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What Lenses Do Real Real Estate Photographers Use for Exterior Shots?

August 30th, 2017

Heather in Calgary, Alberta asks:

I have a question about exterior real estate photography. I currently have a Nikon D3S and use a Nikkor 14-24mm lens. The issue I am running into is lens flare when shooting exteriors. You can’t put a filter on this lens because it is convex and the fixed lens hood is quite short due to the focal length. As you know, most often you have no choice in changing angles or shooting directly towards the sun. Is there any technique I’m not aware of to help with this? Or can you recommend a wide angle lens with a longer lens hood that can add filters too?

The Nikkor 14-24mm lens is one of the great wide angle lenses, but frankly, I would never use it to shoot exteriors because wide angle lenses give exteriors perspective distortion. I like to use a longer lens for exteriors. My favorite is my Canon 24-70mm. Sometimes 24mm is OK for exterior shots, but I think these longer lenses create a much nicer look and also will solve your problem of lens flare. I recommend that you take a look at the Nikkor 24-70mm or something similar.

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22 Responses to “What Lenses Do Real Real Estate Photographers Use for Exterior Shots?”

  • I use mostly the 14 – 24mm, too, on a D750 or D800. Lens flare can be a problem if the sun is at particular angles behind the home. Sometimes I will wait until the end of the session to take that shot as the sun will be in a different position when I get back in an hour or so. If I am in a hurry I will hold my left hand flat and see if I can’t shade the flare out and take the photo one handed.

    I have sometimes left the lens flare if it works with the composition and doesn’t detract from the photo. I’ve also photoshopped my fair share out when they did detract.

    I have also used the 24 -70 and from a distance a 70 – 200mm. Depends on the situation, but I find the 14 – 24mm has more compositional options.

    While mostly not feasible, the best option is to schedule the photography session for a time where the sun is going to be in the best position. I find odd numbered addresses are normally in the best position for shooting most all day, but I may schedule an even numbered address earlier or later in the day to compensate. In St. Louis, there are most streets that run east – west and even numbers are on the south side, so this may not work for everyone. There is always figuring out the position using Google Maps, too.

  • I also use the 14-24 on a D810. When shooting toward the sun, I use a black umbrella held overhead just out of the field of view. Works every time!

  • Canon 17-40mm f4l most of the time or a 70-200mm f4 if I have the room to back up. I use the longest focal length I can within reason and always with a lens hood. I use a Canon crop sensor body. I sometimes find that I need to shade the lens when I’m making images in a backyard and need to go wide. Cardboard or a pad of paper works just fine if a hand won’t do the job.

    You could try using some black cinefoil to extend your lens hood but there will still be some distortion shooting a typical front exterior with such a wide lens.

  • Longer the better imo. Stop it way down to define those pesky flares – I know it’s ‘wrong’ but clients seem to love it 🙂

  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the 14-24mm lens for exteriors, but you need longer focal lengths as well for different situations. Something like a 24-70 or 24-105 would complement your lens well. And there is nothing wrong with using very wide views for exteriors, in the right context, one of which would be where you need to show the house in the context of a wide area of landscaping. As for the flare with a lens like the 14-24mm, you need to use a flag, something to block the extraneous light. This could be your hand or some relatively lightweight, rigid, opaque object, such as a piece of cardboard. While you can use a flag when shooting handheld, it can sometimes be awkward and is easier to use when the camera is on a tripod. You can either hold the flag in your hand or attach it to the tripod or a lightstand with a gooseneck holder. People who use view cameras often use the dark slide from the film holder as a flag and just hold it in their hand.

  • Heather : you can get a filter/ protective bellows system for this lens, despite its very wide angle of view: it’s made by Lee Filters : you will need an adaptor for the Nikon lens and then the Lee holder: this in turn can take their wideangle bellows hood and you can shoot without image cut off. I use such a system with my Canon 24-70 and believe it or not my Canon 17mm TSE (with some limitations with full rise applied). It is highly effective and can shield the lens from the sun when it is at an awkward angle relative to your shooting position. It is also insanely expensive! So could I second John Quarles really useful suggestion of a black umbrella! This is a totally effective solution, but requires really a tripod mounted camera : you can move the umbrella with one hand just to the point where it is in shot and then pull back to know that you are shielding your lens from as much of the extraneous light as possible. Sometimes, eg shooting the North facing side of a house at mid-day, the umbrella is the only solution: I take a sky shot best I can with the umbrella just out of shot, then pull the umbrella right down so that it is covering the sky in the image to at least get a good building exposure with as little flare as possible: then I mask the two shots in photoshop. I’ve been using the umbrella so much recently I am thinking of getting some made up with my company name and logo on: it’s quite a good ad when you are working street side!

