Is It Possible To Get By Shooting Real Estate With A 24mm Lens?

November 24th, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-7-40-40-pmVickie in TN asks:

I am struggling with choosing a suitable wide-angle lens to use with my Nikon D4.  Being new to real estate photography, I hesitate to purchase the best/most expensive just yet.  However, I am not confident that I can get by with my 24mm.  When I browse real estate listings, I see so many rooms shot quite wide and, I assume, is the preference among Realtors.  I have reviewed the list of lens recommendations on the PFRE site but, now my two questions are: 1) will my 24mm be suitable until I feel comfortable spending the $$$ on a $1,000+ wide lens and 2) if not, would the Nikon 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 ED be a good lens choice at the amazon price of $650?  Just wrestling with whether I should wait until I can financially justify the pricier wide lens or, if I truly need wider than 24mm to even begin shooting real estate.

We’ve had some recent discussion on this subject in this July 2016 post. Here is my take on your specific question:

  1. Can you get by with a 24mm (effective) lens for real estate? Many people get by with a 24mm lens. I shot real estate for years (before moving to digital) with only a 24mm lens but I was shooting for my wife and she likes the look of interiors shot at 24mm. Depending on your market you are likely to encounter clients that think the wider the better and may not think 24mm is wide enough!
  2. Is the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ED a suitable alternative? The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is the ideal lens for shooting real estate with your D4 but yes the 18-35mm is a very suitable alternative that is less than half of the cost of the Nikon 14-24mm.

I think the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ED would be a very safe choice for getting started. Any other suggestions?

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15 Responses to “Is It Possible To Get By Shooting Real Estate With A 24mm Lens?”

  • Hi Vickie,

    My name is Jarett – Im a real estate photographer that works for Finally Real Estate based out of Orange County California.

    1) I don’t think you can get by with only a 24mm lens starting out. A lot of the pros at the higher end like to try and shoot around 24mm but that gives a certain look that a lot of realtors don’t like. It gives it a very personal feel ( a lot of the agents like a room to look big ) . Also they’re shooting larger properties with more room to back up. Pros almost always carry shorter lenses if needed.

    2) Im not sure about Nikon. I have never used that lens, but Im almost positive it would work. I would recommend the tokina 16-28mm that is a great lens to start and its under 600 dollars. Try and shoot everything around 20mm but if you must go to 16mm shots will look just fine.

    Hopefully this helps !!

  • I always aim to shoot at f 11 for depth of field purposes so my advice is don’t over invest in fast glass.
    That said… I’ll always prefer a true zoom to a variable focal length lens.

    I see no need for a FF camera unless you are using TSE lenses… Which was my chosen path.

    I’d start with a small sensor Nikon and the 12-24 f4 or the Canon equivalent.

  • I also shoot with D4’s. I recommend you get a Nikkor 14-24/2.8 UWA zoom. 24 alone not enough…

  • I used only a 24mm for a long time. I eventually got a Tokina 17-35mm, then got the Pentax K1 with a 15-30mm. The wider angle lenses make shooting some rooms much easier, but I do agree with what Jarrett said about the look of a 24mm vs what some agents want. I’ve had a few agents say they want each room to show at least 3 walls which would have been impossible with a 24mm on the smaller rooms. You just have to find a balance of showing everything you want in the room but being careful of the distortion the shorter FLs create. A wide Tokina zoom or the Nikon 18-35mm will be fine for what you need, especially just starting out. You won’t need to shoot that wide all the time, but at least you have the option for when you do. Whatever you get, I recommend keeping the 24mm as a backup.

