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What Size Photos Should Real Estate Photographers Deliver?

Published: 16/05/2018
By: larry

Last week, John asked about the size of photos he should deliver to his clients:

Yesterday I had an agent tell me the 800 x 600 pixels are too small. Up until now, no one really complained about it. He also said the minimum should be 1600 x 1200 but he prefers 2048 x 1536. What is the standard everyone is using today?

The problem with recommending a specific size is that MLSs run a wide variety of system software. Because of this, there is no such thing as a standard. Some MLS software does a good job at downsizing if you give them a bigger size than they like but in the past, MLS downsizing has been notorious for mangling photo files so the theory has always been that if you give them the exact size they want, they end up not touching the files during uploading. Here are my  recommendations for figuring out what size photos to upload to your MLS:

  1. Call your local MLS(s) and ask them what size (pixel dimensions) they recommend for photos that are uploaded to their MLS.
  2. Try to get them to tell you what pixel dimensions to use rather than a file size because it is the pixel dimensions that trigger their downsizing.
  3. For photos that will be displayed online, always deliver in the sRGB color space because this is the color space that all browsers use.

Some readers have told me that when they call their MLS, they have trouble getting photo specification information. Be aware that MLSs are set up to support their members (agents that pay them monthly fees) so explain that you are a photographer who supplies photos to their members and you are inquiring so you can better serve their members.

Today's real estate photo delivery standard is to deliver two sizes of photos, one set of photos sized for MLS upload (preferably exactly what works best for the particular MLS and another size for printing.

21 comments on “What Size Photos Should Real Estate Photographers Deliver?”

  1. I always deliver two sizes, 1500 long side and 3200 long side. The MLS wants 1500 long side.

    Now here is where I differ from every other photographer that I know. I do not restrict my ratios to "what comes out of the camera."

    Getting the best composition while documenting the homes best features, to me, becomes less of a challenge when I am free to chose the ratio, and I do. I don't ask permission I just do it. When shooting UWA lenses like most of us do, it aids composition to be able to cut out all that extra ceiling or trim distractions on the edges without cutting out important details on the adjacent sides. It allows the viewers eye to roam naturally where I want them to go. I freely choose 16-9 16-10 4-3 1-1 and free form. I chose whatever fits the composition. It's amazing how well this works and there are no "rules" saying you can't.

    So my friends break those chains of conformity that force you into 4-6 3-4 boxes. Try it you'll like it.

    Those are my recommendations...

  2. Frank - the annoyance of that, if I understand you correctly, is when the viewer has to adjust to where the next picture arrow is on some sideshows. Maybe those types of sideshows sent that common.

  3. May be able to avoid a call to MLS as many times the Realtor or their assistant may know. Typically, when they upload a photo to MLS it states the recommended size, usually in both pixels and MB. Ask them - which would apply to all clients on same MLS - otherwise you have to call MLS to ask. My MLS had evolved over the years from 600, the 800 and now 1500 and those on the older standard when looking at historical listings show as postage stamps. It also shows those Realtors not up with the times as they post postage stamps on current listings. I deliver 2 sizes - 1500px (MLS and Web) and full size (suggest for brochures/printing) and label the file name on Lightroom export "address" or "address-1500px" to tell the difference with the sequential number remains the same between the two. While pixel is preferred measurement, size may matter as well as it combines with pixel dimensions. My full size (typically 7821X5217px 4.8MB if not cropped in composition processing) flat out won't upload to MLS for them to downsize. While that size is overkill, when you naturally have that size, why take up additional hard drive space with a third group in the 3000px range.

  4. I agree with Frank. Good composition is key. Two-story spaces, powder room basins, grand stairways, don't fit the out of box rectangular aspect ratio or the MLS recommended sizes.

    However my Chicago area MLS wants 1980 x 1080 sized images, so I deliver 1080 on the long side of vertical images, but in some of their displays they crop or cut off the verticals to fit their small rectangle. They have a full-screen slideshow option that displays all images in full properly.

    I had been adding blank space on sides or top and bottom to fill out the images to fit their aspect ratio so that they don't get clipped by the MLS, but some clients objected "why don't my photos fill up the space?"... Plus the problem is that on some of the MLS displays they use a white page background and on the full-screen slideshow, they use black, so my added space looked odd whichever color I used to fill the space.

  5. 800 x 600 is really small. I provide clients with 2000x3000 @ 300dpi files. I try to keep them under 4mb in size. This accommodates most MLS systems, but still gives the client a large enough file if they wish to use the images for print material. However, when a client goes to their gallery within my website to access the photos, they are given several choices of what files size they would like to download other than the original. That eliminates the need for me to provide different sizes to different clients according to what MLS they use.

