What’s happening to my nice pictures?

Recently I ran into a situation where a client asked me why the images I created looked “blurry” when they were added to a third party virtual tour. My initial reaction was to dig deep into the code of the virtual tour software to figure out what was going on. I decided to not spend too much time doing that considering how I didn’t create the interface and I don’t offer support for it.

What it boils down to is this… when images get uploaded to the local MLS system, they undergo an extensive transformation. They are automatically re-sized to fit within the specs of the MLS. They are also heavily compressed to reduce the file size as well. This compression introduces “artifacts” (or digital noise) into the images that would cause the photos to look blurry or pixelated. Add to that, many virtual tours are created using the MLS data and images to populate their slideshows. Many of these slideshows utilize special effects like animations which include enlarging or shrinking the photos, moving them across the screen, and fading each image into the next. Add these effects to an already compressed image file and you can start to see why these images don’t look that great anymore.

The virtual tours or slideshows should be using separate image files of better quality in order to showcase the listings. In the same way, images used for fact sheets, brochures, postcards or other marketing material should be hi-resolution, print ready files… not the images that were uploaded and compressed by the MLS system.

The photos I provide to my clients are of high quality and look great no matter what size they are. I have no control over what the MLS system does to them, nor do I have control over what a third party provider will do to them when implementing a slide-show or virtual tour. I am currently in the process of creating virtual tour pages for my clients to utilize for their listings. The tours I will offer will include the hi-res image files I create and will showcase the property in the best way possible.

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