Photo orientatio​n for MLS and other real estate website platforms

Preparing Real Estate Photography for MLS Tips & Information

Almost all of my new Real Estate Agents get their official "don't take portrait style photos" email from me.

MLS,, facebook,, kijiji, etc are all set up to take "landscape" style photos.

I know it is tempting to turn the camera, but I recommend that you never take portrait photos for real estate property photos.

Often people take landscape photos until they hit a bathroom or bedroom door then, whoop, they turn their camera sideways and take a portrait photo (portrait is the up and down style photo you would take as if you were shooting the Calgary tower).

When you upload a portrait photo to these platforms, all it does, is reduce the size of the photo that is displayed on screen. For the most professional appearing listing, make all of your photos landscape (the way you would hold it if you were taking a photo of a limousine).

Before uploading your photographs to MLS there are several other things you can do to help them look better. For starters always set your camera to shoot at the largest size and highest quality settings possible. I recommend that you have a minimum file size of 1 MB.

Photo Editing Software
After transferring your photos to your computer you will need some photo editing software to enhance your digital photographs.

For free, you can use an online program like Picasa, or you can download inexpensive apps for your iphone, ipad, or mac on your home computer. Photoshop is the standard and most used professional image editing software but it is probably overkill for most REALTORS and is quite difficult to use the first time. You may already have the photo editing software you need pre-installed on your computer.

Unfortunately most MLS systems use photo dimensions and aspect ratios that do not match the photos created by most modern digital cameras. This leaves you with two choices when uploading photos - you can crop your photos to match the Calgary Real Estate Board MLS dimensions or let CREB MLS add a border creating a "letterbox" effect around your original photo.

Think of small bathrooms or tight staircases. It seems most MLS systems were designed assuming landscape orientation of photos so your portrait orientated photos will have a maximum height that matches the other "landscape" photos resulting in a much smaller image.

Most people think the online listing presentation looks better when all photos are using the same consistent style.

Size & Resolution
If your original photographs are smaller than 512 x 400 there will be a noticeable decrease in image quality when they are enlarged to the larger size so it is always best to shoot at the largest size possible.

The amount of detail that the camera can capture is called the resolution, and it is measured in pixels. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can capture and the larger pictures can be without becoming blurry or "grainy."

For our Airdrie, Strathmore, Calgary, and Drumheller Century 21 online photos, the minimum resolution I recommend today is 1216 x 912.

Typical Resolutions include:
640x480 - This is the low end on most "real" cameras. This resolution is ideal for e-mailing pictures or posting pictures on a Web site.
1216x912 - This is a "megapixel" image size -- 1,109,000 total pixels -- good for printing pictures.
1600x1200 - With almost 2 million total pixels, this is "high resolution." You can print a 4x5 inch print taken at this resolution with the same quality that you would get from a photo lab.
2240x1680 - Found on 4 megapixel cameras -- the current standard -- this allows even larger printed photos, with good quality for prints up to 16x20 inches.

Save As
When preparing your house photos for MLS you should save them in the JPEG format. Depending on your operating system and software a JPEG file will have a .JPG or .JPEG file extension.

JPEG files are compressed files which allow for smaller file sizes with very little loss in image quality. However, each time you re-save a file as a JPEG there will be an increase in the loss of quality. By the third or fourth time you save a file the decreased quality will be noticeable. For this reason you should always keep a back up of your original file before you start preparing your photos for MLS. This way if you need to start over you will have a clean version of the file to work with.

When saving your file there should be an option to set the quality. At this time, for web use there is no need to save at any higher quality than 1216x912. Using a higher quality setting will not make much if any difference in how the photo is displayed, but result in a much larger file that takes longer to download. As computer screens get better, and display higher resolutions, we expect this to increase.

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