  6. I deliver two sizes to all, three sizes to some. I send the same as our MLS wants (@72dpi), then also Print size at 2700 pixel long edge (@300dpi) and Web size at 1024 long edge (@72dpi). I make the verticals come out with the same height as the horizontals, in terms of pixels, so the MLS show displays do NOT have the vertical of the smallest bathroom at twice the height of the gorgeous horizontal kitchen, etc. I use Dr Brown 123 to package images for shipping and run it once on verticals, and once on horizontals. DBrown will resize, apply whatever actions I need, rename each image and drop them into proper folders. DBrown123 is the same as Image Processor in Photoshop, but, does up to three outputs at one time. DBrown123 plugin is not supported ongoing, so when it stops working, I will probably switch to send just the print size. Unlike Frank, I am not that freeform, sounds fun. I am happy to get what works best when we talk through the shoot beforehand. Sometimes people want square, sometimes 16:9, most still want 4:3 and that is what I send most.

  7. Our MLS, NWMLS, says for "best viewing results" to load 1024 X 768px photos. That's pretty tiny by the time they get to sites like Zillow. Some of my 'top brokers' blow out the NWMLS photos on sites like Zillow and reload 2000px ones I furnish (makes a huge diff). For print 3500px at 300 ppi seems to work nicely.

  8. The real estate work that I do I always supply my clients with a folder of high res images 6000 X 4000 @ 300 DPI.
    I also supply the client with a folder of what I call MLS size which is 1080 on the tall (verticle) side @ 72 DPI.
    Never had a complaint and they love not having to interpolate the size themselves.
    BTW: I use a free resize program: FastStone Photo Resizer I find it quicker and easier to use.

  9. I send two sets of images.
    One MLS size that is the max current size allowed on the local MLS. (Currently 1280 on the long side)

    The other set is Full Size Hi Res version for my client's printing needs.

    Just simple Export presets out of LR into a Dropbox Folder then shared with my client.

  10. Resolution matters.
    I deliver one size.
    800 x 600 at 222 ppi (resolution).
    I used to also deliver a larger (print media) size, but my clients all tell me they use the RMLS images with zero problems, and prefer only working with one image.

  11. I deliver 5, yes 5, sizes. One each for the local MLS, Trulia, Zillow and Realtor plus a separate archive of 3,000px (long side) images for printing. It's easy to do with a LR preset and adds value to my services. Agents can just upload the images from the appropriate folder without having to change file sizes themselves for the best quality images on each listing site. dpi doesn't mean anything, it's the pixel dimensions that count.

    It's very difficult to find a MLS tech support person that can tell you what the maximum display size it. They will nearly always just tell you upload a file "no bigger than" something. I sat down with one of my customers and we uploaded a a file we knew was bigger than the displayed size and looked at what was posted on the MLS along with a sampling of images posted by others. It turns out the GAVAR MLS is 767pixels wide so it's no wonder they look bad and images that syndicate from there look bad too. I guess the good thing is that you can post as many images as you like. /sarcasm

    I have potential new customers sometimes ask for current listings to see how my images look so it's good to have the best image quality online. Real estate agents are rarely very good at image processing so I hate to leave it up to them. It's also sort of pointless to spend the time and effort to make good photos only to leave a critical step to a customer that doesn't know what they are doing.

  12. I, like Dave above use the the NWMLS but my software is set for 2880 X 2880. These come out as 2880 x 1920 JPGs. The MB size ranges from 4 to 6 megs.
    I've found that many agents really like the way they come out.
    As a side note, I have to amp up the brightness as the MLS finds a way to muddy up the shots.


  13. I just found out that HAR (Houston) requires 2048x1536 like some previous posters have mentioned. My question is for those sizing to 2048x1536: that obviously is a 4:3 picture ratio and not a 2:3 ratio which is standard full frame sensor size. Do you all seriously crop everything down to 4:3 or do you keep the 2:3 ratio full image and just resize the long side to 2048? at 2:3 the pixel dimensions are around 2048x1365. I just resized the images to 2:3 and 2048 long side and HAR accepted them.

  14. I have tried many different sizes but the issue I am running into is that when I view the photos on a site like after they are uploaded to the MLS, the photos are smaller and box shaped. I know they can get larger because I see others that go from arrow to arrow on the screen. Anyone have any insight as to what I might be doing wrong?


  15. @Jessica, There are a bunch of different MLS's in Florida. A listing is at the top of this page, "MLS-directory". You can call the office of the MLS that you are interested in getting photo specs from, but it's rare that you wind up talking with somebody that knows what they are. If you hear "just" upload this size, they don't know. If you aren't a member and have direct access, work with one of your customers and sit down with them at their computer and pull up some listings from the MLS and get the pixel dimensions of the largest images you find. The best bet is to look at listings with professional images as that photographer may be supplying images at the maximum size. The give-away is if the horizontal dimension is something common such as 1,024 or 2,048px. That isn't infallible. Until recently, the MLS in my area had a size of 767px x 511px and they've wound it up to 1,152px on the horizontal.

    As far as "required", an agent could likely upload images at 640x480 and they would be accepted. They'd look pretty bad especially if the system tried to apply a watermark and upsize them. I don't think any MLS has a requirement for good image quality. Agents just have to upload something.

  16. Photoshelter is a great resource for photographers. One of the nice things about it is after you've delivered the photos via a web gallery, the client can download from a selection of sizes that best suits their needs. Then you don't have to worry about it.

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