Is It Possible To Get By Shooting Interiors With Just A 24mm Effective Lens?

July 19th, 2016

WideAngleRima in London asked the following:

I am a freelance wedding photographer. I am currently trying to get into photographing properties to increase my income. I have a full frame Nikon D610 body with a 24-70mm lens. Is it possible get by shooting interiors with the 24-70mm? A new wide angle zoom lens is not in my budget!

Yes, I think it is possible to get by with only a 24 mm effective focal length lens when shooting interiors. I think there are a number of real estate photographer that do just that. 24 mm is kind of a sweet spot for interiors. Notice that many of the tilt-shift lenses (which are designed explicitly for interiors) are 24 mm primes. There is a reason for that. Sure, there will be some situations where you’d wish you could go wider and you may run into some estate agents that want you to go wider than 24 mm to make rooms look bigger than they are but by in large you can live with 24 mm.

Notice the above example. This a master bedroom that I shot with my back against the wall. 28mm clearly is not wide enough. 24 mm looks pretty good. 20 mm looks a bit better and 16 mm starts to look really distorted. In this particular situation, I could have moved to the right into the door and moved the camera towards the window. This would be a very traditional composition and easily be done with the 24 mm.

What do others think about living with just 24 mm?

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22 Responses to “Is It Possible To Get By Shooting Interiors With Just A 24mm Effective Lens?”

  • 24mm only! That’ll be rough. Having the zoom functionality with your lens is important, but 24mm just isn’t quite enough in many situations. A couple of year’s ago I took the plunge and coupled a Canon 6D to a 24mm TS-E II lens. As I was learning the lens, I tried using in most situations. I find in modest sized rooms (18 x 20 ft or so) and especially in bathrooms of a 2,000 sq. ft. homes, 24mm isn’t going to cut it. I owned the 16-35mm F4 prior to the tilt-shift. I now know a lot more about situations to break out the TS-E, but for real estate, I generally use the 16-35 and may use the tilt shift on only the master bedroom, kitchen, and exteriors.

    I think the ability to go to at least 20mm should pretty much cover most situations.

  • Sure 24mm will be fine for a fairly large master bedroom, but a lot of standard bedrooms and especially Bathrooms could use a lot wider than 24mm before getting distorted. I find 15mm is where the distortion becomes very apparent, and even then a small amount is correctable I’m post although that is not ideal. it’s definitely doable, especially when you can string together multiple photos in post in case your lense isn’t wide enough. That’s assuming your taking the last opportunities because that is definitely not want you’d want to be doing if you had options. Either way, the sort of if it’s possible to feal with x lesser equipment comes down to the amount of time your spending for each house and picture
    In this case, far from ideal, but definitely doable. My philosophyisale enough with the time you have to pay until you can afford better equipment.the worst thing you can do is quit because you don’t have the money right at this moment. I’d say go for it.

  • An awful lot of grammar mistakes in that post because of typing on mobile, but hopefully everyone can clearly understand my point and what I’m saying.

  • I’ve only used a 17-40mm zoom (Canon) for real estate thus far. I’m new to real estate photography and have only shot 200 houses this year. I agree that 20-24mm is ideal for minimum distortion and accurate representation of room size. Shooting only at 24mm is certainly worth a try and depending on the agent’s preference and room size you may not have any issues.

    For medium and large rooms (or when I can move further back) I usually shoot in the 20-24mm range. However, over half the houses I shoot are in the 1000-1600 sq. ft. range and certain rooms would be a real challenge at 24mm. A 10′ x 9′ bedroom, 8′ x 5′ bath and 3′ x 5′ half bath are pretty normal occurrences and are really hard to shoot (for me at least) at 24mm. As much as I hate the distortion at 17-19mm, I feel it’s needed for these tiny rooms. Also, some agents I’ve worked with expect (and have even requested) wide shots of larger rooms to better illustrate how one area of the house flows into another.

    I do feel your pain when it comes to buying a full-frame ultra wide zoom. The only budget option I’m aware of for full frame on Nikon would be a used vintage 20mm prime like the Nikkor-UD 20mm f3.5.

  • “A new wide angle zoom lens is not in my budget!”
    Then buy a used one…..
    You will shot a lot of small houses and flats at beginning.
    If there is a real estate agent who have a dSLR with 10mm (APS-C)(and lot of them have one), he will say,
    hey I pay you for better photos, why the fuck look the rooms in my photo bigger?

    I mean you can definitely shot real estates with 24mm FF but in a lot of situation it is not wide enough and your clients will recognize it.

    Save your money and make kind of a business plan how to get startet in real estate photography.
    Other idea: If you have a APS-C camera, buy a used 10-20mm and shot with APS-C.
    That is how I started and it worked pretty well for the first year.

