September 29th, 2013
One of the most common questions I get asked is what do I need to get started as a real estate photographer or agent shooting their own listing photos? I want to have a post I can refer people to that lists specific items. So here it is:
- DSLR: $200 used – The main reason you need a DSLR (as opposed to a point and shoot or SmartPhone) is so you can put a good quality wide-angle lens on it. I recommend a Canon Xti just because there are a lot of used ones available. An equivalent Nikon would work fine too.
- Wide-angle lens: $340 used- I recommend the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens. It is the second most popular lens for real estate photography. The Higher quality Canon 10-22mm is the most popular lens, but it only works on Canon DSLRs and cost twice as much. Get the 10-22mm if you can afford it. The Sigma 10-20mm is available for Canon, Nikon and other bodies.
- Manual Flash: $72 new – I recommend the Yongnuo YN-560 III. These are the Chinese copy of the SB-80dx that are so popular for real estate photography and the cost half as much. I have a bunch of YN–560s and I love them! I believe their build quality is as good as the SB-80dx. YN-560-IIIs can either be triggered optically or with a Yongnuo RF-602/603.
- Flash Trigger: $33 new – I recommend Yongnuo RF-602/603. For $33 you get a transmitter and a receiver. You can use one on your camera hot-shoe to directly fire the Yongnuo YN-560-III or the pair to fire any flash. I have a set of these and they are very reliable.
- Light Stand: $13 new – You need a stand to mount your manual flash on. You may already have something that will work, but the Sunpak SPK620520D works nicely because it can go up to 52″ high and can be made to have a very small foot print… characteristics that you’ll want when you start placing your flash.
- Tripod and Head: $445 – I recommend a Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with a Manfrotto 410 geared head. You can save about $160 by getting a ball head instead of a geared head, but you’ll find it’s much easier to get your camera perfectly level in all 3 planes so your verticals and horizontals will be right on, if you have a geared head.
- Lightroom 5: $138 – To me Lightroom is a must have item for real estate photography and most beginners will get by just fine with only Lightroom. Sure as you become more sophisticated you may want to add Photoshop to your editing arsenal, but you can live without it when you are starting out.
Look at that! You can get setup to create real estate marketing photos for under $1300 USD. Yes, you can spend more on all of these items and you may want to upgrade as you get more practice.
How To Use This Gear
Here are some resources that will help you get started using this gear:
- The post right here on this blog that Scott Hargis and I put together explaining the basics. This post has been one of all time most popular posts on the PFRE blog.
- The PFRE flickr group. See what others are doing with similar equipment. The members will give you plenty of advice on this subject.
- Scott Hargis’s e-book, Lighting Interiors goes into much more detail than #1 above.
- Scott Hargis’s Video Series on how to do this.
Update Sept 30, 2013: Note that in the comments below readers make cases for ball heads for your tripod, different lenses etc. That’s great, there’s no one right solution, and what’s great about this media is that you can get input for a lot of people all over the world. A couple of valuable resources for cameras, lenses and triggers is the PFRE Camera page, Lenses page and Triggers page which show what percent of readers are using various products. These pages tell you a lot about which equipment is popular among real estate photographers.