  • Vickie, When I was shooting full frame Nikon, I tried using the 24-85 as my main lens, but found many areas too tight for the 24mm and switched to my 20mm, which became my main lens. I just had to make sure I was perfectly level, and would crop tighter if I needed.
    Now that I am shooting with the Fuji X system, I use their beautiful 10-24 (15-35 in full frame), and try to shoot at approximately 24mm, but many times I have to zoom out, especially in tight bathrooms. I bought the Fuji 14mm which is an incredible lens (equal to a 21mm), and try to use that as my main lens, but still have to switch back to the 10-24 on occasion. If I had only one lens for RE, it would be my 10-24.
    I think the 24 is a great wide lens, but feel it is too limiting for interiors.
    One of my Canon fine art photographer friends bought a Nikon 800E, just so he could use the 14-24 mm 2.8 lens. I’ve heard it was one of the best lenses Nikon made. but it is heavy, expensive and you cant use filters on the front. the other lens I heard was excellent and less money, is their 16-35 f-4. My feeling since switching to digital from film, has always been invest in the best glass you can afford, (or cant afford), as digital bodies are always upgraded every few months. Since you have a hi-end Nikon body, I would invest in a hi-end lens. I have used Tokina lenses and think they are a great lens for the money, but, you will see a difference between that and the Nikon hi-end lenses.

  • Vickie, just another thought. if you don’t want to spend a lot of money right now, then, just look on line for a used 20mm f-2.8 Nikon. it is a very fine prime lens, and you should be able to pick one up for about $350. I haven’t used mine since switching to Fuji, but the 20mm is a great lens. if you are thinking about spending $650 for the 18-35 zoom lens, I would wait until you can afford the higher end lens.
    When investing in lenses, consider what you are going to use them for in the future. If it is not just for real estate, and you are shooting weddings or portraits, then invest in the faster lenses, you will never regret the investment.

  • Hi, Vickie – I agree 100% with Eric M Hilton above; the 20mm is a great idea and will serve you very well in all but the smallest interior rooms. It is your smartest move if you are looking not to be disappointed in your field of view. I will be blunt: 24mm is simply not going to work out in 90% of your interior work. It just won’t.

    Best wishes to you.

  • Great Question:
    Starting out it’s always a challenge. You can study, be able to have a great technical discussion, but at the end of the day you have to pull the trigger and put down some cold hard cash. All the suggestions are rock solid in my experience. 24 is good, but frequently you will need ‘more.’

    Some observations:
    * Less expensive homes are generally smaller. In something like a sub-2400 sq.ft house (4b/2.5b) you’re going to need wider in many rooms. The ‘U’ in UWA (ultra wide-angle) is to be used sparingly but, sometimes you just need it and 24mm won’t quite get you where you want to be.
    * In a larger house, say 3,500+ sq.ft, 24mm starts to really work well.
    * As suggested already, and important to reiterate: Just because you can capture ‘everything,’ remember its often not desired. A good picture is as much about what’s -not- in it, as what ‘is.’

    My own experience, first couple years, Minolta and Sony APS-C (cropped sensor) cameras (~$700) and Sigma F3.5/10-18mm ($350), did 99% of my work. On occassion I might swap in the 28-85 zoom or 50mm for a specific reason. This was strictly ‘average’ hardware. Along with a decent tripod (~$150) and cable release I was good to go.

    Eventually I moved to full frame, for reasons other than just real estate. For what most of my RE customers use the images for, shooting full frame now with better glass, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

    The other ‘half’ of your equipment will be the computer and software you use. Get decent photo gear to start and then make sure you’ve got enough computing horsepower for post processing and storage. That’s often underappreciated.

    Some of these things, you just have to get a little experience under your belt.

  • Is It Possible To Get By Shooting Real Estate With A 24mm Lens?

    Is it possible? Yes, is it the smart? Depends on your market. The fact is that you are just starting out and need to make some kind of splash to get noticed, let alone clients that will build your brand. In my area, you might as well go out with your cell phone if you don’t have the right equipment. Potential clients here will just look at you as another “want to be” RE photographer that thinks it is easy money with no gear.

    Check your demographics, if you see a lot of homes being shot with 24mm, then you could get involved and maybe make it work. If you want to make a splash, then move to the 14-24 from the beginning and you will never look back. Believe in yourself and invest in your business. Life will be a whole lot easier with the right equipment. You buy this lens, on Ebay now for as low as $1,350.00, you won’t need to buy another lens down the line (which means you saved that money) You can pay this off after only a few shoots and then enjoy the benefits for years to come.

