Fake Fire and Green Grass: Real Estate Photography Tricks to Make Your Home Feel Like Home

Earlier this year, the internet shared a bewildered laugh when a real estate ad was criticized for photoshopping the ‘Chernobyl’ green lawn in front of an Adelaide estate.

But according to real estate photographer Christine*, the mistake wasn’t in photoshopping the grass. Failed to suspend audience disbelief.

Photoshopped before and after images of the lounge room
Photographers add fire to fireplaces to make a room feel “alarming and inviting”, but if the fireplace stops working, it can be seen as a misrepresentation.

“We definitely add grass,” she says. “But it doesn’t look fake.”

Christine has been in business in Sydney for 13 years and knows all the tactics in the book to make your listing stand out. When she first started out, professionals regularly Photoshopped telegraph poles and stop signs.

Regulations are tighter now, but there are still ways to get around them, and they vary from state to state and territory.

According to NSW Fair Trading, agents must ensure that photographs in property advertisements convey “accurate information” to buyers.

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An image may be misleading if it “leads to a reasonable belief that situations exist that do not actually exist” or by “acts of silence or omission.” For example, include a photo of an empty beach view.

The maximum fine for violating Australian consumer law is $1.1 million for businesses. However, no fines have been issued for misleading or false property photos in the last 12 months.

Hayden Groves, president of the Australian Real Estate Association, said Australia’s consumer law has “effective rules” to prevent agents from using images that distort reality “beyond mere sales exaggeration”. says.

“For example, a ‘mock’ fire burning in a defunct fireplace is probably misrepresented, but if you have the ability to start a fire in the fireplace, it’s probably fine,” he says.

Perhaps a typo? According to Christine, photographers “always” light the fireplace or add a nice blue sky.

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“It just makes the room feel warmer and more inviting, especially during winter,” she says.

Photoshop can go a long way from removing pool leaves to cleaning up fingerprints on walls. But most of the tricks are used before editing the image.

“I can hide things,” says Christine. “I can shoot lower, I can shoot farther, I can control the camera precisely.

“A lot of places look really, really shabby. They’re falling apart. But with the right frame and the right lighting, you can always take a picture.”

To better understand these techniques, Guardian Australia commissioned Christine to photograph the reporter’s home.

Christine uses a wide-angle lens of about 16 mm to shoot as she tours the rambling terraces of a six-bedroom in the heart of Sydney.

She also uses a flash to bounce light off the ceiling to minimize shadows and provide a more balanced shot, employing “bracketing” to shoot multiple frames at different exposures. increase.

Before and after images of a photoshopped bathroom
The bathroom is flooded with warm natural light that looks almost unnatural.

“One is darker, brighter, brighter… and layering those images,” she says.

“So for outside shots, I might use two exposures. For inside shots, I could use three or four, depending on how dark the room is.”

In post-production, the images are stitched together to create perfectly balanced exposures, from the trees in the sunny outdoors to the interior walls of the room.

Then there are changes as simple as moving furniture.

In a space like the one we sit in (an open-plan kitchen full of sofas and tables), it’s easy to move things around and change the perspective of the room.

“We do it all the time,” she says. “It’s easy to make a room look bigger, or manipulate it to make it feel more natural, like you’re walking through the image.”

Bedroon before and after retouch images

Many of her style decisions depend on what her clients want. Like any brand, real estate companies need to stand out, and business is all about photography.

“All agencies want to be different, and often try to do that through photography,” she says.

“Certain clients really like that editorial look, so they shoot very wide.

Then there are the little tidbits, like framing your dog in the shot to make you feel at home, or putting flowers on the table.

Before and after images of the second lounge room
The selling shot of this home is the backyard, large kitchen, and “beautiful formal room.”

“All flowers are beautiful, but they shouldn’t outweigh the number of hero shots,” says Christine.

In the case of this reporter’s home, the “hero shot” or best-selling shot is “great backyard, big kitchen, beautiful formal room.” Hidden shots in the back end are of the small upstairs bedroom, pokey bathroom.

“Sydney has a lot of competition,” says Christine. “We’re trying to get the best possible rent in a city where mortgages are high and prices are high.

In an open-plan space like this kitchen full of sofas and tables, it’s easy to move things around and change the perspective of the room.
In an open-plan space like this kitchen full of sofas and tables, it’s easy to move things around and change the perspective of the room.

“And photography is a list. If a vendor is not willing to invest money in professional photography, as a client, they basically go to the bottom of the list.

“In the eastern suburbs where I’ve worked, there have been many cases and symbolic sales of people being taken off the market without even being inspected.”

The final reveal often comes as a disappointment.

Front and rear of external front
Bluer skies, greener grass: The dark exterior of the house is seen in a different light.

Scratched glass, peeling paint, peeling floorboards from years of use, the reality is not as good as the pictures.

“The house is rough around the edges,” says Christine. “It has scratches and cracks. I like how it falls apart. I love everything.”

How did you compare the photos with the real thing? Green grass has never been so abundant in my front yard, and my bathroom has never been so warm and filled with natural light. But maybe that’s the beauty of it. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

*Not real name

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