Preparing Photos For The MLS: Adobe RGB, ProPhotoRGB and sRGB

January 2nd, 2013

sRGBCal Mitchener of Charlotte, NC sent me the two photos to the right that demonstrate a problem he was having uploading photos to his local MLS. The left side shows how the image looked that he was sending to his client and the right side showed what the image looked like after the agent uploaded the image to the MLS. What’s going on here?

What’s a color profile:

  • The International Color Consortium (ICC) has a standard called a ICC Profile that defines the rules for managing color on i/o devices such as cameras, scanners, printers and monitors.
  • Color profiles you should know about are:
    • Adobe RGB and ProPhotoRGB: Color profiles used in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – primarily for preparing images for print.
    • sRGB: (stands for Stupid RGB) the color profile used by most web browsers to display images on the web.

The Problem:

  • When Cal exported the photos for upload to the MLS he exported the photos with ProPhotoRGB color profile.
  • MLSs typically assume files are sRGB and if they aren’t the colors end up looking washed out like Cal’s does above.

The Solution:

  • Pay special attention to make sure the images you create that are destined to be uploaded to an MLS or other website are converted to the sRGB colorspace when you export them from Lightroom or save them in Photoshop.
    • In Photoshop when you “Save for Web” make sure the Convert to sRGB check box is checked.
    • In Lightroom during Export make sure the Colorspace is set to sRGB in the File Settings section of the Export dialogbox.

Thanks Cal for sharing this issue with everyone!


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10 Responses to “Preparing Photos For The MLS: Adobe RGB, ProPhotoRGB and sRGB”

  • Good article, and a worthy point.

    I’ve had the same issue before with uploading and sending to agents.
    It is now my practice to ‘soft-proof’ everything on-screen in sRGB after adjustments are made before it is exported and sent to the client. That way I can see the image as it will look on an sRGB monitor / printer, and know what the client is going to see is correct.

  • I’m having the same problem with my local MLS. My 5D II and III are both set to sRGB (by the way, “stupid”? – I’m pretty sure it’s “standard”) and all editing and exporting is by way of sRGB yet the 800×600 photos somehow become smaller in size (for example, the 150kb file I send to the agent is now just over 100kb and the differences are quite visible as the ones on the site are more pixelated and blue skys show banding). I wonder if altering the photo infringes on my copyright rights. Reducing the quality of my photos doesn’t make me look good.

  • I shoot and edit in sRGB because 90% of the work I do for real estate is destined for web viewing. I realise I am ‘throwing away’ colour data but I don’t think this is a major issue for listing properties online using different portals. if the work was destined for my own website, or for a client who reproduced the images range of media then I would shoot using a broader gamut.

    Incidentally, what is the MLS?

  • Ha! This happened to me about a year ago. Somehow, I (at least I think I did) changed the sRGB setting to pro photo on my upload plugin to zenfolio. It also just happened that the Twin Cities MLS in MN changed the program they used to display photos on MLS so, of course, I was suggesting (blaming) that was the culprit. The pictures turned out muddy on their website, but not on zenfolio’s. Through a week trying to figure out what happened, the wife of one of the technicians who happened to be a photographer pegged the problem.

    The tech people and the head guy were wonderful to work with and we all chalked it up to a great learning experience.

    1 funny (or sad) thing. None of my clients noticed the difference and the techs thought that the pictures looked great.

    I know through experience, people do know the difference even though they may not be able to express why they like one picture over another.


  • @Dave, IMHO it is better to shoot in one of the larger color spaces that your camera has built in. That way, if you need one of your images for print or other more demanding purpose later on, you have something to work with. It’s easy enough to dumb-down your images to sRGB as you process.

    The issue you are having with the pixelated images and changing file sizes is not related to color space, it is a “feature” of jpeg compression and how your MLS handles the file. Each time a jpeg is saved it is re-compressed, and the quality gets worse. The level of jpeg compression also has a large effect, and as you have noticed, once your files have been stepped on that way, the difference is noticeable. Claiming jpeg compression as a copyright violation would be a tempting, but probably futile pursuit.

  • Great information, Larry.
    I work with TopazLabs and I should now save a copy of that work also one for the web as sRGB in E9 to upload into the local MLS.

  • Yup… Learned this lesson the hard way. One of the downsides to using ProPhotoRGB or Adobe. Even though it’s not as “pretty” on your monitor, it’s better to use industry standard sRGB to avoid this problem.

  • @ Carl Stone – The amount of colors available gets even worse when you go to print. Even the sRGB color space is exponentially larger than the tiny 4 color CMYK space used to print.

  • I’ve recently been seduced by the gorgeous Profoto colour space and experienced the disappointment at seeing the result when converting the image to sRGB. It’s like seeing and ordering a gourmet meal and being served up McD’s. Makes me want to boost saturation all over again to compensate.

  • I’m really late to this discussion, but I seem to be running into a problem where agents are obsessed with making a space seem bright and airy. We all know, dark spaces don’t sell, but one lightened my pics and created what I think is a hot mess. Yes, light and bright sells to some extent, but when you can’t define the space well and the pics become pixilated and bright yellow replaces wood tones, you’ve got a problem.

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