Fun With Listing Photos: Staging AFTER the Fact?

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate RS301772

Way back in my early days in the 'Rain, I wrote a post called "Faux Staging."  It was partly inspired by my love for playing with images, and partly because of my fixation with the HGTV show Hidden Potential.  It turned out to be one of my first ever featured posts!  I was so excited - I felt like Sally Field at the Oscars.

ANYWAY, the other day I was taking pictures of the master bedroom for the new listing I share with my colleague Libby Petch.  Usually I spend the afternoon making sure everything is perfect before hand.  This day, however, was fraught with deadlines, appointments, and errands, and I had to take a lot less time in getting the pictures.

This was the result.

Master Bedroom

In my initial haste, I did not notice the cap on the bedpost, nor did I notice one of the slats on the headboard was missing.

No problem!  Spending about 10 minutes with the image in Paint Shop Pro (v. 9) gave me this result:

Master Bedroom 2

Now, I could have goen a step further and made the bed look neater - but my skill level isn't quite there yet.  But wouldn't you agree this is an important improvement?  The first picture looks shabby, this one looks much better.

I have also added flames to fireplaces with Paint Shop Pro:


Now, let me set the record straight - in no way am I advocating altering pictures to hide a fatal flaw with the property, such as covering a neighboring house with trees to make the home look more private than it is, erasing power lines, etc.  

If the BED were going to be included in the sale of the property, I would not have "fixed" the missing slat.  If the fireplace was inoperable, I would not have added flames to the picture.  There is a difference between enhancing a photo to show a home in its best light, and being deliberately deceitful.

As professional REALTORS, we are required to be truthful in advertising, while at the same time, showcase our client's property in the best possible light.    An interesting discussion about this can be found here.  A buyer was extremely frustrated because he drove out of his way to see a particular listing because of the way it was presented in the picture.  Unfortunately, when the buyer got there, he was surprised to find a neighborhing house practically on top of the home for sale!  It was VERY different from the listing photo.

Many agents don't even bother to color correct or lighten dark/cold photos, or straighten crooked ones before uploading them to the MLS.  As part of my obligation to my seller, I believe in making the photographs as attractive as possible.  After all - photo appeal is the "curb appeal" of the Internet Real Estate community!

This does not take a special talent; it is a learned skill.  I did not know how to do ANYTHING on a computer except type until about 10 years ago.  Then I somehow got sucked in and became a web designer! Imagine that!  A friend gave me a copy of Paint Shop Pro (Version 7) and taught me how to do basic graphic work.  I found tutorials online and soon knew how to perform basic tasks.

In most cases, agents can have stunning photos if they just take a few minutes editing them in Picasa, a free photo editing program by Google. It is very user friendly and excellent for most basic tasks and even more artsy ones.  The techniques described above, however, are beyond the scope of Picasa and require something more sophisitcated.  I love Paint Shop Pro V. 9.  I purchased it new off eBay relatively cheap, since it was an older version (the new version is not as good since PSP was swallowed up by Corel!).

Shhh! Don't tell my competition about my tricks!  

Tomorrow, I'm going to write about some easy/inexpensive home staging tips I picked up from today's webinar.  Stay tuned! 

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Homes For Sale & Local Info for Pike County, Wayne County, & Lake Wallenpaupack in Northeast PA.


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Karen Rice (that's me!) lists & sells in Tanglwood, Wallenpaupack Lake Estates, Hideout, Indian Rocks, Masthope, Fawn Lake, Tink Wig, Woodland Hills, Walker Lake, Hemlock Farms, & more in Pike & Wayne County.

Comments (12)

Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Karen, that is amazing! The second photo and the fire in the fireplace definitely are an improvement over the other shots. I have also heard that Photo Shop Elements does similar things. Great job!

Jan 28, 2010 03:06 PM
David Zablatsky
Avant Realty Group - Needham, MA
Real Estate - Needham, MA



You did a great job with the photos and I agree photo shop can help as well.



