An Open Letter to Stagers and Decorators

I go into a lot of homes.

So there are some things that I see over and over and I think I speak for other real estate photographers — and probably many real estate agents and buyers — when I say these things.  Over and over and over….

  • Enough with the roosters in the kitchen.  I’ve seen ceramic, metal, wood, fabric, glass, and even “real” ones with feathers and such.  I’ve seen realistic ones, ones that look like robots, ones that are avant-garde depictions of roosters.  Statuettes, plates, soap dispensers, floor mats, decorative plates — enough.  If you’ve ever been around roosters you’d know that they’re nasty, smelly creatures with a temper like a chihuahua on crack.
  • I’ve seen “Live, Laugh, Love” on plaques, pillows, throws, picture frames, photo albums, decorative plates, and painted or applied to walls.  Nice sentiment — way over used.  Just once I’d like to see, “Die, Cry, Hate” for variety.  (Actually, this might be great for Halloween!)
  • A bowl full of woven orbs seems cute.  Until it sits there for a week and you have to dust it.  Constantly.
  • The “throw” casually draped across and over the back of the chair or couch is hypocritical.  If I do that with my coat I’m yelled at.
  • If you put down a rug on a wood or laminate floor and don’t put an anti-skid backing on it, you’re a monster.
  • And, finally, the “Always kiss me goodnight” decal on the wall over the master bed seems like there should be “…or else” after it.

And this is just what jumps to mind for my indoor items.  I’ll have to think about some outdoor things for a later date.

Nosy Neighbors, Part Two

I regularly take photos in a high-end, gated community.  They’ve got private security driving around all the time.  One area you have to check in at a guard shack, show them your driver’s license, etc.

First of all, let me say that the men and women who work there in security could be real jerks but never are.  (Well, mostly.  There was one guy who excelled at being a jerk, but it seems he got fired.  He probably became a cop.)

Anyway, I was shooting twilight shots of a house in this gated community one time.  Boring work, waiting for the right light, all the lights in the house on.  Someone’s walking by with their dog.  I nod and say, “Good evening. ”  They nod.  And then they go into the house next door.

About 10 minutes later one of the security cars rolls up, parks, and a guy I know gets out.

“Hey there,” I say.

“Hey, Dave.”

“What’s up?”

“Can I see your ID?”

I pull it out and hand it to him.  He pulls out his flashlight and looks at it, then shines the light toward me vaguely.

“Is there a problem?” I ask.

“Only with the neighbor behind me who is probably in that darkened corner room watching us.  I need to make a big show of talking to you and checking your ID or they’ll call you in until you leave and then call my boss tomorrow and complain.”

“So I guess this has happened before.”

“They call in everyone.  You’re just standing here, though, so I have to make it look good.”

He hold my ID up and shines the light at it.  Then he hands it back to me.  Puts his hands on his hips.  “Now I’m going to pretend to talk to you very seriously.  And then I’ll go back and have some coffee.”

And a few minutes later he drove off.

I glanced over and saw someone in the window.

I waved.

And later I took a box of cookies to the security shack.  Ones that go well with coffee.

Stock Photos

When I’m out photographing a home I often look at the map on my phone and see if there are any interesting community features — a park, a community center.  Or if I see anything on the way like a nice sign for the neighborhood.

If I have time, I’ll take a shot of it and add it to my collection of stock photos to provide to other agents when I photograph something in the same neighborhood.  Part of the service I provide.  Something like this:

Park Stock Photo
Park Stock Photo

That being said, these are probably my most stolen photos.  I’ve added them all to Pixsy so I can find out when they’re used.  Most of the time they’re found in the listings who properly licensed them, but I find a few used without permission regularly.

But here’s a conversation I had with a REATLOR® about that recently…

Me: You’re using my photo in your listing without licensing.  I provide pictures like that to my paying customers.  Please remove it.

Agent: It’s a picture of the park.

Me: Yes, and I took it and own the copyright.

Agent: Anyone could take the same picture!

Me: Then remove mine and go take your own.

They eventually removed mine, after I suggested I could send them an invoice for the picture.  I’d like to point out that my shot was quite the stand-out from the rest of the cell phone pictures for the listing.

The fact that I (and countless other real estate photographers) have to have this type of conversation, though, suggests that REATLORS® aren’t being educated in even the basics of copyright.  Agencies, Associations of REATLOR®, and the National Association of REATLOR® should be addressing this.

Oh, and by the way…you’ll notice that I put ® after every mention of REATLOR® or REATLORS®?  That’s because they are trademarks and they are very serious about protecting that.  Too bad they’re not as good about protecting the rights of photographers.

Some of my Stock Photos

Pixsy Article On Why Image Theft Is So Bad In Real Estate

NAR Logos and Trademark Rules

A Brief Look At Copyright

I get asked this enough to warrant writing it down somewhere….

First Item: Copyright is ownership.  If you took the photo, you own it.  If you didn’t press the shutter-release button, you don’t own it.

And that’s pretty much it.

When an agent hires me or another photographer, we license them to use the photos, but we still own them. Every photographer’s licensing agreement is a little different but for real estate it’s pretty much the customer is allowed to use the photos to market the property in print, web, etc.

The photographer owns the photo and, therefore, gets to say what’s done with them.

The photographer could license them to another real estate agent.  The photographer could license them to the builder or the pool guy or the person who built the deck and needs shots for their website.

The customer, the agent, cannot give or sell them to the builder, the pool guy, the HOA, or their friend who’s listing a house down the street and likes the shot of the park I provided.

That being said, my licensing is fairly liberal: I license the agent to use them in marketing the home for the duration of the listing or for marketing themselves — agents often like to have a portfolio to be able to show new clients, “Here’s the kinds of pictures we’ll have for your listing.”  If the agent wants to use a shot on their website long after the listing has expired, I usually license that, although I hope I’ve provided something later to match it or be better.

EDIT: After I wrote this someone brought this article to my attention:
Why Is Image Theft So Common In Real Estate