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Real Estate Photos Being Altered But By Domain Not Open2View

4 minute read

On a slow news day late last month an eagle eye reporter of the Dominion Post newspaper in New Zealand reported on the shocking crime of turning the sky blue! The local Open2View real estate photographer had the temerity to use the same cloud formation on different photos and the Dominion Post caught them in this despicable crime.

Showing there is not much bigger than a politicians ego local MP Clayton Cosgrove chimed in on the issue when approached by the paper for comment that agents should show the property in “its ordinary environment” and “I just think it’s a bit on the nose. The more straight up you are, the better you are.”

Showing what a hypocrite he was, the MP who apparently proposed the recent real industry reform bill to parliament seemed to have no problem when he said that photoshopping photographs  “could make me look slimmer and give me more hair”. Seems this kiwi pollie thinks misrepresenting his own looks is fine, but changing a sky blue is a little smelly!

Nobody suggested that the house was changed in anyway nor its surroundings. Nobody removed power lines, blotted out a bus stop at the front of the property,  added a garden that wasn’t there or anything else that misrepresented the property in anyway. They turned the sky blue, thats all.

The whole sordid affair started doing the rounds here in Australia after a local blog picked up on the story and it was retweeted on twitter.

Lets all put this in perspective shall we.  Nobody seems to want to hold Domain to task for altering photos that clearly misrepresent the property but everyone gets up in arms over a blue sky.

Domain does not display photos in the same aspect ratio that they are provided in and will warp the images.  Now when the photo is in landscape the differences are only minor and unless you see the original image side by side it is often difficult to tell. It is a little like when you go to your friends place and they have a fancy widescreen tv displaying a 4:3 or letterbox picture. It looks pretty close but everybody seems to have put on a little weight. So a small house appears bigger and a crowded room appears a little more spacious.

It’s when photos are provided in portrait orientation  things really start going astray.  Lets look at the same property on three different portals.


Domain.com.au

Portrait-Domain
Domain's display of 352 Edgeware Road, Newtown

Realestate.com.au

Realestate.com.au's version. Not quite so spacious as Domain's is it
Realestate.com.au's version. Not quite so spacious as Domain's is it

Myhome.com.au

Myhome - Again, it is tiny compared to Domain's offering
Myhome - Again, it is tiny compared to Domain's offering

So if there is any Fairfax journalists thinking of running an Australian spin on the story,  maybe they should look a little closer to home first. Misrepresenting the size of a home or a room is far more serious than changing the colour of the sky.

Domain need to clean up their code and stop distorting photos because its a dangerous game to be misrepresenting properties these days with some government departments looking for scalps… even big ones that can afford to pay big fines.

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21 Comments

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:06 pm 0Likes

    I would hardly think changing the sky is a crime, as nature does this everyday! On a note I can remember Domain sending emails out a few years ago telling agents they no longer support portrait style images. I sent a notice to all of my clients on this a couple of times. I have mentioned it on here as well.

    I don’t know why they do it, but the photos do look better in natural landscape.

    I do know that some photos do not work for the photographer because of room constraints.

  • Ian
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:27 pm 0Likes

    It definitely is a slow news day

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm 0Likes

    Trying to schedule professional photography around the weather must be a nightmare for photographers & property video companies.

    I can’t see an issue with blue sky being added.

    In fact, where does the misrepresentation start & finish. Professional photographers have been using wide angle lenses & different filters on their lenses & different lighting, etc to present a home at its best for years.

    I posed a question about this issue earlier today on Twitter & Facebook and one person sent me these videos about photoshop ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcFlxSlOKNI
    and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dJujKM635s&feature=fvw .

    And for the record, they also felt that so long as someone doesn’t photoshop in a pool then they couldn’t see a problem 🙂

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:25 am 0Likes

    Peter,

    Domain alter the aspect ratio of all photos that don’t match their specific size whether it’s portrait, landscape or square. They dont discriminate and they alter everything. Portrait photos are just stretched more, thats all.

    All of the other portals have worked out how to display these sort of pictures correctly and its about time they figured it out too.

    I guess all their programmers have been busy on the flash new Radar search 🙂

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:53 am 0Likes

    Glenn, you are right, they have stupid sizes. Thinking is that nearly all agents would upload from native sizes from camera (constrained proportions from 1024 x 768, 800 x 600 etc) however Domain.com.au change the sizes from 290 x 217 for Feature properties (which is only 1 pixel out from correctly using 218 and keeping exact proportions. however when we move up to large images embedded in a full property page we go to 480 x 320 which is 40 pixels out of proportion to what the original file was.

    hen we go to the pop up window image viewer we see 800 x 532 is just ridiculous that is a full 68 pixels out of proportions.

    This is especially stupid when you consider that the height has no effect – except for maybe pushing data down the page by a further.

    Perhaps they have cut back calculators – although both Windows and MAC have one built into their operating systems!!

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:56 am 0Likes

    Also if we set standards for politicians (into law) the chambers would be noticeably empty.

  • Nick
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 6:45 am 0Likes

    Thats why the new Pirate Party (http://pirateparty.org.au/) is so important. 😉

    I handle the problem of odd shaped photos or odd shaped image places just by automatically cropping them.
    Aspect ratio is maintained.

  • David
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 8:03 am 0Likes
  • Robert Hudson
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 8:59 am 0Likes

    There is a simple solution to putting vertical images on the portals. Paste your vertical image onto a white 800×600 background. Easily done in Photoshop. This is also recommended for vertically orientated floorplans too. Especially when the floorplan is uploaded as an image (jpg) not as a floorplan, gif. The portals treat it like a horizontal image and your vertical image displays perfectly.

