What Makes an MLS Photo Bad?

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

What Makes an MLS Photo Bad?

If you belong to any social media group of agents, you will see outrage at bad MLS photos.  Real estate agents are a tough crowd.  They seem to measure every listing they see against how they would better present a home.  It's natural.  It's our job.  There are probably plenty of plastic surgeons walking around that can see a less than stellar face lift from a mile away, and immediately boast how they could do it better.

Just last week, I was on the phone with an agent in my market who also happens to be a friend.  She was lamenting having lost a listing.  To make matters more hurtful, it was a friend of hers who didn't hire her.  Ugh.  That always feels like a knife in the back.  Naturally, she is looking at the listing through the lens of what she would have done differently.  And she took such exception with the photographs that she actually had me pull them up to see just how "bad" they were.   Only, they weren't bad, at least in my opinion.  The home showed well in the photos.  Very realistic room sizes.  Clean.  Bright.   The pictures weren't crooked.  Sure, the photos weren't professionally done, but they weren't what I would call "bad."

So what makes an MLS photo bad?  To me, that is simple. And it's a relatively short list.

Dark Photos:  If a photo is so dark I can't make out anything in it, that's a bad photo.  Photos are to be seen.  If you can't see anything compelling, it's a bad photo.

Crooked Photos:  If a photo tour of a home makes my stomach feel like I am walking through a fun house, with one room slanted this way and another slanted that way, those are bad photos.  Rooms should be straight.  Take your own photos, but for goodness sake, make sure you know how to straighten a photo.

Out of Focus Photos:  This is my biggest pet peeve--out of focus listing photos.  Did you only take one shot of that room?  That's silly.  If you are taking your own photos, take a few because fuzzy photos happen.  As pointed out about dark photos, if you can't see anything compelling, it's a bad photo.  If a photo is out of focus, it is a bad photo.

Not Showing the Front Door of a Home:  Opening photos that seem to focus on a mature tree blocking the view of the front door, but prominently displaying the eye sore of a two car garage, in my opinion, are bad photos.  The front door is the first emotional connection to a home.  If your opening shot makes the house look like a box with no entrance for people, that's a bad opening photo.  Coupled with other photos, to actually show it's a two or three car garage, it's fine in context.  But the first shot?  No way.

Fish Eye Photos:  Anything trying to convert a camera without a wide angle lens, to a wide angle view is going to give fish eye.  It's not a good look on a room.  It's like crooked photos, giving that same fun house effect.  Not good.

Floor or Ceiling POV Photos:  If the point of view of the photo is the ceiling down, or the floor up, it's an unnatural view of the room...unless you are a ceiling soaring stink bug or crumb stealing ant on the floor.  Eye level photos are what I would consider natural point of view.

Those are the only things that will ever make me feel an MLS photo is bad.  Photos that depict a home in the condition in which it shows, like an outlandish amount of life size clown statues throughout it, show the true condition and set an expectation.  If you couldn't get the seller to remove the dozen life size clown statues from the home, don't move them out of the way just for the photos.  Let me know they are there so I don't get the crap scared out of me.  Same goes for issues that really get to poor condition, not poor photo quality.  If there is always junk in the kitchen sink and on the counters, show it that way in the photos.  Don't waste my buyers time drawing us in with something that doesn't exist in reality.  If the home shows poorly, show it in the photos.  

That's my philosophy on MLS photos.  They certainly don't need to be professional grade or super primped.  They should be easy and natural to view, and show the home in the condition it is likely I will find it.



Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. steven jackson 09/18/2017 07:19 AM
  2. Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers 10/13/2017 05:24 AM
Real Estate Best Practices
Diary of a Realtor
Bartender, Make it a Double
Old Farts Club
what makes an mls photo bad
good property photos vs bad property photos

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Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I agree with all your points regarding bad mls pics....regarding quality of the photos.

As a home stager, I am one of those people who refer to bad mls pics not only when describing picture quality but also in regard to the condition of the home.

I agree that the house should be shown AS IS....no trick photography, photo editing, or moving items only for the pics. Staging should never hide defects either.

Obviously the best marketing photos are of those homes that have been 100% prepared PRIOR to being photographed.

Sep 15, 2017 04:46 PM #30
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Congratulations on the well deserved Feature!

Sep 15, 2017 04:48 PM #31
Victoria Ray Henderson Marshall Henderson
Buyer's Edge Company Inc - Bethesda, MD
Real Estate for Home Buyers with Buyer's Edge

Excellent post! Just yesterday, I was looking at listings for a client and saw MLS pictures that were so dark, I couldn't see if the floor was wood or carpeted. I skipped the listing and went on to the next house.

Sep 16, 2017 05:06 AM #32
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

I think all sellers should be a bit more pro-active and view all of the marketing presentations and photos their agent uses.