  • Lease a tilt-shift 17mm, one of the best investments I’ve made for camera equipment.
    Leasing means you pay more in total over the 2 or 3 years, but £50-60 or whatever per month is much less of a financial hit than £1800 in one go, especially if you don’t have 1800 handy.
    Yes, it can be a little too wide sometimes (so then go to the 24mm), but as others said above, many bathrooms and bedrooms even in large houses need it.
    And as Eric said, it can show how rooms connect to each other.
    And shooting exterior architecture, often I’m at the limits of 17mm with extreme shift to fit in a building from the street.

  • In my opinion the answer is 24mm is not wide enough. There is a huge difference between shooting interiors and real estate photography. In RE photography , context is much more important. If you were shooting a dining room for an architectural magazine maybe one aspect of that room might be your “focus” but with RE photography, how that room flows with the kitchen or say livingroom is much more important. You won’t be able to do that with a 24mm

  • The first thing I did when I started about a month ago was to check eBay for a good used wide angle lens. I found a Tamron 10-24mm for my Canon Rebel T3 for about $225. The lens works great. I know its not perfect but I’m hoping to be upgrading my whole system if things continue the way they have been. I’d like to be more selective about my jobs in futre instead of the “run and gun” I’m doing now. The money is great, but it’s not the type of shototing I want to do forever.

  • I just reshot a listing last week (originally shot by another photographer) that was shot with the 24mm TS. There was nothing really wrong with the look of the images but they really weren’t wide enough for the agent and I could see, especially in the smaller rooms, that they really should have been shot wider. To be honest, the house, while decently decorated, wasn’t perfectly staged for photography/showings. I think the tighter crop of the 24mm drew the eye to that fact. The compositions were the best the photographer could do but I was focusing more on “what the heck am I looking at?” rather than the size of the room and what I could potentially do with it as a prospective buyer. I reshot with a 17mm. The agent/sellers loved the redo.

  • When I first started shooting real estate with a Nikon D-70, I used a 12-24 mm lens, mostly at the 12mm wide range. After being involved with this blog and reading Scott and Larry’s comments on 24mm being ideal, I started shooting tighter, which I liked, because it was less distorted and easier to light. But many times I had to zoom out to 12mm. Now I’m shooting Fuji X system. I started with a 10-24mm lens, but purchased the 14mm f-2.8 which is equal to 21mm. I am finding the 14mm is a great focal length, very light weight and sharper, but still have to use the 10-24 on some tight bathrooms. when I shot film I bought a 35 and 28mm shift lens for my Nikon. later I bought a 6×7 architectural camera with a shift lens, which truly made shooting architectural a pleasure. I wish Fuji made a Tilt lens, but perhaps it’s hard to create for crop sensor.

  • I’d love to shoot everything at 24 mm or more. But the situations on-site very often are not compatible with that.
    Even if I may go 10 mm (DX) or 15 mm (FF) I have found out that the minimum focal length I can live with ist at around 35 per cent of the normal focal length. That is about 12mm on DX and 18 mm on FF. The rest towards the shorter end is reserve. If possible I shoot longer.

  • Rima.. if that’s London Uk where you are based then I think the 17-40 mm as Eric mentions above could be a necessary investment. So many properties on the market here are really carved up into very small rooms!. You can get one used for about the price of an ultra wide on Aps c format so you can stick to the full frame system you have bought into.set lightroom to apply its bundled profile as at 17 it shows some edge distortion. I found for the RE work I did in london that 21 or 22 setting on this zoom came in for a lot of use. But I have to say thatt 24 rarely cut it for the requirements of the agents I was shooting for.

  • On a full-frame body, I believe you can absolutely get by with a 24mm until you can afford a wider lens. When I first started in real estate, the widest lens in my kit was my 24-105 so I had no choice but to make it work. Personally, I think that restriction vastly improved the composition of my early work because I wasn’t tempted to go super-wide just because I could. Learning to back up as far as I could helped me see the advantage of camera positions that might feel awkward when trying to focus and make adjustments, but result in a superior image compared to what I would have otherwise gotten. The only time you might have trouble would be with small powder rooms or other tight spaces, but even then, in most cases, I was able to produce at least satisfactory work even in those spaces just by shooting a vertical composition. Get the wider lens when you can afford it, but for the moment, I see no immediate need to shell out more money if it’s not already well within your budget.

  • Real Estate photography is making an agent happy.
    Making an agent happy is making the listing look worth more than the asking price.
    A large part of that is making the spaces look large AND appealing.

    You DO need very wide lenses but you also need to develop your skills to minimize the UWA effects that can sabotage your shot.
    What many people forget is that position of the camera determines perspective. Focal length determines angle of view.
    While an UWA may look distorted, it seems so only in the context of the additional content. Cropping in on UWA images yields the same perspective as a longer lens.