    Still it is frustrating to see images reshaped to fit a width AND a height. Surely a maximum width of 800 and the height to be relative to the scale could easily be achieved. If the image is higher than it is wide, just set a maximum height. Works for us at http://ifloorplan.net where images keep there aspect ratio whatever the shape.

  • Rachael Lord
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:44 am 0Likes

    Glenn, thanks for your post. I actually wasn’t aware/never noticed the difference in domain photographs. But it is quite shocking when you compare the 3.

    I must admit, when I’m browsing whats been sold for appraisals, I go straight to realestate because I like the layout/design of web better so I have been ignoring domain completely.

    After trying the radar search too, its definitely not as impressive as they are marketing it as!

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:53 am 0Likes

    Thanks David.

    I believe that every state will have similarly worded laws and if not directly then it will be covered under some other piece of legislation or tort law..

    In the case in question, changing the colour of the sky is not chancing the property in anyway. It’s not changing how it is lit or illuminated. It is also incorrect to assume that this problem is just applicable for overcast days. In fact even the most expensive digital cameras still cannot capture a wide dynamic range so even in sunny days where your eye can see a blue sky a digital camera will white out the sky. A good polarising filter will reduce the problem but then you are changing the image as well.

    Every specialist real estate photographer I have met and that includes those from Open2View is fully aware of their legal responsibilities when it comes to modification of photos.

    Illumination of the photo is a factor of the low light sensitivity of the camera in question, the iso setting, shutter speed, aperture, ambient light and introduced light. None of which change the property in anyway.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:58 am 0Likes

    Peter,

    As you pointed out Domain have issues with typical compact camera resolutions and aspect ratios (which is 4:3) but don’t forget digital SLR cameras typically shoot in 16:9 so the aspect ratio is different again and are warped by domain. More and more agents are using SLR cameras as they should.

    We also use software called autopano pro to stitch multiple photos together and that can create some really weird aspect ratios.

  • Simon
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm 0Likes

    Yawn! Talk about an acute angle to take a stab at Domain – you should be a hourno Glenn, you’ve missed your calling!

    You know what they say – people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – i’d be very disappointed if i turned up to this house you have for sale, only to find it doesn’t have a curved balcony!
    How misleading of you and your office Glenn.

    http://202.91.7.245/apps/web/imageSelect.cfm?propertyID=1142904&requesttimeout=120

  • Simon
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm 0Likes

    *or a “journo” even.

  • Nick
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm 0Likes

    Hahaha Simon that photo is clearly several stitched together. You can see a blend line on the left side of the chair.

    Curving straight edges means the panorama hasnt been told about the layout correctly.
    Tools such as Hugin allow you to indicate what are straight lines to correct that.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm 0Likes

    Simon,

    I never expect everyone is going to agree with any post, where would the fun be in that, but seriously your not going to try and suggest that a curve in the balcony from a photography technique is the same as making a property look twice as big as it is?. That a bit of a hard sell…. 🙂

    Photography brings with it a range of effects that we don’t see with our own eye. Wide angle lens curving straight lines, parallax error and flattened perspective are just some of the examples but for my mind none of them is the same as taking a finished photo that the agent provides and stretching or squeezing it to a different aspect ratio altogether.

    It’s nice to see you invested some time on our site trying to find something to support your already conceived point though…. It shows you care, and really thats all that matters… ! 🙂

    Nick,

    Thats actually not totally true. The panorama software is rendering it to a cylinder rather than a flat plane or a sphere which are the other options. Each gives you a different finished view. Hugin offers exactly the same options.

    I could have done a flat plane but because it is two frames side by side it often gives a false impression of the size as far as I am concerned, much like a super wide angle lens. If it was 4 photos.. 2 on the bottom and two on the top I would have used the flat plane rendering. Think of cylinder as turning your head through a room and the other one is looking left and right into your periphery vision. Its the perspective that changes. In the case of the domain photo above, it is not an issue of perspective at all.

    We use AutoPano Pro which is a commerical offering but its feature set is much the same as the free open source Hugin.

  • Simon
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm 0Likes

    Fine then, i’ll go elsewhere when looking for residences with a curvature! 🙂

  • John
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 8:57 pm 0Likes

    I just wish all these websites would offer support for new cameras. There really can’t be too many cameras left shooting 4:3.

    They take our beautiful photos and crop the ends off meaning you may as well have just shot with a standard lense anyway.

    Hubonline is the worst offender because they just distort the image before uploading it making a nice photo fuzzy.

  • David Ross
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 11:48 am 0Likes

    I wonder what the office of fair trading would have to say about this? Misleading or is the agent making the best out of a fairly impossible situation…..http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2660393/Estate-agents-fail-to-mention-the-two-power-stations-next-door-to-idyllic-cottage-for-sale.html

  • adam
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm 0Likes

    Ha, great article – I would be more concerned about any publisher trying to claim a company was “altering” images when it is a mere case of the default behavior of most image editing algorithm’s. Most image editing apis by default will shoehorn the source image into the proposed image size. To do anything other than this *usually* requires the programmer to implement EXTRA logic to detect wether the image is portrait or landscape & crop and scale appropriately as you allude to.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm 0Likes

    Adam,

    It’s not really a case of any image editing.

    With domain if you were to right click on the image and save it to your desktop you will see that the image file itself is fine. It is simply the way they present it on their page. A simple change in their coding should have been all that was necessary.. I thinks it was more about not applying a fixed image width attribute in the page code. They were forcing an image to be displayed at that width even when the image itself is not that wide.

    I am happy to advise that the problem is now fixed and domain is displaying images correctly..

    Well done guys!

    352 Edgeware Road NEWTOWN For Sale $699,000 @ domain.com.au
    http://bit.ly/jksUd

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