Real Estate Photography Tips & Information
Preparing Photos for MLS
Before uploading your photographs to MLS there are several things you can do to
help them look better.
For starters always set your camera to shoot at the largest size and highest quality settings possible. For more shooting tips please see the Taking Real Estate Photos tutorial.
After transferring your photos to your computer you will need some photo editing
software to enhance your digital photographs. This tutorial focuses on resizing
photos and you should be able to perform the editing procedures discussed in this article with
most photo editing software. Please refer to the documentation included with the
software you are using for more information and specific steps.
Photoshop is the standard and most used professional image editing software but it is probably overkill for most REALTORS. Plus it has a steep learning curve. Check the software that came with your camera, or preinstalled on your computer, to see if you already have the photo editing software you need. If you don’t have any photo editing software or want to try something new here are some free and inexpensive options to try.
- Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
- Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
- GIMP – Windows, Linux, MAC, and more – Free
- IrFanView – Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista – Free
- Picasa – Windows, Linux – Free
Crop vs. Letterbox
Unfortunately most MLS systems use photo dimensions and aspect ratios that do not match the photos created by most modern digital cameras. This leaves you with two choices when uploading photos – you can crop your photos to match the MLS dimensions or let MLS add a border creating a “letterbox” effect around your original photo.
Full Image With Letterbox Effect
These photos are displayed at the smaller size most consumers will view them at
The full image letterbox method will do a better job of maintaining the sense of larger space created by wide angle shots but will have a smaller actual image size and lose some detail.
When taking photos in portrait orientation you will almost always have to use the full image letterbox method. Think of small bathrooms or tight staircases. It seems most MLS systems were designed assuming landscape orientation of photos so your portrait orientated photos will have a maximum height that matches the other “landscape” photos resulting in a much smaller image.
If you want to crop your photos to match the dimensions used by MLS it can easily be done by using the Crop Tool found in most photo editing software.
Each option has it’s own set of benefits and tradeoffs so you’ll need to decide which method you prefer. You may decide to crop some photos and let MLS add a border
for others, but personally I think the online listing presentation looks better when all photos are using the same consistent style.
Size & Resolution
Before uploading your photos you should resize your images to match the dimensions and resolution used by your MLS. For MLSPIN, the MLS in Massachusetts the largest size photos are displayed with a width of 512 pixels and a height of 400 pixels at 96 pixels per inch (ppi). Although, most images are displayed to consumers at 256 x 200. If you are posting images to another MLS please contact them to confirm what size your photos should be.
Resizing the photos yourself using photo editing
software will almost always get better results compared to the automated conversion process used by your MLS when uploading photos. Please see the documentation for your photo editing software for
the correct steps to change the image size.
If your original photographs are smaller than 512 x 400 there will be a noticeable decrease in image quality when they are enlarged to the larger size so it is always best to shoot at the largest size possible.
When preparing your photos for MLS you should save them in the JPEG format. Depending on your operating system and software a JPEG file will have a .JPG or .JPEG file extension.
JPEG files are compressed files which allow for smaller file sizes with very little loss in image quality. However, each time you resave a file as a JPEG there will be an increase in the loss of quality. By the third or fourth time you save a file the decreased quality will be noticieable. For this reason you should always keep a back up of your original file before you start preparing your photos for MLS. This way if you need to start over you will have a clean version of the file to work with.
When saving your file there should be an option to set the quality. For web use there is no need to save at any higher quality than Quality 6 – Medium. Using a higher quality setting will not make much if any difference in how the photo is displayed, but result in a much larger file that takes longer to download.