You know you didn't stage those rooms. So why are those photos in your portfolio? Whew...there, I said it!!! My grievance is with stagers who pass off someone else's work as their own in their portfolios. My very first blog on AR, almost a year ago, was about this very subject. However, I was a lot nicer in that one and was indeed wearing my kid gloves. Not anymore. Taking them off and flinging them into the ring!
So what's the big deal? Why am I getting myself so worked up? Since joining AR, I have seen many photos on staging websites that I know were not done by that particular stager. Most of the time, I knew they were stock photos provided by their staging training company. However, I cannot recall ever seeing a staging website, in which stock photos were used, that had a disclaimer explaining that the photos were not actually work performed by the stager. But rather stock photos intended to show the benefits of staging. A website with such a disclaimer would not be deceitful but neither would it bring in much business.
As the numbers of stagers on AR increased, I began seeing even more stock photos. I figured no harm done. They are only hurting themselves. I was wrong! Let's say a Realtor or homeowner hires a stager based on the quality of work presented in her portfolio. If the result of that staging project turns out to be far inferior to what was represented in the portfolio, it doesn't bode well for the industry as a whole. They could get the impression that all stagers practice deceptive measures. It is my opinion that some of the "bad stagers", who use tricks to cover up flaws rather than having them repaired, may be some of the same ones who think it is okay to pass off photos of someone else's work as their own.
Even though your training company says it is okay to use stock photos to show what staging can do, your common sense should tell you that it really is NOT okay. Someone interested in hiring you to stage their listing or home doesn't want to see examples of what staging can do...they want to see what YOU can do!
Do you think that no one will notice that you used stock photos? Well, the chances of keeping that little secret decreased sharply when you joined Active Rain. Stagers on here are very savvy. We check out each other's websites. We are familiar with many of the staging training websites and online furniture rental stores. Some of us use Clip Art in our blogs so your chances of getting something by us are quite slim. And we stick together. We want to help each other succeed. However, Active Rain is a community and we are forming relationships with Realtors. We are asking them to trust us with their clients. How can we gain their trust when we stand by and allow them to be deceived?
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed reading a blog from a realtor on AR explaining how he had been searching for a stager and had finally found one that he thought would work well with his team. He praised her professionalism and knowledge of staging. He made her sound so special that I wanted to learn more about her. I clicked on the link to her webpage and immediately went to her portfolio section. What a letdown!!! I was so disappointed!! I had never been to her website before yet I immediately recognized the set of before and after photos on the first page. They were the same ones used on the cover of a staging book written by the owner of one of the larger staging companies. When I clicked on the portfolio....the disappointment deepened. Out of about 6 sets of before and afters, there was only 1 set that I couldn't say absolutely for sure that they were indeed stock photos. The other five...I was 100% sure because I had seen them so many times. She may truly be a very talented stager but, unless she told him the truth about her portfolio, she entered into that business relationship with deceit. My first instinct was to contact the stager and ask her if she told him about the stock photos. For a fleeting moment, I wanted to e-mail the Realtor and ask him if he knew about the stock photos. In the end, I decided it was really none of my business so I opted to do nothing.
What pushed me over the edge and made me mad enough to finally speak out was when I clicked on a blog posted in the Stage It Forward group just a few days ago. I wanted to know more about the poster so I went to her website and clicked on "gallery". I think steam is still coming out of my ears from what I saw there. I recognized each and every one of those sets of before and after photos....but they were not stock photos. They were photos that she cut and pasted from another stager's website...one who is a personal friend of mine. We are talking about plagiarism as well as deception. That is why I am so mad! If that stager thinks nothing of deceiving people on her website, what does she do when she is hired to stage a house?
This has to stop!!! Fellow AR stagers, we can't keep overlooking this issue. We all know it is being done. We keep quiet in allegiance with our fellow stagers. Well, what about the Realtors who are being deceived? They need our support! We can't just keep sweeping this under the rug. We have to take a stand and say, "This is unacceptable and we are not going to look the other way any more." I am not talking about whistle blowing or public humiliation...no need to go to those extremes! A good place to start would be to send a copy of this blog to any stager that you know for sure is using photos of someone else's work. If you do contact someone you know for sure is using stock or shared photos, be sure to do it in the spirit of Stage It Forward. Do not accuse, condemn or chastise. The goal is to make them aware of the disadvantages of using photos of someone else's work since it is possible that they may only be familiar with the advantages.
Since joining AR, I personally have sent brief e-mail to 2 stagers that I knew were using photos of someone else's work...one was using photos from her training school and the other was a photo directly from the pages of Cort Furniture's online catalog. Both of them thanked me for the information and immediately removed the photos in question.
If you find photos that you know have been taken from another stager's website, it is best to inform the stager and let her decide the best course of action. I have already informed my stager friend about my discovery and she confirmed that those photos were definitely used without her permission.
AR Realtors have been so forthcoming in their willingness to learn more about staging and form relationships with stagers. I feel the least we can do is give them tools to determine whether the stager they are interviewing is qualified to do the job. So I am working on a blog just for Realtors entitled "How to Tell Whether Your Stager Can Do What He/She Says He/She Can Do!" It will include tips to help decipher whether or not the photos are of work done by that particular stager. Also included will be questions to ask when interviewing a stager to further prove that the portfolio contains all original photos. Be looking for it.
I am also working on a "how-to" blog for stagers who really want to use photos of their own work but don't know where to start. It is intended for those who truly didn't realize that using stock photos in their portfolio was a no-no. Be looking for it.
Stagers and Realtors, your comments and thoughts on this issue will be greatly appreciated to reassure me that I didn't go too far out on a limb in tackling this extremely sensitive subject!
If you didn't stage it, don't show it!