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.