    Yes, I know we want maximum IQ but a moderate crop on a 20+MP image that is almost certainly not going larger than 1600 pixels wide is scarcely a sin.
    I use a 17TS-E a lot because agents, architects, home builders want to see the WHOLE space. Designers want details.

    One of the most important tips I would give people trying to shoot UWA interiors is to get as far back as possible and crop out all that damn ceiling and floor. Everyone knows its there, they don’t need an inventory of uninteresting surface that makes the picture look bad.

  • Aside from the issue of whether a 24-70 zoom is sufficient for real estate photography (it is not, in my opinion), Rima’s question begs the question: if she doesn’t have the budget to obtain this one extra piece of equipment, what other essentials is she unable to afford, a solid tripod, decent lighting equipment, proper liability insurance, back-up equipment?

  • Brandon V said, “When I first started in real estate, the widest lens in my kit was my 24-105 so I had no choice but to make it work. Personally, I think that restriction vastly improved the composition of my early work because I wasn’t tempted to go super-wide just because I could.”

    This is beautifully insightful. At an effective 24mm for interior shots, is the angle the essential limiting factor or is it the photographer’s compositional skills? How much visual information is needed for an RE photo to be considered effective? Neuroscience has clearly demonstrated that our brains quickly and routinely fill in missing information:

    “What our eyes can’t see, the brain fills in” at http://phys.org/news/2011-04-eyes-brain.html

    Given a partial scene shot at 24mm and a full one at 16mm, which, in general and in certain circumstances, is preferred by the majority of viewers? Given the “predictive coding” of the human brain (from the cited article), this can only be answered by a well-designed empirical study. The findings of such a study, of course, are irrelevant, if a photographer’s clients “…want to see the WHOLE space,” as Mark Davidson mentioned.

  • I always recommend a zoom lens for RE work. You don’t have the luxury of being able to move back to capture more of a room if you need to. I did two homes this morning and the builders really shrunk the bedrooms so they could get three in the footprint they had. I used every bit of a 17mm effective focal length to get an image of those rooms that wasn’t all one wall. I always have to work around furniture since there isn’t time to re-stage every home. There are also rooms in the same home where you want to be at 32mm-40mm (same again this morning) and even 100mm for a detail photo (same house).

    For bog standard RE work, there isn’t time to keep changing lenses. If you need to have 24 compositions in 90 minutes, every minute is precious.

  • Rima,
    since you shoot with a Nikon full frame, you might want to look for a used Nikon 20mm f-2.8 AF lens.
    it was my favorite wide lens when I was shooting with my D-700. The results were excellent and the lens is lightweight.

  • Mark is completely correct, I think.

    If I’m shooting for a magazine, or interior designer, rarely do I use anything wider than my 24 TSE.

    But if you are shooting Real Estate, I’m sorry but a 24-70 is not going to cut it, unless you are only going to shoot large rooms. Again, what RE agents are looking for is very different from what publications or designers. If you want people to pay you for your services, you need not only the tools to get that job done, but also the professional skills and knowledge to deliver what they are looking for. You will need a wide angle lens of at least 20mm. Nikons 14-24 is an excellent lens when used properly (see Marks Davidson’s advise above).

    I’m a bit puzzled though. I have friends that are wedding photographers. One is incredibly good and makes an amazing living. Others are good (or okay if you will)” but still do very well. Wedding photography is typically a very lucrative segment (if you are good of course, and have the sense to charge for your services), so augmenting your income by shooting real estate, does not make a lot of sense to me as most people starting out shooting real estate do it for lousy money.

    I guess I just don’t understand, that if you already have the equipment needed to complete your current wedding assignments, why would you not just put your effort into growing that business, instead of trying to get into another that really doesn’t generate much revenue to begin with? It just seems to me, that if you have already started to build a career in wedding photography, isn’t that where your effort should go, or am I missing something here?

  • While the majority of comments (including mine) seem to suggest that the availability of a wider lens is needed, I think Gary’s experience that he relates above is very apt. I think that there is a lot of gratuitous and bad usage of ultrawide lenses in real estate photography, and I think that practicing shooting this kind of subject matter without an ultrawide lens could be very instructive.

  • I use a 17mm tse daily, and I always wish I left in in the bag for as long as I could. I love the 24mm. It is just a more pleasing rendition to my eyes.

    One thing Mark says that Im having trouble agreeing with, “Cropping in on UWA images yields the same perspective as a longer lens”. I was always led to understand that the perspective we are talking about in photography is the relation of objects in regards to the distance from everything, the camera included. In that case changing focal lengths most certainly changes the relation and perception of objects in the frame with regards to depth. Longer focal lengths make further objects appear closer and lager and conversely wider focal lengths make objects appear to be further away and smaller. All that said the difference between a cropped 17 and 24mm is not incredible, it is noticeable but not horribly so.

  • Follow up…

    I am now realizing we are talking about not moving the camera at all, instead of reframing, which would in fact yield the same perspective.

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