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The idea of setting loose a virtual stager with such sites such as Photo Shop where the clone stamp tool makes all visual inequalities… equal is tempting, to say the least. Now 3D rendering and 360 degree rotating software is becoming available on the internet to just anybody that wants to declutter… or clutter an empty room.
The risk is with the end user client and the platform they are using to broadcast these visually enhanced images. Is it ethical to use pictures that have been “altered” in any way for purposes such as real estate for instance? I think so but it depends on the use and the degree of alteration. Most professional real estate photographer add color balance, lighting, detail, post production fires and other enhancements that do not really change the essence of the room.
I just finished watching a video from a well-known real estate photographer. He was taking a twilight exterior photo. He ran around the yard using a speed light to illuminate areas that would have been underexposed in the photo. Since lighting is changing all day well past sunset on the exterior I think this can be a valuable way to get a great shot. However if it looks like a light coming out of landscaping that could be a misrepresentation of landscape lighting. It’s a fine line. I was still on board until the last step where he clone stamped out a home in the distance bringing the horizon more into focus. That’s where, as a realtor, he completely lost me. As a photographer why should he care? He wants the image and view to be perfect. It goes without saying that for a MLS listing, this is a lawsuit in the making. However, it’s no problem at all for a home builder using this as a model home. Really depends how the photo is to be used.
The same is true with virtual staging. I see many online companies using window coverings, adding book shelves, changing wall colors and flooring types, adding landscaping and fixing damaged lawns. Virtual Home Staging is here to stay for vacant listings, models and furniture replacement. The benefit for MLS listings and vacant homes is enormous at one-tenth the cost of home staging. However, without adequate disclosures and ethical additions to photos, this new industry could be wiped out of existence.
As a real estate photographer, realtor and virtual stager I have to think about every shoot I do and how it can be interpreted. Is this about taking the right shot or is this shot right to take?
So virtual staging is really a great benefit, but to what end? The stager needs to stop trying to fill the room up and just stage enough to allow the buyer to get an idea and complete it with their own furniture. Only stage stuff that won’t convey: furniture, pictures, plants, small staging.
Get your stager on board for your particular need. An apartment can virtually stage furniture but should not change flooring types that will only be in the model. A home builder may show several variations based on color and materials as well as landscaping that can be an add on. Keep it simple so that the viewer does not even think about the furniture, but rather the space and how it might look with their furniture in the space. This leads to increased quality showings and closings.