December 19, 2021

Is property photo retouching really just lying?

Is property photo retouching really just lying?

As house hunting is so visual with your images being seen on HD screens around the world, our customers use Doctor Photo (DCTR) to maximise the appeal of their houses online and in print.  

Better images have been shown to encourage click-through rates and increase viewings.We have several protocols to ensure we are compliant with the 12,000-word RICS Guidance to Property Photography – in fact, we wrote it for the RICS as experts in the fields of property photography and estate agency so for us, accuracy is extremely important.


Here are the main photo-optimisation services that DCTR provides with the explanations for what they are, as well as the pitfalls thatyou need to watch out for if you are to avoid a visit from Trading Standards.


1)   Facelift:


This is our most basic optimisation service, we add blue skies and enhance photos – improving brightness, sharpness, contrast, fix the angle of the photo, and de-tangoing interiors (e.g., adjusting colours so that orange-looking bathroom suites appear white, as they actually are).


-      We will not alter sun positioning or change a property’s colours*. Having said that, we would naturally reflect the fact that bright sunlight makes colours more vibrant and warmer because dull lighting causes photos to have a colder, blue colour cast. But with these optimisations, we try to reflect the different effects on colours that we see with our own eyes when the sun is shining compared to when it isn’t.


2)   Digital Surgery:


This involves removing objects from a photo. Objects can include unsightly items like bins, cars, skips, clothing, washing lines, clutter in the kitchen, other agents’ boards & leaves, to name but a few.


-      We will only remove objects that are impermanent, and that could have feasibly been removed prior or after the photograph was taken. In other words, we will not remove permanent fixtures like lamp posts, pylons, walls*, fixed cupboards etc. unless the images are not to be used for property marketing purposes.

-      We will endeavour to be true to what lies behind an object such as a car, replicating the colour of a wall or type of brick or bush.

-      If the object is large, we provide the facility for a client to upload photos of what lies behind the object so that we can replicate it accurately

-      If we cannot ‘see behind an object sufficiently and if we do not have an image of what’s behind the object, then in certain circumstances we will do our best to achieve our customers’ aims, however it must be incumbent on our customers that they very carefully check any edit for accuracy and take responsibility for any inaccuracy. We will always be happy to revisit an image if we get it wrong.


3)   Virtual Furnishing


Staging a property with desirable furniture and accessories is proven to maximise the appeal of an otherwise empty room to prospective buyers. We add soft furnishings such as sofas, rugs, cupboards Developers love not having the expense of staging a property for real.


-      We only add soft furnishing such as sofas. These could feasibly be removed before or after a photograph is taken and do not affect a property’s permanent fixtures. Indeed, it is rare for a property to be sold fully furnished, so there is no deceit here.

-      We ask for a floor plan to help us to fairly represent how a room will look when furnished.



4)   Virtual Renovation *


Our virtual renovation service is an alternative to full CGI visuals. With these edits we work from photographs the client has taken. These can depict major proposed changes to a property or highlight how a property could be improved by a potential buyer. Changes could include re-carpeting, changing wall colours, removing walls, or repositioning them, adding permanent fixtures such as kitchen units. etc. A client may wish to follow this route if a property is part-way built and would like to get on to the market before completion or if there are drawings/plans for alterations and the need to show visuals to help interested parties to understand these. If a property is very run down, then visualising the ‘what if we replace the tiling and wood and paint the windows grey’ question will help agents to show a property’s potential.


For the image above, our customer’s vendor had drawings to show how a room would look with a couple of walls removed and the space turned into an open-plan kitchen/living room. Offering this service helped him to win the instruction and to find a buyer.


-      If these images were used as an alternative to the original photos, then we agree this could be considered a deception, however it is extremely important that customers add a disclaimer to say an image has been altered digitally (either as an artist’s impression to show how it could look when finished or to show a property’s full potential with major works)


-      We also suggest that in the instances where a property is having a virtual renovation because it is run down, an agent should also show the original image to show its current state. When showing ‘potential’,the agent should make it very clear that the edited image is an artist’s impression. The quality of our virtual renovations is so high that it would otherwise be very difficult for a prospective purchaser to appreciate that the image has been digitally altered.


Finally, this blog is meant to help you to protect YOURSELF from breaching Consumer Protection Regulations and suffer a consequent visit fromTrading Standards.


You have responsibilities to your potential buyers, your vendors and to yourself. Therefore, when you ask DCTR to help with something as complex as removing a car or skip from an image, please keep in mind that we don’t have x-ray vision – please provide us with as much background detail as possible and upload those additional images along with the one that is to be altered.


When you want a new kitchen added to a part-built property then for the sake of accuracy, please tell us exactly what will be needed and where it will go. Drawings, colours, materials references etc, all will help with this.


* Exception we would, if asked, remove walls or change a property’s colours if we are asked to show a property’s potential aspart of a Virtual Renovation. But then, the image must be referenced as an ‘artist’s impression’.



Tom heads up DCTR as MD. He has a keen eye for detail and has always been a creative and some might say, a little eccentric. He likes hats, beer & marketing that blows your mind. He lives with his wife & two young kids in Sandhurst, behind the firing range.


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