Unethical real estate photography?
We’ve been writing about real estate photography for years highlighting quality photographers and techniques and shared tools for better Realtor photography for the DIY types.
One of the techniques more photographers are using is High Dynamic Range (HDR) editing to make colors more vibrant and more representative of how your eyes see an image in real life.
Any time we write about HDR comments range from “oh, that’s what that is” to “cool, that is awesome” and every now and then, “that’s not ethical.”
Well known real estate photographer and industry thought leader Larry Lohrman says of HDR, “I can believe that, however, even though the bright over saturated colors are attention getting I’m skeptical that this style will sell very well to more visually sophisticated upper-end agents. There seems to be a bunch of low end agents that really like this style of work and others that hate it. I tend to associate this over bearing style of HDR with low-end home and real estate photographers that are still learning.”
Greg Nuspel said, “I suspect the attraction is that this listing will stand out and get noticed. Being different from the rest, it will stick in a prospective buyers mind. Is the real question does it work for the client?”
The real estate photographer world seems to buck the over-the-top HDR trend as seen above calling it cheap and some agents are questioning its legitimacy, but Marketing 101 tells us that in a lineup of flat, ugly photos taken with 1980s brick phones, a colorful (yet not overdone or cartoonish) photo will capture a buyer’s attention more successfully than the others.
It’s like peacocking in the dating world- it doesn’t work if it’s overdone, but the more excitingly dressed person will garner more attention than the drab dresser.
But what about the ethical implications?
Is it unethical to use HDR editing? Is it unethical to present images in an ideal form? Is it ethical to turn up the red in a red house if it is reflective of reality rather than what your camera turned up?
It seems that HDR is like any photographer’s post processing techniques- if it is misleading (i.e. adding in grass when there is none) or unrealistic (i.e. overdoing HDR so a home looks like a cartoon), it is unethical, but done to reflect reality, it is ethical. So yes, Lohrman and Nuspel are right- it is often the tool of the lower end listing as in its overused state, but where they are wrong is that luxury listings are increasingly utilizing minor HDR tweaks. Like with food, moderation is key.
So what do you think- is HDR ethical or unethical?