Sep 16, 2017 06:19 AM #33
Danielle O'Brien
Parkway Real Estate - West Roxbury, MA
Real estate Broker / Owner in Boston

Great list of what makes "bad" photos. Agreed! My additions, and what makes me giggle the most, are when people leave the TV on for photos, and/or someone showing up in the mirrors (such as in a bathroom).

Sep 16, 2017 06:59 AM #34
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA

Ditto with what Danielle said. I love seeing photos with the photographer in it. I am one of those agents that take photos from way low, pointing up, only to keep my reflection out of the bathroom mirror.

Sep 16, 2017 10:37 AM #35
Sham Reddy
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Declutter is the first word, then think before you post, what are you trying to convey to the potential buyers?

Sep 16, 2017 11:15 AM #36
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Connecting you to the L.A. real estate market

Very well said, Chris. Photos don't have to be done professionally as long as they reflect the home well. And sometime professional photos oversell a home which does no one any favors.

Sep 16, 2017 11:57 AM #37
Rick Frissell
HomeXpress Realty - Lithia, FL
aka "The Red Baron of Real Estate"

Like your "clown" comment.  Freaky showin one time was going to iphone images that did not show the owner's collection of skulls.  Yes ... human skulls.  My clients laughted, thank goodness, but had no interest in the house.

Sep 17, 2017 06:00 AM #38
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

Congratulations on the feature. I agree with your list. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 

Sep 17, 2017 11:46 AM #39
Bob Force (REALTOR®)
Weichert Realtor - New Colony - Mount Airy, MD
The FORCE in Maryland Real Estate

"In the condition I am likely to find it."  \

Good standard,  I wish more agents were to use that simple guidance.  I am tired of seeing listings with SNOW covered front yards here in Maryland in September.  It makes me think all the pictures are out of date,


Sep 17, 2017 05:49 PM #40
Raul Rodriguez
Covenant Partners Realty - San Antonio, TX
Looking out for the client's interest and not my p

Photos that are posted sideways. It says alot about an agent that won't take the time to rotate a photo before he posts it on MLS. What else is he cutting corners on?

Sep 18, 2017 03:36 AM #41
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

As others have said, professional photos are going to be better. I do get what your saying about a cluttered house or one that is in bad condition. My view is that higher end homes should have extensive marketing including professional photos. A walk through video like Bob Vila used to do is also a nice touch...but agents here aren't allowed to do that. Only still pictures. On low end homes (condition/Price), I understand non professionals taking the pictures because you have to stay within a budget.

Sep 18, 2017 05:41 AM #42
Graig Griffin, SIOR
Pathfinder Institute - Salt Lake City, UT
Peer-Driven Master-Level Coaching and Mentoring

My favorites are the ones that have the constrast turned way up - turquoise skies, silver clouds, and every detail is pumped to the digital max.  Not only do they not look like the actual home, they don't even look like Earth.

Sep 18, 2017 07:29 AM #43
Royalty One Mortgage
Royalty One Mortgage - Henderson, NV
Mortgage company in Henderson, Nevada

Chris Ann,

 So on point! I can't recall how many times I've seen horrendously taken MLS photo's & thought to myself "This person couldn't have put a little more effort into these photo's?" Photo's bring the property to life - it's essential that photo quality is exceptional.

 Thanks for sharing!


-T.J. / The Royalty One Mortgage Team

Sep 18, 2017 12:48 PM #44
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

Yes, we have all seen bad pictures in the MLS and your list covers most of them. You must admit that there are some houses that are in such bad condition, or so stuffed with stuff or just such bizarre colors on the wall that even a professional photographer couldn't make it look good. 

Sep 20, 2017 09:25 PM #45
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Realty ONE Group - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Henderson Homes for Sale

Hello Chris Ann,

Great post and I agree with your whole post!

Sep 30, 2017 06:59 PM #46
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The bad MLS image topic gets brought back up a lot. But what about the images that make the place and grounds look like something it is not. Over the top wolf whisle pretty when that is not a fair representation now. From many moons ago. That is not a good habit to post just like lousy, fuzzy images that look like bear grease was smeared on the lens of whatever captured them in very low or no light.

Oct 02, 2017 12:31 PM #47
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ

Chris Ann Cleland " Don't waste my buyers time drawing us in with something that doesn't exist in reality.  If the home shows poorly, show it in the photos... They should be easy and natural to view, and show the home in the condition it is likely I will find it."

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Oct 13, 2017 05:23 AM #48
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

With so many buyers "pre-shopping" on line, photos are even more important.

Bad photos=no showing.

My favorite bad photo was a bathroom. The toilet lid was up and there was toilet paper all around the seat. Really??

May 11, 2018 01:09 PM #49
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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