There's a case to be made that photos are the most important part of apartment marketing. While some would argue differently, there is no denying the impact that quality photos (or lack thereof) have on potential renters and their decisions to visit your community.
For that reason alone, it's imperative that you have quality photos of your community. While some ILS's now offer professional photos with their listings, most of those images are watermarked, limiting their use in other areas. Not to mention, that in most cases, you do not have a say in who will be photographing your community or building, much less the final images.
With that in mind, I always advise my clients to hire a professional photographer. Here are several tips on hiring the right photographer and getting the best photos of your community:
FINDING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Google Search - Most people start with a Google Search to find anything these days, and the same is true for finding a photographer. One thing to consider is searching for your specific city for photographers, not national firms. Also highly suggest using sites like Yelp, and Google Reviews to get more information on the reputation and reliability of the photographer.
Competitors - This may sound counterintuitive, but asking competitors (who have great photos), who they used, is a perfectly acceptable course of action. In some cases, you can even find the photographers information on their website.
Company or Individual - There are a large number of companies as well as individual photographers out there. If you decide to go with a company, I would shy away from firms in which photography is not their sole business. Many marketing companies try to sell photography services but aren't equipped to handle true professional photography.
CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Relevant Work - This is VERY important. Has your photographer done work with multifamily communities? While having experience shooting residential homes or commercial is great, it's important to work with someone that has photographed not only interiors but amenity spaces as well.
"Style" - Every photographer has a "style". Some like moody, others like minimalist, etc. It's important that their "style" matches what you are trying to convey with your community. You want to accentuate your attributes but within reason. Don't hire the photographer that wants to shoot your garden style community like a class A downtown luxury highrise.
Equipment - An essential question to ask is what kind of equipment do they have? Do they have their own lighting setup? Do they have a wide-angle lens? This is a broad generalization, but the better equipment a professional photographer has, the more likely they are better at their profession.
TImeline - Ask the photographer how long it takes to complete the project once the contract is signed. If the time frame is too short (2-3 days), it's not enough time to shoot a community, much less post edit the images. On the other hand, if it's too long (over 30 days), they are too busy to give your community and images, the proper attention they need.
Staging - Before shooting photos, you should have some staging done for your units. No matter if its a fully furnished model or a unit with "light staging," pictures of a staged unit ALWAYS shows better.
Clean Amenities - Make sure to properly clean not only the units but the amenity space and common areas as well. Nothing worse than having to waste time cleaning something while your photographer waits. In addition, make sure any reflective surfaces are spotless, as any dirt or smudges will show up with HDR / high-end photos.
Make a List - A crucial starting point is to make a list of the essential items for your shoot. Things to decide are who will be with the photographer the day of the shoot, what units/spaces are to be shot, what time of day, etc. Having this information mapped out before the shoot can decrease confusion and lead to better final photos.
WORKING WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Giving Direction - Contrary to popular belief, you can give your photographer some direction. If you think there is a good shot they should take, let them know. If there is an angle that you see for shooting a room that looks promising, let them know. This is a collaborative effort!
In Progress - Ask to see what the images are looking like on the camera. If you and your photographer don’t have the same understanding of what you want, it’ll take longer and you’ll likely end up disappointed.
Be a Helper - Ask if there is anything you can help with during the shoot. Things like moving furniture, changing positions of items etc. This will help the photographer speed up the process and allow them to focus on getting great photos.