    Dive in and get over the shock, don’t stick your toe in and torture yourself over how hard it is

  • How about this.

    Switch from the D4 to a D3s. Basically the same camera set-up so it will be familiar to use and from what i hear every bit as good (I use a D3S but never used the D4). Then use the extra cash to get the Nikon af-s 17-35mm f2.8 (used about $700-800) or you could even start at the Nikon af-d 20-35 f2.8 (used about $450-500). Both fantastic lenses and idea for RE work.

    You still have a top of the line FF pro body that can be used for everything and you have quality Nikon glass that can be multi-functional.

  • My Tokina 35-35 got sent for repair so I needed to use a 24-105 almost 3 weeks – was shooting 2 to 4 homes a day during that time – I swear it made me a much better interior photographer (of course I still have plenty more to learn). Many of the homes I shoot are smaller, so I completely disagree with those opinions that you ‘need’ something wider. While I think in general trying to educate agents about a good photo is a losing proposition – an exception would be teaching them about UFWA distortion… It’s easy for them to spot, and great fun to hear them laugh about most of the other agent’s photos in our area.

  • Yes, it is possible to get by using a 24mm lens for starting out shooting RE. In fact, in the long run it will probably fast tract you to becoming a better interiors photographer.

  • I think it depends on the size of homes you are shooting… To be honest, I do several homes that are smaller than 1200 square feet for three bedrooms, and I’m positive that 24mm wouldn’t fly on those. When I’m in a 2000+ square foot home, I could get along just fine. (Also, keep in mind when we discuss 24mm, that would be on a full frame. If you’re on a crop sensor with a 24mm lens, you’re really shooting at around 36mm.)

    I think most people who say you can shoot at 24mm aren’t in such tiny rooms… I had one last week that was 410 square feet TOTAL. What’s the average square footage for the town you’ll be shooting in?

    (If you’re curious, I love my Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 – but it’s more $$ for starting out…)

  • @Vickie,
    Hi Vickie, I just realized (not being a Nikon guy any longer) that your D-4 is about $6,000 for the body. That indicates to me that you are serious about your photography. Not knowing what subjects you are shooting now (events, portraits, or commercial work) but feel that quality is what you are after in your images. That being said, if I were you I would stick to the Nikon lenses and invest in their fast lenses, especially for events and portraits. If money is an issue, don’t buy a fast zoom, buy the fast 20mm prime for your real estate and change lenses if you need a longer one.
    If you don’t buy a Nikon lens and you are having an issue with the camera, Nikon’s customer service (which has been extremely terrible to deal with even for us NPS members) will not help you if it is a third party lens. they will tell you to contact the lens manufacturer. I have used Tokina lenses on my cropped sensor Nikons, and their customer service has always been wonderful to work with; but my Nikon lenses were noticeably sharper. And from what I’ve heard, the sensor in your camera will truly bring out and show the best quality (or imperfections) of the lens.
    I highly recommend buying used lenses if you need to financially, but I would stay with and invest in the Nikon system.

  • So many responses my head spun. Wide Wide Wide! Just below a fisheye. I have looked at Tokina quite a bit but that nature of the front of the lens will prevent you from putting a filter on it. You can put a rear mount filter. When I shoot a home I start with an exterior shot using my Sigma 10-20mm on a Nikon D5300. (this is not full frame) I think the equivelent ff is 17mm. I like this lens because I can put a polarizing filter on it.

    I am about to switch up to a D810 and Sigma make what they refer to as an ultra wide (but not fisheye) I think it is 11mm. It is only about $ 600 on BH or Abes of Maine. I don’t need a fast lens but these certainly aren’t slow. Inside I stive to use an appropriate but the minimum amount of light required. My market is depressed (highly depressed) so I mostly shoot with one sb600. I would like to move to multiple flashes but for what my market will pay it’s not happening too fast.

    Take a look at the Sigma lenses and make sure it’s for a ff camera.

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