What You Need to Know About Uploading to MLSs

September 9th, 2009

One of the challenges of real estate photography is to prepare photos for upload to the local MLS in such a way that the uploaded photos look their best. A related consideration is that you’ll want the photos to also look great on your client’s broker site as well.

One of the evils you’ll have to live with is that every MLS is going to run your photos through an automatic “photo mangler” to make sure the photo specifications are whatever the MLS geeks feel is right. MLSs are different so I can’t tell you for sure what your MLS is going to do to your photos. If you are in the greater Seattle area (NWMLS ) you can upload any JPG up to 3 MB. Then, regardless of what the pixel width is the photo is it is reduced to 400 pixels wide (aspect ratio left alone) and then severely re-compressed (JPG compression). I recommend you take the time to research how your local MLS processes uploaded photos so you understand exactly what you are up against.

What can you do to make your photos will look their best? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Upload larger photos (many say twice the size) than you need: For example, upload 800 pixel wide if you know the MLS is going to downsize the finished photos to 400 pixels.
  2. Use the sRGB color space: sRGB is the default color space for the Internet so the MLS will end up converting to sRGB. Better you make the conversion than the MLS “photo mangler”.
  3. Upload photos that have 4×3 aspect ratio: Specifically I recommend 800x600x72. I talked to someone recently who’s photos were being distorted because after straightening verticals in PTlens they cropped the photos to an arbitrary aspect ratio. When the photos were uploaded to their MLS “photo mangler” forced the aspect ration to 4×3 causing distortion.
  4. As a last step in the workflow sharpen the photos for the web: You can use Photoshop for sharpening or the NIK sharpener plugin for Lightroom or just the sharpening built into Lightroom.

Even when you follow these steps the fact that the MLS systems are going through another JPG compression after you upload is going to make the photos look worse.

I highly recommend that you make a habit of looking at your photos on broker sites and the MLS if you can get access so you are aware of what the final photos look like. In the end, one of the biggest arguments for providing a tour/slide show with every shoot is to be able to present your photos better than the MLS and broker sites do.

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7 Responses to “What You Need to Know About Uploading to MLSs”

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  • What about the golden rule of sharpening at final output size?

  • @Anonymous- Yes, you got it, that’s exactly the point! You can’t sharpen at final output size cause the MLS is going to do their “photo mangling” thing and re-compress even if you give them the final size!

  • Can’t speak for MLS, but on most sites with auto photo resizing it’s best to upload actual size used at highest quality with sharpening, so no resizing done. For 3×2 images increase canvas size to make the height 4×3 (photoshop batch action) if that’s what the site uses which does leave a white border, but IMHOP better than a cropped or stretch photo

  • I’ve stopped sharpening automatically because I find it increases the file size beyond our MLS limits. Our MLS is Paragon 4.0 ( It messes with photos over 640 x 480 or larger than 32K.

    It would be interesting if a matrix of MLS programs were assembled with some basic photo standard info like 1) file size, 2) dimensions, and 3) user tips. I can’t imagine that there are that many programs out there.

    Larry, this might be a nice resource for this website to host.

  • Our Central Oregon MLS only allows 400 pixels wide, no larger than 3 MB. I’ve found that reducing the size in Photoshop to 400 pixels wide at 72 DPI works the best. I sharpen the photo, then use the “Save for web and device” option. I’ve tried other sizes, but this works the best.

  • The MLS I output for is Rappatoni. I called the company and asked what the limitations were and what the system would do to images. They are the same as Dylans, 400px wide and no limitation on length. I have found the sweet spot by outputting from light room with longest edge 400px@72DPI w/sharpen for screen. It seems that since the image meets the 400px wide or less that the image mangler skips over doing anything to them and just pushes them through as-is. My images look better than any on the MLS. Clear, sharp and no compression BS. I use other photographers uploads as another way to differentiate myself from the other photog’s in my area.

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