Jan 28, 2010 03:31 PM
Yolanda Hoversten
Self Employed - O'Fallon, IL
Referrals for O’Fallon, IL & the Metro East

Hi, Karen.  I'm embarassed to admit that I don't have Photoshop, though I know I will enjoy playing around with it.  I do get your caveat about misrepresenting the properties by too much enhancements.  However, posting poor quality pictures and toilet bowl shots maybe just as bad.  lol

Jan 28, 2010 03:36 PM
Brenda Harmon
Century 21 Beal, Inc College Station, Texas - College Station, TX


I wonder if Realtors could use the program to take themselves out of the bathroom mirrors when they take pictures?

Jan 28, 2010 03:44 PM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Sharon, I have heard the same thing about Photoshop Elements - it's supposedly quite comparable to Paint Shop Pro v 9 which is an "amateur version" of the extremely pricey Photoshop.

David - thank you! :)  I've used Picasa most of the time, for simple retouching.  This one was more complicated.

Yolanda - don't be embarrassed!  Most times you wouldn't even need Photoshop - if you have Elements, it should be sufficient for tricky stuff; Picasa is awesome for general editing. I enjoy messing around with them.

Brenda - most certainly they can, depending on the amount of flashback and the patience of the person doing the work!  I've taken distracting reflections out of mirrors and windows; but some were more difficult than others, and some were just plain impossible.  It takes some patience and a lot of trial and error.

Jan 28, 2010 03:50 PM
Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR
Desert Gold Realty - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale - Mesquite, NV
Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS

Karen, that is a wonderful talent (skill?)  -  I can see many uses for that in Localism posts, as well as MLS pics.  Photos are a nightmare for me, just can't seem to get good at it.  I tried Picasa and it was so complicated that I gave up.  I will forward this post to my daughter - she is adept at learning new things and does some work for me as my virtual assistant.



Jan 28, 2010 05:16 PM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Isn't it amazing what you DON'T see until you take that picture?  The backboard and cap and missing pieces is typical of what we block out when we look at a home. But somehow it sticks out in a photo!

Jan 28, 2010 08:07 PM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

That is very cool Karen! I am going to let my admin know about the site and see if she can clean up some of my homes:)

Jan 28, 2010 10:39 PM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Virginia - thank you!   When was the last time you tried Picasa? The newest version is the most userfriendly.  I didn't use it much until recently because I was used to Paint Shop Pro.  Now I use Picasa mostly to straighten crooked pics !I hate when houses and rooms look tilted! LOL  I'm sure your daughter will be impressed w/ it.

Ruthmarie - it's so funny! I never saw the cap, OR the missing slat (or the folded back corner of the blanket) until afterward!  I was worried about the mounted animals on the wall, actually.  LOL

Bill - it's amazing what a little time in Picasa can do for a picture - even adding some fill light or boosting the contrast a little makes a big difference. Your admin will probably love it.  Our office admins train the new agents on how to use it now.

Jan 28, 2010 10:50 PM
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate


I could use Photoshop, which I don't have, just to put down overlooked toilet seats in otherwise good bathroom shots...

Jan 28, 2010 11:03 PM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

I don't have photoshop or photoshop skills...  Wonder where the slat is.  That bedroom looks so Northeast PA to me.  Mounted animal on the wall and the photo over the bed.  What is the photo over the bed?  Bear?  Ground hog?  Punxatawny Phil?

Jan 29, 2010 01:30 AM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Yep, Maureen - it's definitive Poconos decor.  The picture is of a bear fishing in a whitewater stream.  :)  There is a store nearby, VanGorder's Furniture, that specializes in this type of decor and furniture.

Mike - one listing photo I saw had the toilet seat up - but the homeowner had put anti freeze in the toilet.  Problem was...the antifreeze was YELLOW!  The picture was SO GROSS!! LOL  I was tempted to copy the picture, fix it, and send it to the lisitng agent.  ha ha

Jan 29, 2010 01:37 AM