How to Avoid Bad Virtual Staging (With Photos)

Examples of bad virtual staging

In the fast-paced world of real estate marketing, virtual staging has become a popular tool for showcasing properties online and boosting listing engagement. The numbers back this up.  A recent report from the National Association of Realtors indicates that almost half of buyers' agents now recognize the value of virtual staging, a number that is expected to increase.

However, you might still have some reservations about giving virtual staging a shot.

Chances are you've stumbled upon a few comically bad virtual staging attempts in your realtor groups, showing that there's definitely some less-than-stellar virtual staging out there. Instead of helping you sell the property, it’s making it stand out for all the wrong reasons. These awkward and unrealistic digitally staged properties often result from the use of budget-friendly, low-quality software.

On the other end of the spectrum lies the risk of perfection — you don't want to give the impression that you're misrepresenting the property's true condition. When faced with older, outdated homes, many realtors are tempted to enhance the property photos with more than just adding virtual furniture. 

Now, I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with that. I mean, here at, we also provide virtual renovations as a service and they've been shown to be a highly effective marketing tool for selling under-construction homes or flip projects.

But the problem lies when such changes aren't disclosed beforehand. Picture this scenario: potential homebuyers find a property they love online, the photos show a beautifully renovated space, and the price seems like a steal. They visit the property in person, only to realize it looks nothing like the photos. This lack of transparency shatters the trust between the realtor and the buyers, making it hard for the buyers to see the property's potential.

To help you avoid misrepresentation and other bad virtual staging pitfalls, here's an overview of what we'll cover in this article:

Avoiding Virtual Staging Mistakes: Expert Tips

Here are some practical tips to help you make sure your virtual staging looks fantastic.

1. Choose High-Quality Images

To kick off your virtual staging project on the right foot, opt for high-resolution photos of the property. Keep in mind that professional photography is not necessary as you can achieve great results using just your iPhone.

Don’t worry if your photos aren’t perfect. We have the tools to elevate them to a professional real estate standard. Our image enhancement service can address various issues to ensure your virtually staged photos are flawless:

  • Enhance brightness and contrast
  • Straighten any crooked images
  • Sharpen the details
  • Adjust white balance for accuracy
  • Improve the appearance of the lawn
  • Introduce blue skies for a vibrant touch

2. Advanced Software is a Must

When it comes to virtual staging, the software you use is essential in determining the quality, whether you're opting for a do-it-yourself approach or a done-for-you service.

If you want to go the DIY route, it's best to avoid free 3D modeling or design software since they usually can't offer the level of customization or realism needed for impressive results.

Likewise, when selecting a virtual staging provider, be sure to review their portfolio to gauge the quality of their work. It's a good idea to test out the service as well. Many providers offer 1-2 free virtual staging credits upon signing up, which is a standard industry practice. This is a great way to assess if the quality meets your expectations.

An example of high-quality virtual staging of a master bedroom
An example of high-quality virtual staging produced with top-tier software

When evaluating virtual staging providers, consider the following factors to assess the quality of their work:

  1. Lighting Cohesion: Look for virtual staging that blends seamlessly with the original photo's lighting, creating a consistent visual atmosphere.
  2. Shadows and Reflections: Check if the software accurately renders shadows and reflections to mimic real-world lighting conditions, enhancing the authenticity of the staged scene.
  3. Texture and Detail: Confirm that the software provides intricate textures resembling real furnishings to enhance the visual appeal and realism of the staging.
  4. Scale and Proportion: Ensure that virtual elements are accurately scaled and proportioned to fit naturally within the space, contributing to a convincing presentation.
  5. Extensive 3D Furniture Library: A diverse selection of high-quality 3D furniture models in various styles allows for versatile and engaging virtual staging scenarios that resonate with potential buyers.

3. Keep Things Transparent

Virtual staging technology has advanced so much that it's getting harder to distinguish between real and virtual furniture in photos. You want potential buyers to understand that the property they're viewing will be unfurnished, and the virtually staged photos are meant to showcase its potential. Otherwise, they might end up feeling disappointed when they see it in person, which is not the outcome we're aiming for.

At, we've made it simple for our clients to disclose that the photos have been virtually staged. After receiving your staged photos, you can add a custom disclaimer or watermark to them with ease.

A screenshot of showing where clients can add their disclaimers that the photos have been virtually staged

Likewise, if you're making significant alterations to the property such as removing or adding fixtures like built-in cabinetry or an in-ground pool, you can include a "virtually renovated" disclaimer. To ensure transparency, it's advisable to provide a side-by-side comparison with the property's actual condition, allowing the client to make an informed decision about moving forward with the property.

Bad Virtual Staging Examples

There's no shortage of poorly executed virtual staging out there, so here are some of the most egregious examples sourced from the internet.

When searching for 3D design software, it's important to know that Photoshop is definitely not the right tool for the job. However, that doesn't stop some people from attempting to use it for virtual staging.

3 examples of bad virtual staging using photoshop
Sourced from Reddit and X

A common issue arises when utilizing virtual staging software that lacks advanced features, leading to less-than-photorealistic results. These challenges stem from technical constraints within the software, such as inadequate shadow rendering, indistinct textures, and low-quality furniture 3D models that fail to meet the desired level of realism.

An example of bad virtual staging of a master bedroom
Sourced from Reddit

On top of the technical flaws, the staging in question lacks design finesse. The furniture placement appears off, with the nightstand awkwardly positioned away from the wall and two lamps clustered together, creating a disjointed and less-than-ideal visual composition.

An example of bad virtual staging misrepresenting the actual state of the property
Sourced from Reddit

The virtual staging showcased above serves as a stark illustration of how misrepresentation can occur when alterations to the property's actual condition are not disclosed in the listing. In this instance, both the walls and flooring have been digitally altered, potentially misleading prospective buyers about the property's true appearance and features.

Good Virtual Staging Examples

Outstanding virtual staging is all about seamlessly blending digital elements into real-world settings to create a captivating visual experience. The magic lies in the meticulous attention to detail, from lifelike textures and lighting to perfectly scaled furnishings that fit harmoniously in the space.

A winning virtual staging setup strikes the balance between style and functionality, ensuring that the staged environment not only looks beautiful but also feels realistic and inviting to potential buyers. It's more than just decoration; it's about crafting a narrative, evoking emotions, and allowing buyers to envision the true potential of a property.

high-quality virtual staging of a children's bedroom
good virtual staging of a kitchen
high-resolution virtual staging of a condo living room

In terms of technical quality, these examples showcase top-notch photorealism. The furniture lighting harmonizes perfectly with the overall lighting in the photos, ensuring a seamless and cohesive look. Realistic shadows and reflections enhance the depth and authenticity of the scenes, while the diverse furniture textures are clearly defined, adding to the overall lifelike feel of the virtual staging.

In Conclusion...

If not handled properly, virtual staging can sometimes lead to misrepresentation. It's crucial to avoid pitfalls such as unrealistic staging attempts and lack of transparency in alterations. By focusing on high-quality images, advanced software, and transparent practices, real estate professionals can ensure that their virtual staging efforts effectively showcase properties and resonate with potential buyers.

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