Five Things To Make Sure Your Photos Are Looking Their Best

January 14th, 2010

I noticed that released a iPhone app yesterday and downloaded it and used the app to browse through all the listings in the neighborhood I thought I’d take a look at the site directly. Since we quit using in about 2004 I’d not looked at for a very long while.

I was amazed by the relatively unusual layout the site now has. On the majority of listings that I looked at used just 4 landscape photos in a square. You can have more than four photos but I see why hardly anyone does. The four photo layout makes a very strong presentation. Listings that have any photos in portrait mode look awful. In almost 100 listings I paged through I saw no tour links. The lack of tours is probably because charges an extra fee for posting tours.

There are several problems that can occur with the layout. Portrait mode photos are a disaster. They look awful. And if any of the four primary photos are sized a little wrong the nice symmetrical white space that separates the photos goes all wacky.

This little tour reminded me of why it’s important to spend time studying the site you are going to display your listing photos on. This kind of geeky presentation analysis of how photos are displayed is something that very few agents are going to do. I think it’s something that real estate photographers should be doing. Here are the kind of things I mean:

  1. Have a discussion with your client about which site(s) are important to them and make sure you know how to size photos to look good on that site.
  2. Spend the time to become familiar with the primary site(s) you client is going to be displaying their photos on. Usually this is going to be their broker’s site and perhaps of it’s popular in the local market. Sure, photos will be syndicated to tons of other sites but an agent’s clients will primarily be looking at the agent’s brokers site.
  3. Understand what different sites do to portrait mode photos. It’s never good. Almost every real estate site I’ve seen mangles portrait mode. That’s why I recommend you just don’t bother with portrait mode for real estate sites. Landscape always works better on real estate sites.
  4. If your client is going to use it’s worthwhile having a discussion about the four primary photos. Help them decide which are the strongest photos. The photos should include the front exterior, and the strongest other three rooms. The shot above from wastes the top right position with a redundant photo.
  5. Take the time to look at your photos on your client’s site(s) to see what they look like so you can spot problems that arise from sizing or orientation or downsizing.

I’d like to be able to give you a set of guidelines but there are literally thousands of broker sites and they all have their little quirks and wacky behavior. Each site takes some research and trial an error to figure out what looks best.

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14 Responses to “Five Things To Make Sure Your Photos Are Looking Their Best”

  • I never shoot portrait unless they ask for a shot like that

    Also, on the web prepped photos, I make one set at 750×500, and another set at 640×480 for mls. It doesn’t take that much extra time either

  • One thing that is good to remind/ educate Realtors about

    All of the photos from THEIR MLS are ported over to their listing automatically. If they do not have the Enhanced Package, they get four photos and nothing more. They have no choice in WHICH four photos appear (it’s probably the first four on the MLS).

    IF they have the enhanced packaged, all of their MLS photos will port over. If their MLS allows 12 photos, all 12 photos will come over AT THE ORIGINAL RESOLUTION FROM THE MLS. If their MLS allows 30 photos, 25 will port over (also at their original MLS resolution). Our MLS photos are 290 x 218 pixels, and THOSE are the photos (at that size) that end up on! And they look horrible! allows FULL SIZE photos. I resize a set of photos specifically for and instruct the agent to DELETE all of the photos that were ported over from their MLS and REPLACE them with the higher quality, full size photos that I sent over. (when you look at photos, you have the option of viewing full size – almost always there is no difference because agents don’t swap out the photos!).

    It’s a little thing, but it makes a BIG difference in the presentation.

  • I shoot portrait mode occasionally because high-quality printed brochures are important in my market. I always shoot a landscape of the same space for the MLS.

    How sad is it that in 2010 the U.S. real-estate business refuses to make the most of Internet marketing? I specifically refer to the fact that when a portrait mode frame best represents a space, that simple option is not practical. Maybe by the year 2050 it will be possible to properly display a portrait mode photo on a U.S. MLS site.

    The fact that MLSes destroy photo quality by hideous destructive compression is justified (I suppose) by trying to keep data storage and bandwith costs under control. But the lack of flexibility to properly use portrait mode photos is just plain lazy.

    I can find better site for used cars than I can for MLS .

  • Owning our own public “MLS-Like” website, allows us to at least control how our pix are displayed on ONE site. It sure helps us look our best. I can see where it’s tough to code flexible for the different dimensions. There’s more than one way to handle that issue. I’d guess didn’t imagine portrait orientations their layout.

    /kelly thomas

  • One reason I only shoot landscape orientation for real estate is because I’ve read several times that alternating orientations in a slide show is distracting to the viewer. I want my viewers to be as deeply immersed images as possible.

  • Fred is right… takes the first 4 pictures from MLS in alphabetical order which is usually why it is a backyard, bath, and bedroom, etc. Just as a tip, though, you can email with the 4 photos you want to replace them with and they will manually do so in about an hour.

  • I check a half dozen listings in Bellevue, WA and all of them had an extra button in the middle of the four to link to as many as 25 photos.

  • This is just another reason why agents should also be using a tour or video. That way, they still have photos that haven’t been re-compressed or re-sized based on different sites they’re using.

  • Many small bathrooms need a portrait view to do it justice. Many even need what I call a portrait panorama (i.e., skinny tall photo).

  • This is very useful information to me. I am coming back into RE Photography after almost 1o years, and am looking to re-learn. I started with slide film and strobes w/ 32″ umbrellas. Digital is all different I am finding. Can anyone suggest a useful site for settings & recommended equpiment for Professional RE Shoots?

  • MLS 29170429 on is an example of how a Realtor chose a portrait as one of their primary first 4 photos. Its also includes more in their 15 posted.

  • Good Points! I like how you used point number one to stress making your client happy. Too many photographers feel that they are the authority. I for one think that if we aim to please the client first, we will end up with more clients.

  • When shooting in portrait orientation what is the best way to add black bars to the sides of the image so that it doesnt get strecthed in RMLS?

  • @Mark- In Photoshop or PSE: 1. create an landscape image with the aspect ratio your MLS likes, 2. fill with background color you want 3. Place the portrait mode image on the new landscape more image 4. save to jpg.

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