Benefits of Professional Photography in NYC Real Estate

Why should you pay for professional real estate photography when you can take photos of your home for free using a cell phone camera? Better yet, why can’t you just reuse photos from other listings? What are the benefits of professional HDR real estate photography when selling in NYC?

These are common questions asked by For Sale By Owner (“FSBO”) sellers in New York City. We’ll explain in this article why a small investment of a few hundred dollars will prevent headaches, dramatically improve your listing’s marketing and ultimately result in a better outcome.

Do Not Use Stock Photographs Found Online

Using photos from the internet is a common mistake by FSBO sellers who are trying to save every last penny. Just because a photograph is online without a watermark or clear copyright marking does not mean you can just freely use them. This is especially true in the case of photos from other listings.

Professional photographs from another listing are typically owned by the listing agent. This means that neither you nor the seller who hired the listing agent may use them without permission.

Agents are notorious for ‘policing’ listings from other agents and catching instances of copyright infringement. After all, if a listing goes up in a building they’ve done business in before, don’t you think they’d notice your new listing?

Here is an example of a seller who sent their listing broker photographs to use which the seller had simply downloaded from the internet. This is a very dangerous mistake to make, as the seller typically warrants in a listing agreement that any materials submitted to use are free from copyright infringement. Furthermore, an owner is liable if the broker is sued or fined as a result of the owner’s deception!

The following is a series of email exchanges from an angry neighbor in the building who believes her photos have been infringed upon, the seller and the listing agent.

Bertha Malone (Neighbor)

Imagine my disbelief this morning – receiving notification from Zillow of a new listing in my building.  I am listed as the agent of apartment [address] – along with a phone number that is not mine!   Then to see all the photos of my unit!  Not only is this nervy – it is against all real estate laws.

Please take all photos of my unit off the listing of [address].  I see that the bathroom photo has been removed so this must be an easy fix.

Go and take your own photos. I have contacted my agent CC’d above and I am going to look into – who I can report this to.

Most Sincerely – Bertha Malone

Response from Listing Agent

Hi Bertha, we’ve passed along your message to our seller client who has provided us with these photos and is the owner of this apartment.  We don’t see your name anywhere on the photos however.  Can you please shoot us an email at [address] about this and who you are?  If the seller has provided us with your photos, obviously we will get to the bottom of this and remove the photos.  Thank you.

Response from Bertha Malone (Neighbor)

Thank you for taking the photos of the listing of [address], now please delete any mention of me/my name and email address from the listing.

I am truly disturbed that this has happened to me and my privacy was invaded.  The owner of the unit contacted me – but no one from your firm?  How truly reprehensible.

I hope someone does email me about this listing.

Most Sincerely, Bertha Malone

The seller’s broker responded in a very professional manner despite having been harassed constantly:

Hi Bertha, your contact information is nowhere on our listing.  I think you just need to log out of your Zillow account…

This is what the owner mentioned to me:

I just solved the mystery. She was looking at comps on Zillow and when she clicked on contact agent for my apartment, her contact information self populated. As a result, she thought that everyone clicking would get her contact details, instead of yours 🙂

We’ve been very professional and this is what we texted back to you after your 1st of up to 10 phone calls and messages today about this.  As you must understand, we are very busy.

Response from Bertha Malone (Neighbor)

Dear sir – First of all – my first of up to ten phone calls?  How dare you?  I did not call you ten times…I called two maybe three…I have my call logs and will save them as evidence.  I called the 347 number at 10:39 am, I waited almost 2 hours and called the 212 number at 12:07 pm.   I did utilize the email system as I was hoping someone would call me.  So don’t intimate that I was bombarding you with phone calls.  Additionally I have every right, EVERY RIGHT to call when someone steals my property information.  You did not contact me until this particular time at 2:55 PM.  I do not need to log out of my Zillow account either – without that I would not have found the theft of my unit photos.  Who are you to tell me what to do?

You have not been very professional about this at all. I feel now I am getting all this follow up so you can cover yourself.   I don’t care how busy you – I am protecting my interest.    I see you are a REBNY member I have every intention of reporting this to them as this has been handled horribly. Lucky for me – I printed out the listing and all MY photos associated with it in full color.  I am sure a forensic team would see in a second they are the same photos.  New lights in the bathroom and shower curtain and all.

Since you are so good at telling me what to do – how about you be a little bit more apologetic –  as I WAS going to let this go.  Maybe you should be more careful and as professional as you think you are.

Most Sincerely, Bertha Malone

The seller behaved like an adult and quickly wrote an apology letter to his neighbor:

Dear All, ironically I do not know any of you but somehow caused a stir in your worlds. As a result, I apologize. To clarify what happened, I am selling apartment [address] and asked my assistant to find some stock photos to show potential buyers what my apartment looked like. He being young and living in this social media world of non stop pictures did not realize that the pictures he provided to [broker affiliate] on my behalf belonged to anyone and there was no way [broker affiliate] could have known.

