When it comes to real estate, the ethical question is not only limited to the concept of how the industry works. Almost all businesses connected to it face the same dilemma, including those engaged in real estate photography.
Determining what is acceptable and what is not in terms of shooting properties and editing the raw images is a buzz topic among realtors. Most of the time, it sparks debates that test the extent of this issue.
Nevertheless, the community has set legal and ethical guidelines for photographers and editors to follow over the years. This is aside from the rules set by each listing site. Here is an outline of the five general guidelines followed by most real estate photography companies.
- Real estate photographers usually work for the listing agent (realtor). They can have the discretion to take the photos, but in some cases, they are asked to modify images of properties for sale.
- It is the legal responsibility of the listing agents to not “materially misrepresent” a property.
- For photo editors, modifying or removing temporary objects like garbage cans, cars, and unnecessary people are acceptable. Moreover, overcast skies are already a practice by most editors and generally not considered misrepresenting the property.
- For real estate photography companies, their photographers should remain truthful with their shots by not allowing editors to remove permanent objects like power lines or telephone poles. Aside from that, neighboring homes should not be removed from the picture because this is already one form of misrepresentation.
- Landscaping is a tricky part of images because it could be permanent or temporary. Some argue that it is okay to fix minor problems in the grass, for example. However, others are opposed to the idea and believe that it is one form of manipulation.
Yet despite these five main guidelines, realtors and legal professionals still have their sentiments regarding the topic. Everyone shares their comments, and some of them are the following:
Not removing anything unless told to do so
Most editors say that they do not remove anything in the images unless the realtor tells them to do so. Moreover, if forced to remove anything, they ensure realtors will explain to the clients why the part is removed in the first place.
Never alter the reality
On the other hand, some photographers and editors stick to not modifying any part of the property that can change the real perspective of future clients or buyers. This is an essential pointer to consider because it will help the buyers set their expectations.
Stick to the legal guidelines
There are different real estate listing sites available online, and each of them has legal guidelines about photographs being used. It is the realtor’s job to follow these rules and not override anything, since it may result in your listings being taken down.
Photographers and editors must not have any legal obligations
Since photographers and editors work with the realtors and have the legal responsibilities since they are the member of any realtors’ association, the former should not be held liable for any misrepresentation disputes.
In summary, we can say that the photographer and editor are working for the listing agent, not the potential buyer. Therefore, the property’s accurate representation is the agent’s legal responsibility, neither the photographer nor the editor’s.
Still, it is best if photographers or editors can perform their duties with due diligence, so they wil not be held accountable by any misrepresentations that may arise from the edited images. It is recommended to document that they are modifying the photograph at the agent’s request, not only based on their discretion.
Last modified: October 9, 2020