Real Estate Listing Photos: Worth More Than 1,000 Words?

Back when I was an agent/broker (Oh boy, here he goes again … ) one of my biggest pet peeves I’d see in real estate marketing was bad listing photos.

We’ve all seen them: Pictures in the bathroom with the photographer in the mirror, and the toilet seat up. Blurry photos. Shots taken from the driver’s side — framed through the passenger window.

Here’s one of my favorite bad MLS photos. It’s a kitchen shot. Technically, it’s not a bad photo. It’s properly exposed and in focus. I think. It is sort of hard to tell as this is the actual size of the photo:


Honestly, I don’t even know how to take a photo that small.

Clearly, inarguably I hope, bad photos equal bad marketing. We all poke fun at horrid listing photos, and entire websites and Facebook pages are dedicated to them. But in the grand scheme of things, when you take ALL the MLS photos that exist in the universe, the number of horrific photos is really a pretty small fraction of the total.

But what about average photos? Yes, it’s virtually impossible to define and quantify what is an “average” photo. They are one of those “you know it when you see it” sorts of thing. So let’s take a look at some “average” photos, with our real estate buyer hat on.

Here are some photos from two homes currently listed for sale. Both are in the same price range and just a couple of blocks from each other.

Listing A: Bedroom

Bedroom - superior

Well lit (notice that all the lamps are on), window isn’t blown out by sunlight, wide angle captures most of the room, exposure and focus are perfect. Photo size was reduced to fit this post format. This is a superior photo.

Listing B: Bedroom

bedroom - average

Well lit and with good exposure. Not as wide an angle as above, but good composition. Image is a little fuzzy (this is actual size). This is an average photo.

Listing A: Kitchen


Well lit (light is the photographer’s best friend), with perfect focus, exposure and composition. Photo size reduced to fit post format. Another exceptional photo.

Listing B: Kitchen


Lighting is OK (the dark cabinets make it look darker than it probably is). But again, the image quality is poor. This could be due to image compression by the uploading service (or the photographer’s camera settings). The large … vase? in the center of the island is distracting and should not be the focal point of the image. This is another average photo.

Listing A: Front elevation

FrontElevation - Superior

Exposure, focus and composition are excellent. Sun positioning doesn’t blow out the sky (turning it white). Nice color balance. Another superior pic of what is one of the most important shots in real estate photography, the front elevation.

Listing B: Front elevation

FrontElevation - Average

In fairness to the photographer, some homes are difficult to capture well. The trellis spanning the front walk makes it difficult to get a good shot of the front elevation. But again this photo suffers from being small and somewhat distorted. Average, at best.

Which house captures your attention?

We know visitors looking at real estate listings online focus on photos. There have been many surveys and eye-tracking studies done that prove as much. Many MLS’s across the country have implemented rules requiring a minimum number of photos. This has reduced (but not eliminated) the tens of thousands of listings that used to have NO photos.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, though to create rules about photo quality. That is dependent on the real estate professional.

Scroll back up to the photos above, and look at them like a potential buyer. Remember, both of these homes are similar in size, construction, cost and location. It’s possible, likely even, that a buyer would be interested in both of these properties. In addition to the difference in photo quality, Listing A has 16 photos, and Listing B has four.

Which one do you think would be most appealing to a potential buyer?

I think Listing A wins, hands down.

6 Tips for a Successful Open House