As soon as Bertha informed me about this, I immediately told [broker affiliate] who immediately removed them. It also appears that when Bertha looks at my listing on Zillow, her name auto populates into the listing. Please reassure her that this does not happen when anyone else looks at my listing and thus she will not be unnecessarily contacted. Once again, I apologize. None of you are too blame. Take care.

Response from Bertha Malone (Neighbor)

Good Happy Monday to all,

First and foremost – I want to thank you for taking down the photos of my unit.  I also want to apologize for misunderstanding the Zillow “contact agent” screen.  For that I am sorry – I hope we can all move on and wish each other happy and prosperous sales of our units.

Good Luck to all, Bertha Malone

What's Wrong with Using a Cell Phone Camera?

We truly cannot understand why some FSBO sellers want to save a few hundred dollars so badly that they’d sacrifice their marketing potential which inevitably costs them significantly more through a lower sale price or failure to sell altogether.

The average home in New York City sells for $2 million. Professional photographs cost approximately $300. If you have terrible, blurry photos from your flip phone camera, why do you think buyers will even bother to inquire or stop by your open house?

Benefits of Professional Photography in Real Estate Sales. Learn the benefits of getting professional photography for your home sale.

Every 1% less you receive on your typical sale is equivalent to $20,000 on average. Is saving an $300 really worth it in the long run?

A Full Service Listing for 1%

Sell your home with a traditional full service listing for just one percent commission.

Amateur vs. Professional Photos: Before and After

Here are some before and after photos from Hauseit Agent Assisted FSBO sellers who started with amateur photos and ultimately opted for professional HDR photography.

Before vs. After: 3BR Condo in Upper East Side, Manhattan

before professional photos with Hauseit
after professional photos with Hauseit

Before vs. After: Co-op Studio in Turtle Bay, Manhattan


Before vs. After: 2BR Pre-War Co-op in Upper West Side, Manhattan


Before vs. After: 2BR Co-op in Flushing, Queens


Before vs. After: Townhouse in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Before vs. After: Townhouse in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Before vs. After: 1BR Co-op in Jackson Heights

Before vs. After: 1BR Co-op in Jackson Heights

Before vs. After: 1BR Co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan

Before vs. After: 2BR Co-op in Rego Park, Queens

Before vs. After: House in Irvington, NY

Before vs. After: 2BR Condo in Yorkville, Manhattan

Before vs. After: Studio in Brooklyn Heights

Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided.

4 thoughts on “Benefits of Professional Photography in NYC Real Estate”

  1. I like how you talked about how valuable nice, professional photos are when selling a home. I would want my home to be presented well to get the best amount of buyers interested. Thank you for the information about how using a phone camera will take lower quality pictures and not attract any buyers.

  2. I think that one of the most effective techniques to quickly sell a home is to let the buyer imagine how their new home will look like once they are all moved in. This can be harder than it seems, especially when looking through an empty home. However, there is a way to make this vision a reality, and it’s called virtual staging.

    Virtual staging is the process of staging a home virtually, wherein graphics editors design the interior of a property based on the aesthetics and personality of the home. This is done by creating highly realistic furniture, decor and accent pieces then integrating them into an image of a vacant interior.

  3. It’s critically important to only use photos that you own and/or have paid for. Simply grabbing photos off the internet, from Zillow, or from the previous listing agent of your property is unacceptable and will likely lead to you being sued for copyright infringement. For example, here’s what a friend recently got in the mail from a law firm:

    Copyright infringement

    Use of images without a valid license is in direct violation of Title 17 U.S.C.S., the Copyright Act of 1976. Keep in mind that copyright is a strict liability offense, and you are liable for the infringement regardless of your knowledge of the infringement or your intent. Penalties and damages can range up to $150,000 not including expenses and costs.

    Is it all good if I just remove the image after being warned?

    No. We appreciate your prompt removal of the image. Removal of the image from your website does not resolve the period of unlicensed use, and it remains that the photographer be fairly compensated for use of his or her work. Keep in mind that a copyright infringement is a strict liability offense, and that use of any imagery found online almost always and with few exceptions must be licensed prior to use.

    I found the image on Google or social media, isn’t it free?

    No. Google and other free image sites display very clear notices that “images may be subject to copyright.”
    Keep in mind that a copyright infringement is a strict liability offense, and that use of any imagery found online almost always and with very few exceptions must be licensed prior to use.

    But the photos are not watermarked

    Copyright is established at the moment of a work’s creation. To avoid copyright infringement in future, we recommend you take necessary steps to establish ownership of the copyrighted work and reach out to the creator to license the image prior to use.

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