Since the changes that disabled hyperlinks and HTML templates in the fall of 2013, apartment photography on Craigslist has become easily the most important part of your posting strategy. If you have good photos, you can stand out from the crowd and bring in a lot of leads. If you have bad photos, the returns are likely to be far more modest.
Today we want to talk about some of the ways communities can screw up their photography on Craigslist, thereby reducing the effectiveness of their ads and limiting the number of leads they can generate from Craigslist.
Obviously there is only so much you can do with your images if you have a low-quality community. That said, this photo does nothing to try and make this community look like a pleasant, desirable place to live. Rather, this image screams "slum lord" and will discourage everyone except the most desperate prospects from calling the leasing office.
If the photgrapher had taken this shot on a sunnier day, the lighting would have helped this place look a little nicer. Shooting from a different angle would have helped as well. And it wouldn't have hurt anything to deal with whatever is it that seems to be broken just behind the floor-to-ceiling window near the center of the image.
To avoid these problems requires a combination of maintaining your property and knowing how to stage it for your photos. Make sure the furniture inside is arranged well and that the lighting is set up correctly. Make sure the image in your frame is composed well and doesn't cut off anything awkwardly.
Badly Lit Images
Image lighting is particularly important for apartment photography. With external images you need to deal with weather and time of day issues that will all have an impact on the quality of your image. When inside you may have to deal with light coming in from large windows as well as whatever artificial lighting you have set up in the room.
All of these factors come together to make it more difficult for your photographer to take images that show your community at its best and communicate a professional, high-class image to prospects.
To avoid these issues you'll want to test the lighting in the room by, at the very least, taking photos in various lighting to see what looks best. If you're taking external photos, taking images early in the day or shortly before sunset will typically provide the best light.
Badly Composed Images
One of the problem we often see in apartment photography is that images are poorly composed or poorly cropped. To take one example, consider the image above. Amongst other issues, the sofa pictured in the bottom left corner of the image has been cut off.
This mistake causes the image to feel cramped, as if there isn't room in the image to accommodate the sofa. This makes the entire room feel smaller and less spacious. If you took a photo of this same room but had a better angle and composed the image a bit better, then the room might look quite spacious. (To see how this works in practice consider some of the before/after pictures on our photography product page.)
Once upon a time it made sense to timestamp images. You took images on film and then took them down to a store to have them developed at some point in the future. By the time you got it developed you may have forgotten when those images were taken. In that situation, a timestamp was useful.
With digital imagery, that's no longer the case. The image information will include the day the image was taken, making the timestamp unnecessary. Plus the timestamp in the bottom right corner is a bit of an eyesore.
Where this gets particularly bad in multifamily is when you use really old time-stamped images with your marketing material. The image above is time stamped 2010. We found it on a Craigslist post in late 2013. So the people posting this to Craigslist were basically telling prospects that they couldn't be bothered to shoot new images even if the photo they had was over three years old. That's not the way to make a good first impression.
Incorrectly Sized Images
How you need to size and format your image will vary from place to place. But for Craigslist the best image size is around 600 wide by 450 high, or 600x450.
When editing your images in Preview, PicMonkey, Gimp, iPhoto, or whatever app you use for that you'll want to make sure the image is sized as closely to 600x450 as possible. If the image does not fit those dimensions, Craigslist will resize it automatically and the results will often not be ideal. Additionally, if the image for some reason is smaller than 600x450, Craigslist will just run it as-is with all the awkward white space, as seen above. So when posting to Craigslist it is worth taking the time to make sure your images are properly sized in order to make sure they look their best.
In the case of the particular image above, the formatting issues are relatively simple--the image is vertically oriented and has a massive timestamp on it. That said, there are other types of formating issues we have seen with photography on Craigslist. Sometimes we see images that were either shot with a bad camera or that were edited poorly after being taken. The result is a low-quality image that is often pixelated or blurry.
When saving to Craigslist, you want to make sure the image is saved at the appropriate size and in a file type that will be displayed correctly. .jpg is generally the most reliable file type for images.
Good photography can make your community look desirable and appealing to prospective residents. Low-quality images will scare off residents and generate bad leads that could potentially turn into bad residents. So when you think about your photography, don't simply think about getting it done or getting something online. Think about the image you want to present of your community and how that impacts your reputation online, the type of residents you get, and even the rent rates you're able to charge. Quality may take more time, but the rewards for taking the extra time will far outstrip the costs.