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Preparing Your Images for MLS and Printing

Published: 29/04/2019

Jennifer, from Oakville, ON, Canada, asks:

I’m a bit confused about resizing images. I’m not exactly sure about color space terminology and what a good "DPI" is for MLS. It’s my sense that MLS requirements for web pics are different from region to region across my area (I’m in central Canada) and I’m assuming it’s the same in the US. And then there’s the print requirements for those clients who want to do hard-copy cards/brochures. I’ve tried doing the Google thing but after going down a few rabbit holes, I’m even more confused. Hoping you can help!

Thanks for the questions, Jennifer. I’m not fully-versed on the finer points of printing and resizing, so I’m really hoping that others in our great community will chime in with their knowledge/advice. However, to get the conversation going, I will share what’s worked for me. First, I think your statement about there being regional differences in MLS requirements is an accurate one. It’s also my sense that each MLS makes their requirements pretty clear to real estate agencies/brokerages. It’s important to be aware of what these dimensions are because if you don’t follow them, you’ll be opening up your images to being manipulated by the MLS. So, probably the easiest thing is simply to ask the office manager of a brokerage/agency you’ve done some work for and get the straight goods on their specific requirements regarding dimensions. As for resolution, it's my understanding that these are only affected by file dimensions, DPI/PPI (dots/pixels per inch) and compression. My web administrator once told me that anything over 72DPI, for use on the web is a waste. So, I’ve always stuck with that advice and I’ve used that number for resizing my images (whether it be for resizing my client’s MLS photos or for those images I place in my website galleries) and I haven’t had a problem.

As for your question about print, it will depend on what’s at play. If you’re doing printing for your client, and you’re using your own home printer or perhaps a printer at Staples (or some place like that), then I think using sRGB is the way to go. However, whenever I’ve used a commercial printer, they’ve required CMYK--apparently, it’s the industry standard to do 4-color printing in magazines, newspapers, and various types of flyers. Keep in mind that color space/profiles do not affect the resolution of an image; they only affect how the colors are handled/encoded. Commercial printing shops almost always require 300DPI photos for best quality.

Anyway, I would love to hear from the community on this one. Please chime in and give Jennifer some input... and me, too! I’d love to learn more about this topic.

Tony Colangelo

6 comments on “Preparing Your Images for MLS and Printing”

  1. First dpi which stands for dot per inch is referring to the dot screen used in printing presses for 4 color printing or less (there is some black and white printing that uses 3 or 2 colors as well as black to get a richer black and white image). But that printing press, as opposed to inkjet printers, needs a CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and "K" for Black) which is often achieved by saving the images as a TIFF or even as a CMYK PSD file.

    But for the Internet, it's better to go by pixels. My MLS office here that all my client use has the recommendation for 1800x1200 pixel size, I use Bridge to render that and Bridge used the Photoshop engine to achieve it. I can gang the sizing and it puts all my reduced images into a JPEG folder that I can then just rename for my client. You can call it Web Ready or MLS images or whatever makes sense to your client.

    But all my client have some print requirement; some just a few small ads in the local paper or real estate magazines, others also produce glossy brochures for certain high end properties and need 300 dpi images since that is fairly standard dot pattern for 4 color printing. So I then just change my PSDs into full resolution JPEGs. The client's graphic designer and/or their printer will then take those high res JPEGs and convert them to what is needed for the particular presses being used. Newspaper work is generally less than 300 dpi while glossy definately needs to the 300 dpi for sharpness.

    Now understand that with 4 color printing presses the image is turned into dots with the different colors having their own dots that over lap each other and depending on the side of the dots, create the colors of the spectrum. Magenta and Yellow, for example, creating orange, Cyan and Yellow creating the Green and so on. The inks allow light to pass through them, which hits the paper and bounces back again so the eye sees the illumination of the resulting color. So the 3 color RGB has to be converted into 4 color CMYK. So as you can imagine, there can be color shifts as computers first have to juggle to competing color systems, then the press guy has to squeeze the right another inks so that the color are fairly true to the original image. But it will never be the same.

    However for web use, the images are back lit and can remain in their RGB form. Their problem is that while you may have perfect color balance in the image, each monitor will display the images differently depending on the monitor, it's settings, contrast, color balance, saturation level etc. At least with printing, once you have seen and approved the proofs, the rest of the run will always be the same no matter who sees it or where given the variations in the light sources under which it is viewed.

    Remember too that in printing, the images is made up of over lapping dots often with white space between them. Try viewing a newspaper of magazine with a magnifying glass. But with computers, the pixels are square with no overlapping or white space between them. There was a time when monitors only had 256 different colors they could display, a nightmare for photos. For some time now, most monitors will display millions which makes our jobs a lot easier. So for web use supplying JPEGs to a pixel size fits right into what is needed. When you sharpen a pixel based image, what is happening is that the outside outline of the pixel is made a touch darker or a lot which defines the pixel more, it does not actually make the image a higher resolution. So we have an "apparent" sharper image. And it works.