  • I’m not sure if it’s obvious but indoors or outside, I usually get an extra shot hiding the Sun or the light producing the flare. Then I use this shot without flare as an extra layer and mask it in the areas where the flare is.

    I myself thought about this technique a few years ago and recently saw the landscape photographer Elia Locardi using it in a tutorial.

    Apologies for my bad English. Greeting from Barcelona 🙂

  • Sorry, I forgot to say that in that extra shot I hide the Sun or the light just with my hand.

  • Just set the timer and walk off to the side where the sun is and hold something up so the camera is in shadow. If you were ina real bind, hell, you could pull the realtor’s sign out of the ground and use that to put shade on the lens.

  • While I have other lens in the bag, the 16-35 on my Sony is so versatile it stays on the camera. The biggest challenge is remembering to change the camera setting (ISO and live view) from interior to exterior. Usually when adjusting aperture to above f22 and nothing is changing in the viewfinder, that is a hint still set for interior. Toying with getting a 18 or 21 prime, but the 16-35 is just so versatile. Same cannot be said with the 24-70 after the overlap, prefer the 55 prime. More likely alternate lens is the 70-200 if walking around a pond (or in a boat) for a rear waterfront shot or expansive landscaped entry.

  • Trees. Trees are the reason you need a lens this wide.

  • I mostly shoot with my Fuji 10-24 on the X-T2. But, if I have the room to back up I’ll use my 14 or 23 prime which is lighter and easier to hold on my 9′ pole.
    If I have to shoot from the opposite side of a large property with a lake, I’ll use my 18-55 lens, which gives me a good range and still light enough to use on a pole.

  • I shoot interiors with my Nikon 14-24 or my 19mm tilt-shift. For exteriors, I use the Nikon 16-35 because I can better control flairing and use a polarizer.

  • Lens Flare’s…. look through the lens and put your hand above it until it blocks the flare.. on rare occasions you might have to take 2 images one with your hand in the shot and the other with the flare and merge them in photo shop and remove your hand…

  • I use the Nikkor 14-24 for most exteriors because it is lens I use for interiors. Like John Quarles, I use an umbrella – usually a white one that is in my back vest pocket. Also, when you shoot at 24mm it sucks the elements in so the lens shade gives more protection. If there is some distance in front, a hill that will give me some height, a green belt behind or a view, I will then pull out the trusty 28-300mm and take a little hike. The more distance you can get the less distortion in the roof line and the larger the background appears.

  • OH Yeah… That giant lens cap will do in a pinch too!

  • I use a Canon 11-24L

  • I have a 17-35mm Tokina on my full frame Nikon and never had a need to go wider. I just keep it simple and shade the front of the lens with my hand and it works like a charm. (I shoot exterior with a tripod 95% of the time with the other 5% using the tripod as a monopod while standing on a ladder.) Very rarely, I will need to shoot two images, one with my hand in view and the second removed. A very quick blend in Photoshop and its done.

    As far as time of day and angle of the sun as Reed mentioned, this website/app is quite handy – especially for twilight scheduling. http://photoephemeris.com/tpe-for-desktop

  • I keep an umbrella in the car.

  • I shoot exteriors mostly with a Canon 24mm tilt shift and sometimes with Canon 16-35mm on a full frame cameras. I always carry a collapsable 12″ gray card with me and use it to shade the lens. Folds to fit in pocket. Use it for color balance in interiors.
    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1NV3C12110&ignorebbr=1&nm_mc=KNC-GoogleMKP-PC&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleMKP-PC-_-pla-_-Accessories+-+Camera+Other-_-9SIA1NV3C12110&gclid=Cj0KCQjw557NBRC9ARIsAHJvVVO7fy2RXabDgKwEGuKjxY_-pvip5VMYmlNe50aq4PE_JKk0n2BwJbUaAnyOEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

  • A few years back, I saw an umbrella in the trash dumpsters at one of the homes I was shooting. I was finishing up the exterior pictures and had a hard time with the sun. I grabbed the umbrella out of the trash and taped it to a lightstand. Not only was the camera in the shade but I was too. I kept the umbrella and still use it.

  • Every shoot is different, that’s the beauty of working in our industry. I generally use a Nikon 14-24 or 24-70. I would add the 24 t/s but I had it stolen from me 2 months after buying it so that’s a no go. ;(

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