Photo Editing – Too Much Ceiling!

Every real estate agent needs to know a little about photo editing.  But not so much that they start taking out wires and trees from the view shot 🙂

The ethics of photo editing for real estate purposes, should be a “clock hour class”.  Jillayne?  If it IS already, I’d love to sit in on one of those.  I sometimes have the hardest time explaining to agents how much they can edit, and how much they cannot.

Craig Schiller, founder of Real Estaging wrote an excellent article this week called “Set Your Sites Low (talking about camera angle) – To Raise Your Standards”.  Below are a dozen of the 50 or more shots he found on the mls in his area, with too much ceiling.


Personally, I find it is more about editing the shot after you get home, than it is to “lower your sites” at the time you take the picture.  I use HP Image Zone, which I find to be very user friendly, and does not have the features that can help you erase real features of the home, like telephone wires in the view.

All brokers should be recommending the correct software to their agents, to insure quality photos, without unethical modifications.  Cropping is good.  Brightness and light enhancements is good (assuming new owners could bring in more lamps and better lighting than current owners).  Any software that has basic editing skills will enhance the agent’s value to the consumer.  Point, shoot and upload is no longer “the order of the day”.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: cell: 206-910-1000

34 thoughts on “Photo Editing – Too Much Ceiling!

  1. Hi Ardell,

    From the Realtor Code of Ethics, Article 12:

    “Realtors shall be careful at all times to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public.”

    Well that depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
    I mean, it depends on what the meaning of the word “true” is.

    If a listing agent adjusts a picture so much that a home buyer feels deceived into walking in the door, then the listing agent has just wasted everyone’s time.

    Similar to dating websites where everyone displays their best picture from 5 or 10 years ago.

  2. I find a huge variance in opinion from person to person. I think big “catch all” phrases leave too much to the discretion of each individual.

    The one I hate most is “view picture taken from the roof”. As if someone’s going to stand on their roof. I’ve seen a few of these in this area in the recent past.

    The rules are pretty much the same now as when we had only one photo. Seems with 15 photos per mls listing, the rules should expand commensurately.

  3. Hi Ardell,

    It is very challenging to teach, for CE clock hour credits, photo editing.

    First, I have a foundational belief that it is nearly impossible to teach Realtors technology (so that they will RETAIN what they’ve learned) without making it a hands-on class.

    Second, every student has their own different kind of camera.

    Third, every student will come into the classroom with different knowledge levels of how to use their camera.

    Fourth, every camera comes with different software

    Fifth, the student would have to be at a computer, using his or her software that came with the camera. Now you need to ask the Realtor to bring his or her laptop.

    Sixth, it is excruciatingly difficult to teach hands-on tech classes with a big group. This means either a smaller class size or lots of proctors. This raises the price of the class, which makes it unaffordable for an average agent.

    Seventh, This could all be done without clock hours, taught by a camera salesman, but agents won’t come to something like this unless it includes clock hours.

    Eighth, The camera saleman dude isn’t going to know anything about the ethics of photo editing in the practice of real estate.

    So what we end up with is lots of Realtors with limited knowledge of photo editing, all using different cameras and software, and subsequently, the first shot is uploaded, un-edited.

    It takes, at minimum, practice (time) and patience to take a trip up the learning curve of tech skills. It is up to the individual Realtor to make the choice to go there.

  4. Good points Ardell, the goal for edits should be to try to make up for the failings of the camera and the photographer. As you said, lighting, cropping, etc. It’s always tempting to clone those oily spots or cracks from the driveway but it could certainly leave you in hot water.

  5. Norm,

    I certainly wouldn’t highlight the big oil spot in the driveway. I’d probably take a further view and then crop it down, or take the shot on a slight angle.

    Speaking of oil spots in the driveway, I’ve never had someone not buy a house because of one, but I’ve found some pretty good products over the years at Shucks Auto.  (cool shot of an SUV going through the wall of Shucks in that link there)

    One of the reasons I like to do my own staging and photos is it helps me get to know the property I am selling really well. Might not notice and fix those oil spots and such, if I just send “my people” over. Touch feely real estate has its benefits. Many times I know the house better than the owner by the time I’ve get it “ready to load up”.

    I also get to know my clients really well during that time, so if negotiations get tense, we have bonded and can work through some of the rough spots together.

  6. Jillayne’s Photographer Buddy Frank here… not necessarily a PROFESSIONAL… but I have a good clientele in fashion, wedding, portrait and other genres.

    For a shot without fancy lighting and setup, I should be able to come out and shoot for under $200 (assuming a single relatively local location… travel might cost you lunch). This would mean that you would get digital versions of the prints to use as you wish. It doesn’t mean a LOT of fancy editing in Photoshop… but I will do the usual color balancing, straightening perspective lines, cropping, etc… I leave the ethics of editing out oil spots up to those of you that know better… but it is certainly easy enough to do.

    For studio portraits, there is almost always some Photoshop involved, but that is because people tend to be a lot more picky about their OWN appearance than their house. Even little things like lightening up facial lines, whitening teeth, etc… are all pretty standard edits, even in the simplest of wedding/business card shots.

  7. Thanks, Frank! So if an average agent can afford a pro, then sure, go for it. I’m guessing that might not work for every agent, which is why we see below average shots.

    Ardell, which photo editing software do you like and use?

  8. Jillayne,

    Not necessarily totally on topic, but this is bugging me. Recently an agent took a week or more to get everything ready, get the photos etc. Her entire office toured the property a few days before it went into the mls. When I asked, how did your whole office tour the property, if no one else has even been told it is listed yet, no sign yet, etc… answer: “we always do that to give the agents in the office a chance to sell it first.”

    This is a top lister and a top national company and very large office.

    Someone in the office brought a buyer who got the property, before most agents had a chance to arrange an appointment.

    Seems the rules have changed recently on this…I could be wrong. But it’s been bugging me. What’s your take on this?

  9. Thi is actually a pretty good topic, Ardell. Obviously, editing out a water damage spot in a wall is unethical but why shouldn’t an agent give a property a professional touch?

    Now, can we get a photographer to edit out 30 pounds?

  10. “Her entire office toured the property a few days before it went into the mls”

    This was pretty commonplace in L.A. several years ago, before the boom. Then the boom came along, and it seemed unethical, since a seller might be persuaded to take a lower price on an in-house offer than s/he would have gotten if the property had been exposed to the open market and competitive bidding.

    My thought would be it is OK for the agent’s office to tour first, but no offer should be accepted until the property is exposed to the open market for x number of days. The question is, of course, what is the “x” number?

  11. My photos are with CirclePix who does a really great job for about $115. My big problem, though, is that if the sellers are scrambling to get ready for a home to hit the weekend and they’re still working on Friday, a pro won’t have the pictures to you at the last minute. And I refuse to ever upload a listing without the pics going in within 5 minutes. Especially virtual tours. They take too long to get them back. It’s really hard no matter how much photoshop to get the right kind of light on interior shots, so I only take pics myself when I’m desparate and then replace them when the pros pics are done.

  12. Hey Ardell…. my dad is a locksmith. I just looked at your photos and found everything I ever wished to own. Now where is this house?

    I think I see the security system in one picture. Not sure but that will be the first room I hit so I can turn off the alarm.

    Okay, so I am no thief (althrough my dad is a locksmith) but I often get a kick out of looking at everything in the pictures seeing what everyone has in their homes and stuff. I love to view myspace pictures where some new person has bought a new apartment and they have pictures of everything they own and being a local, seeing the front of their apartments and stuff, I am always like.. “I know where she stays at!”

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