Distorting reality

The lies of real estate photography

When looking for honesty and integrity in real estate, all photographic truth becomes lost to colourful white lies. The images deemed acceptable range from absurd to phony.

Real estate photography hides characteristics, remove undesirable features and add fabricated backgrounds. Distortion of the truth is industry standard.

But as Australian buyers and renters get savvier, images could speak to them in a less condescending manner.

A ‘real’ home is something they crave. Besides, consumers are already mocking the way the real estate industry does things. It’s time to catch up.

Hyper-reality and editing

Is real estate the last industry to embrace some ‘realness’ in the wake of the digital photography explosion? Digital editing changed things so much that many industries moved to avoid over-editing. In real estate however, that false ‘perfection’ continues.

Buyers and renters still get fake blue skies, fluorescent sunsets and perfect white walls. When telephone poles are removed, they know the marketing is forged.

They just want to see the atmosphere of a home. They want photography to capture a feeling and a mood. They want to experience detail, character, doors and windows. They want to see how natural light falls into a home and see the true level of the finishes.

Incandescent twilight on elongated façades with neighbouring high-rises removed is not real-life as we know it.

The wider the better

The fascination with exaggerated width is especially magnified in inner-Sydney terrace homes.

There seems to be a belief that terraces must convey a false sense of size — exactly what a terrace house is not. Their redeeming features are historical attributes and the character found in materials from a bygone era.

Buyers are tired of the wide-angle lens. They just want to know how it might feel to be in the home, sitting on a couch, and not the corner. No one is delivering that perspective.

Outside, there is a fear of capturing terraces in their natural environment — the streetscape. Vendors don’t want adjoining homes to undervalue an asset or distract from the property on show. Sometimes, that star of the show is, dare we say it, ‘not as photogenic’ as vendors believe. So buyers are forced over to Google Maps where the photos are deceptively worse.

A view to an overkill

Views are one of the most over-hyped assets in Sydney real estate. In turn, buyers and renters hanging off a balcony to see that same view are the most frustrated. And rightly so.

If there’s a glimpse of the Harbour Bridge, somehow the entire bridge is presented. In every Bondi Beach listing, viewers are assaulted with the same picture of Icebergs Pool.

A listing could simply present a view for what it is – a secondary point that creates romance and mood within a living space.

Celebrate don’t hide

When a home needs an obvious makeover, real estate listings get curiously defensive. The poor ‘renovators delight’ is lucky to get a façade shot and a floorplan.

Why hide obvious blemishes and misgivings? These are the exciting elements that buyers seek.

Surely the best way to capture the emotion of a property is through intimacy. At the moment, that might go against the typical real estate agent view that ‘more is better’.

However, real estate is a unique asset class where buyers form emotional bonds with an investment. And isn’t honesty the key to a successful relationship?

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