Photo editing is almost manditory online, although it go two ways. One, more "accurate" representations of the item at hand, or second, accentuate desirable characteristics. In the case of oriental rugs, we're talking about contrast and color/dye saturation...
We are big believers in the benefit of posting rugs online for selling and acquiring, but there are many people that use the online marketplace to their advantage. Almost every day we come across rugs for sale on the Internet that appear to have been modified in an image editing program. A seemingly common trend is to push the contrast up on the photos of rugs, which has a direct relationship to price, especially in antique Caucasian and Tribal rugs. Saturation of color in these types of rugs is a main selling point, and can multiply the selling price many times.
We have a lot of experience with image editing, especially in Adobe photoshop and Lightroom, and know how easy it is to bump up contrast and saturation. We also realize that many people don't realize how easy it is to manipulate images in editing programs, so we have created some before and afters to show you.
In the image below the left side is the before image and the right side is the after. As you can see, the before image is a bit hazy, which could be due to a wide variety of factors, from camera quality to actual appearance of the rug. Now when we opened this image in our image editor we started with the original image (on the left), and in less than 5 steps came out with the image on the right. This is a more conservative edit, with the contrast just being upped a medium amount.
The image below is what is possible when you take the previous edit and spend an extra 5 seconds. Again, the left is before and the right is after. As you can see, it is very easy to push the contrast to a level that, without seeing the actual rug, is very easy to believe.
We have looked through the feedback in multiple listings in which we thought the colors were off and saw reviews such as: "colors were very off, even for a computer pic" or "colors slightly more muted than in picture". It just goes to show that with a few simple steps you can easily fix any sort of color problems you are having with your rug. The best thing to do is ask the seller directly to what extent they've altered images. Asking for the originals, perhaps with outlying reference points of familiar toned objects in the picture will help ascertain true, original colors.
Also keep in mind that these image editing programs are very powerful tools and can be used for way more than just manipulating color. Take this picture below of a Laver Kerman Triclinium
carpet. Nothing on the carpet was edited that we know of, but if you take a look in the top right corner where the grass is, you can see how it appears to repeat. This is due to a tool called the clone tool, which allows you to literally clone parts of a picture. In this picture it was probably just used to cover something that got in the way of the photo that didn't need to be there, but it can easily be used to cover up repair spots, fix an uneven edge or fake symmetry.
Bottom line is, if you see hints to other sorts of photo editing, this may be an indication the image has been adjusted in other ways as well. From personal experience, we can say it would be extraordinarily unique for a Kerman from the vintage seen below to have such a high degree of contrast. Again, this will affect collectibility and in turn, perceived market value as well.
Photo editing by bumping contrast can not only affect the perceived color saturation, however, also disguise other aspects deterimental to purchase such as wear as well. For additional information about how to make more informed purchasing decisions, check out our Oriental Rug Archive, in addition to our Rug Forum to converse with the experts.