Tag Archives: residential photography

The challenges of photographing flats and apartment buildings

There is a common misconception among people unfamiliar with property photography that marketing one house or flat is the same as marketing any other. Every home has a frontage, an entrance, rooms and corridors, so surely the same photographic principles should apply whether you’re photographing flats, houses or bungalows?

In reality, that’s simply not the case. Photographing flats and apartment buildings requires what Liam Neeson fans would refer to as a very specific set of skills, due to the unique challenges these properties present. And while generalisations are the enemy of effective property marketing, these are some of the issues which are more likely to apply to flats than houses or bungalows:

Internal apartments. The design of apartment buildings tends to limit opportunities for windows, in the same way traditional back-to-back houses only enjoyed natural light in front-facing rooms. Effective illumination of internal apartments requires a flash gun with adjustable power, compensating for the absence of daylight without bleaching out images.

Tall external façades. It’s easy to stand outside a bungalow and take a photo where the verticals are neat and everything appears in shot. Yet photographing an apartment building by simply pointing the camera skywards results in shots where the building seems to be falling backwards. Clever framing and post-production tricks are essential here.

Other properties in shot. This is another challenge with communal buildings – portraying the property being marketed and giving a sense of place, without capturing too many other homes. If the property you’re photographing is on the ground floor of a ten-storey block, do you cut off the roof in your photos? If it’s on the top floor, do you crop out the ground?

Orientation. Even though we tend to hold mobile devices in portrait mode, most property portals favour landscape images – wider than they are tall. That’s incongruous when trying to capture buildings which are taller than wide. One compromise involves supplying square photos, framing each external in such a way it can be trimmed without losing key details.

Communal grounds. The photograph above shows a Glasgow tenement stretching into the distance. Its communal gardens do the same, with no demarcation. Capturing open spaces is much harder than in private gardens, where hedges and fences provide clear boundaries – and where neighbours’ rubbish or personal effects aren’t in full view.

Tricks of the trade

At this point, it would be easy to launch into detailed descriptions of how to tackle and mitigate the above issues. However, any guide would fail to explain the instinctive knowledge freelance property photographers bring to photographing flats and apartment buildings. At G75 Images, we’ve spent 17 years arriving outside tenements and apartment blocks, immediately assessing the challenges of street furniture or sunshine behind north-facing façades. We know how to mitigate dazzle, how to ensure a square building doesn’t appear trapezoidal, and how to direct the audience’s gaze to the property being marketed.

You can view examples of how G75 Images approaches photographing flats and apartment buildings on our Before and After page, with further examples of apartment photography in our Residential section. You can also contact us to discuss how we can provide our acclaimed freelance property photography services for your flat, or for properties you’re marketing.

Residential photography in Scotland courtesy of G75 Images

Why residential photography is a unique specialism

There’s a common misconception that photography is an artform which transcends industries. People assume that knowing how to adjust a camera’s aperture settings or set up a slave flash gun qualifies a photographer to operate across any market or specialism. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth – which is why you should always employ a commercial or residential property photography specialist for sales particulars and marketing materials…

Because we’re dedicated to commercial and residential photography in Scotland and the wider UK, G75 Images has no experience of photographing live sporting events or breaking news stories. Our attempts at motoring photography (to complement our founder’s background as a freelance motoring journalist) have been largely successful, but not worthy of billboards or front covers. We’ve never been commissioned to attend a party or celebration, and despite various enquiries over the years, we don’t offer photography services for weddings.

To paraphrase Liam Neeson, different photography niches require a very specific set of skills. To continue the wedding analogy, we’d be able to identify great architectural backdrops, but we’d struggle to persuade six tipsy bridesmaids to stand in the right places. And the same is true in reverse. Even an experienced wedding snapper would struggle to replicate the skills of a residential photography expert by making a downstairs WC feel spacious, or capturing the exquisite detail imbued into Victorian cornicing.

Residential photography requires a combination of specialist camera equipment and attention to detail not necessarily shared by photographers in other industries. To demonstrate our point, take a look at the photo accompanying this article, and consider the following attributes:

• The room is brightly-lit, but the garden remains visible. Without the effective use of a flash gun, everything outside a window may appear bleached. Internals might look unnaturally dark, as the camera struggles to balance different internal and external light levels. Striking this balance is crucial for effective residential photography.
• Every vertical line is completely straight. Holding a camera at a fractional angle (even half a degree off true horizontal) can add a slope to lines that would appear perfectly straight in real life. In our photo, every doorframe and cupboard edge is plumbline-straight, as it should be.
• The best elements are all clearly visible. To some degree, this depends on a room’s layout and presentation. However, in this 1980s kitchen, the best features are clearly its double-aspect garden views and its three-sided expanse of solid wooden cabinetry. These elements take centre stage in our photo, with the dining table also on show.
• The sense of space is maximised. By taking this image from a doorway, we were able to use the full 102-degree field of vision offered by our chosen wide angle lens. Three of the kitchen’s four walls are visible in a single photograph, creating a sense of spaciousness which wouldn’t be achievable using a smartphone or tablet camera.
• Character is maximised. Every light source was turned on to add pools of illumination, subtly drawing the eye towards that quirky beamed ceiling. Bleach bottles were hidden, clutter was cropped out, and the dated eye-level oven was relegated to the periphery. Every effort was made to improve the kitchen’s aesthetics.

The photograph accompanying this article encapsulates 15 years of experience in commercial and residential photography in Scotland and across northern England. You can see other examples of our handiwork on the residential page of our website, or see how we’ve transformed hotels and B&Bs on our travel and hotels page. To give your property the ultimate makeover (or to ensure properties you’re selling and marketing look their best in online listings), send us an email or give us a call to discuss freelance property photography in Scotland or across the UK.