accurate information” for the buyer or renter.

An image can mislead if it “leads to a reasonable belief in the existence of a state of affairs that does not, in fact, exist” or by “acts of silence or omission” — like including a picture of a beach view where there is none. The maximum penalty for breaking Australian Consumer Law is $1.1m for a company.

A picture of a burning fireplace where there was none is OK according to Hayden Groves, Real Estate Institute of Australia President, so long as the fireplace can have a fire.

The anonymous photographer who Guardian Australia hired says that she regularly uses two exposures for an outside shot and maybe three or four inside to make a well-balanced composite.

“Lots of places can look really, really shabby. They’re falling apart. But with the right frames and the right lighting, we can take the photos, always,” the photographer adds.

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