Is There a Difference Between Photo Editing and Photo Manipulation?

Terminology can get really confusing especially when used in the same context. Sometimes people interchange words with totally different meanings in hopes to sound professional or learned but at the end of the day the word carries whatever definition it has as it been. The real estate industry in itself contains a lot of jargons that can be mixed up. People within the industry have a better grip on what their jargon means in order to use them in the proper context.

In a conversation between two photographers, I will be almost always certain that they say what they mean and mean what they say. However, for the general public, photography and editing terms have to be clear to set expectations between client and photographer. Of course, we do not want our clients to say they want this, and we give them that just because of a communication misalignment.

Two of the most misconstrued terms in photography are editing and manipulation. To get a better grasp of the difference between photo editing and photo manipulation, we go through the distinctive traits of each. Some examples will help set apart what these two terms mean and more importantly learn how to educate people who may be mixing these up.

What is Real Estate Photo Editing?

Photo editing real estate images is the first and foremost set of skills that are enough to produce an improvement to the photo. Editing is also similar to an enhancement where there is a visible difference from the raw shot to the edited photo. The key words to remember when photo editing real estate pictures is the realism or accurate representation to the real thing. Note that whatever people see in the pictures is what they are expecting when they personally tour the property. In this regard, it is safe to say that realty editor makes the picture look closer to how the human eye will perceive it because cameras cannot adjust to the range the way eyes do.

  1. Techniques that can tell apart if an image is edited is the adjustment in color. More often than not, colors are made to be livelier that what they are in the raw image. For instance, an interior wall with a nice olive shade of green is covered by the glare of the sunlight through the windows. Real estate photo editing endeavors to bring out the colors by adjusting it and at the same time, bringing us to the second point which is lighting.
  2. Illumination is important. Over lighting or under lighting a photo will surely undermine the beauty that is in the photo. Editing will even out the light in the image and allowing any adjustment to the overall brightness and visibility of the photo.
  3. Retouching can also be considered part of editing as most procedures for photo editing real estate images include the changes and quality checks after wards. Retouching is also a term not to be confused with editing as this is the last step in most real estate editing procedures. It is a process which checks the photo for any localized areas that were missed during the earlier process of enhancement. It also treads on checking brightness, colors, shadows, blemishes, unwanted small objects, and the likes.

Concrete examples of photo editing include exterior shots that have the sky made brighter or replaced with a sunny weather or an interior whose glaring windows were adjusted to even out the light and show the magnificent garden view.

What is Real Estate Photo Manipulation?

The difference now of real estate photo manipulation from photo editing real estate pictures is that manipulation takes the changes to a whole new level.

  1. It edits entire backgrounds to make the subject of the photo look like it is in a different setting. An extreme example would be taking a property’s exterior photo and manipulating it to look like it was on the moon. A little more down to earth would be setting the house in a snowy background to make it look like a home in the middle of a snow field.
  2. Manipulation also means putting things that were not there before. A more common example is furniture staging. On a stock photo perhaps in your computer are images of furniture that can be stitched into the living room in the absence of real furniture during the photo shoot. Another common practice is overlaying TVs or putting fires into fireplaces to create an impression of attraction and liveliness.

Such visualization can help you achieve what you want a photo to look like. However, do note that for real estate photos, manipulation is done less frequently than editing because of the attempt to maintain a realistic representation. Manipulation works with combining 2 photos together which if it the other photo does not exist within the context of the property will make no sense. Most real estate photo manipulation needs will most likely be done for advertising purposes, to create logos for the real estate company or simply to entice, but not mislead.


The short answer is yes that real estate photo editing is different from real estate photo manipulation. The longer answer is that real estate photo editing is the basic skills that ensure photos are processed and are worthy of being sent over to your client. It ensures that the photo is vibrant, it looks realistic, and can communicate with the potential buyer. Real estate photo manipulation on the other hand is the altering of backgrounds, completely bringing an object into a different world, and whose purpose is to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. More often, real estate photo manipulation is done for advertorial purposes of a company, done less frequently, where real estate photo editing is done for listing/selling and is more common. Learning the distinction can mean a whole world of difference especially when talking to clients. They will normally indicate what they want and if every you do catch a whiff of something that does not smell right, then you are in a good position to clarify what they want with the definition of these two in mind.


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