    I hope that helps. For us photographers, we really only have to provide a high resolution. JPEG and a low or smaller pixel count, version for our clients. It's best to contact the board that your client uses and find our their requirements so you provide an image that can be sucked up and used as is by the MLS rather than have it undergo image resizing my the MLS computers. It will always look better if it has not had to be processed by them.

  2. Some photographers simply supply supply images in two sizes and let agents sort out resizing them or, most likely, just upload images to their local MLS and let the (horrible) software they use resize the images. Unfortunately, I've never been able to talk to anybody at any MLS that could tell me what the pixel dimensions are for their system. The usual answer is to just upload image at least "this" big and no bigger than "this" and it will work. If you can upload images exactly to the maximum dimensions, the quality is much better. If the agents you work with can't get a definitive answer and YOU don't have accesses to the MLS, sit down with them and find the largest images you can on the MLS and see what the size is. You can do that by copying one and opening it up in a photo editor or right-clicking to display the image in its own window which will sometimes tell you in the title bar how large the image is. 1,024, 1,152 and 2048 are common widths. You could see some as small as 800 or 852. BTW, DPI/PPI makes no difference unless you are printing, so don't worry about it. You are only interested in the pixel dimensions. A 3,000px wide image being printed on a printer that prints at 300DPI yields an image 10" wide. On a computer screen, the size gets manipulated by the browser and the HTML code to scale the page to fit the window you have open.

    I supply images in 5 resolutions as standard and will supply one or two more if requested. Local MLS, Trulia (same as overlapping MLS), Zillow, Realtor and a high resolution set for printing as a separate download. A couple of customers request images for their websites or for HUD (Housing and Urban Development properties in the US). With Lightroom presets, it's very simple to output any resolution the customer wants and LR will multi-thread the tasks so one export doesn't have to finish before you start the next one. Agents love me for providing all of the image sets. All they have to do is grab the photos from the appropriate folder and upload them. It's one of those services that costs only a few minutes but provides a ton of value.

    Everything I do now is in sRGB color space. If the customer's print shop needs a particular resolution, file format or color space, I can accommodate them but none of them have asked. Make sure your customers know that all they have to do is ask if they need something custom. The print files I provide are 3,000px X 2,000px(ish) and are more than sufficient for an 8"x10" print. I could send higher res files, but I've opted to reduce the size to save time uploading and downloading. For a flyer, the photos will be reduced anyway so multiple images can be put on a single page. A couple of times a broker wanted the biggest file he could get for a poster. It was no problem to forward the couple of images he wanted at the maximum resolution that I had. Most of the time, customers don't even download the archive with the print images.

  3. I supply full size and 1800x1200. Rmls will resize even to the same size. This sounds as though it wouldn't matter but they also run a sharpening routine so I think it's better to never supply the exact size (used to be 640x480, but not any more) as they will screw it over anyway, if what you supply is larger then they will publish then you have a better chance of still having a nice, sharp version posted after they run their auto routines on them..

  4. Hello Jennifer, et al
    I will give you the layman's version since many of the photographic terms are confusing. Starting with the camera. Most of the DSLR cameras are going to record images at 300 dpi (dots per inch). Most of them are going to offer 3 levels of size. Small, Medium & Large. For 99% of what is done in real estate marketing, you can shoot at the small level. This will be large enough to use on the MLS by a fair margin. As was previously provided by Tony. I do not disagree with anything Tony offered. You do not need to be an agent to get the specific dimensions required by the MLS(s). In most cases, if you sent your images at full size to your agent, they would be larger than your agent would need. If your MLS likes a size of 1500 pixels X 1000 Pixels (though they are not likely to specify the height (1000 in this case) because of the different aspect ratios (get your fill of this at https://calculateaspectratio.com/. My Nikon shoots at 4000 x 2672 while others shoot at 4000x3000. LSS, if your MLS asks for a width of 1500 X 1000, you should send your clients images that size only coming from you they will still be 300 dpi. The MLS will get the images from your client at 1500x1000 but typically, the MLS software is going to downsize the image to 72 dpi which will be excellent for the MLS. The mistake often made by agents is they don't save the images you send them and when they get ready to print, they use the images from the MLS. When they put these images on a flyer, they are going to be too small so they resize the images to the size you sent them and they look horrible because they have stretched the pixels trying to go from 72 dpi back to 300 dpi. Summary:
    Get MLS width requirement i.e. 1500 Pixels. Send that size to your clients at 300 dpi. Save the initial images at camera size in case they want to publish to a magazine. Not sure how to put an example on here so if you need to see what resizing does, i can email an example. (Web 72 dpi - Print 300 dpi)

  5. I've been delivering two folders as follows (export setting pre-sets from Lightroom):
    "For Web" folder: jpeg, sRGB quality 100, 1800x1200 pixels, resolution 72, standard screen sharpening
    "Hi-Res for brochures up to 12 inches" folder : jpeg, AdobeRGB, quality 90, Longe edge 3600 pixels, resolution 300, sharpen for glossy paper standard
    These are basically the Sotheby's submission specs. The only times I've had to deliver something different is in special cases where the client was making a poster or book or something that would look better with the bigger native files size.
    Also the resolution that you deliver your files in doesn't really matter. What's important for the photographer to pay attention to is how many pixels wide and tall is the file delivered.

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