6-Steps for Better Apartment Photos

by Ed Blinn, AATC's Director of Communications

Taking good photos isn't hard just practice!

Most everyone here at AATC knows me as ‘The Photo Guy.’ It’s a term I happily identify with. During my tenure here at AATC, I have taken thousands of photos of various types. I’ve also taken photos outside the scope of my work on a personal level. So it’s safe to say I’ve done this once or twice.

One of the things I enjoy doing the most is photographing apartment properties. I like doing this for several reasons, but the main reason is that I don’t have to worry about the apartment building not liking my photo! But seriously, I enjoy the fact that I can take my time, set up a shot and work in a controlled environment. A photographer’s dream session.

I know full well that I live in an age chocked full of technology and instant access to a camera. Nowadays, there is a camera on just about every electronic you can buy! Technology has truly put the art of photography into everyone’s hands. It’s no longer unreachable. I thought I’d share some insight with you on how to take better pictures of your properties. Keep in mind that even though I am specifically talking about photographing rooms and buildings, you can use these principals in almost every aspect of your photo taking. I hope you find this information useful.

Tips on taking better photographs of your communities:

  1. Use a tripod – nothing can kill a photo like motion blur. There are very few professional photographers that will tell you that having a tripod is a bad idea; in fact, it could be the most important tool in your arsenal. Having tack sharp focus is extremely important when photographing anything, especially something that you want to highlight the detail with; like features of a home or apartment. Choosing a tripod can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to have a high-end tripod to take good pictures. Don’t let the photo store clerk trick you into buying equipment you don’t need. You want something sturdy and easy to set up. I’d recommend a metal frame tripod with a ball mount if you can afford it but a $30 plastic tripod from Walmart will work just fine for consumer cameras as they tend to be lighter in weight than pro and semi-pro cameras. With a heavier tripod, you’ll notice advantages when setting up outdoors in windy conditions or places that are prone to vibrations; but otherwise, anything will do. Also, any object to hold the camera in place will also function as a good ‘tripod.’ For example, you can always set the camera on a countertop to compose and take your shot. You want the camera to sit up higher? Put some books underneath it. Anything sturdy to hold the camera is an improvement over holding it in your hands.
  2. Use natural light – Anytime you photograph something architectural and completely still, like a room in a house or apartment, you don’t want to use a flash. Using natural light in conjunction with the aforementioned tripod will give you the absolute best results. You’ll want to make sure you take multiple photos at different exposures so you can select from the best possible option when you download the pictures to your computer. The tripod will allow you to take long exposures, ideal for dark rooms. Also, turn on all the lights in the unit, as that will add a lot of depth to your photo. Beware, if you let your camera expose automatically and the sun is beaming through the window, you’ll have a shot that is extremely underexposed. I recommend closing the blinds or curtains if the outside is way brighter than the inside; or better yet, take one shot to expose for the window area and the other shot to expose for the room itself. You can strip the best parts of each photo together in Photoshop—but that’s another article.
  3. Take time to compose your shot – There are infinite resources on the Internet to educate you on the basic rules of composition; namely the Rule of Thirds. Look it up, it’s one of the most fundamental concepts in photography. By understanding basic composition, you can deviate and experiment with different camera angles and play with composition all you want. At the end of the day, simple is best, especially when it comes to showcasing home or apartment features. So save your Batman angles for Instagram.
  4. Use the proper equipment – This is the hard part. There is a reason professional photographers charge a lot of money for their work because camera equipment isn’t cheap! A startup pro can easily end up spending almost $10,000 for all the equipment he or she needs to be able to service a large client base. The good news is you don’t need to spend that much money. I would definitely recommend a consumer-end digital SLR camera so you can have interchangeable lenses and full manual control over exposure. If you are taking a lot of interior shots, a wide-angle lens is a must-have. Probably a 14mm or 17mm is good. Even then, there are tough shots. Don’t worry, you can still use your one-shot camera to take good pictures but you’ll need to make sure you understand all the settings on the camera to use it effectively but they do have limits, especially when it comes to wide-angle photography.
  5. Staging and setup – Not only is it important to set the camera in the right place to take a well-composed shot, you should also move things in the environment as much as possible to get the shot to be just right. Also, you never know how much trash is in your photo until you actually look at it on the screen when you get back to the office. Make sure to clean up all the trash and throw it away. If you don’t, you can guarantee that it will show up in your photo and that is not an attractive photo. Attention to detail is very important here.
  6. Understand your audience – one last thing. Make sure you understand your audience. Just because you like the way a photo should be doesn’t mean that your prospects will. Take photos that will make potential residents want to rent your apartment. At the end of the day, no matter how good the photo is, if it doesn’t speak to your audience, then it is useless. Focus on features and space. Show inside and outside the apartments. Showcase the pool. Have a dog park? Show that. Put yourself in their shoes and create all the pics you’d want to see when searching for an apartment yourself.

I could write a lot on this subject but I’m out of space. So I hope this helps you along the way in taking the best possible photos for your communities.

Ed Blinn is AATC’s Director of Communications. For more information about any of AATC’s communications initiatives, contact Ed at 817-616-0351 or email him at edblinn@aatcnet.org.