Why Point-and-Shoot Cameras and Smartphones Don’t Work Well For Interior Photos

January 8th, 2017

John in San Francisco who documents interiors as an expert witness and construction defect inspector asks the following:

I’m Looking for a camera setup to take sharp interior house photos for construction defect and expert witness use. I basically shoot the notable points in detail and then generally, quickly shoot the entirety of the property. I’ll walk through and shoot 150 to 300 shots in an hour or two. Under houses, dusty environments, and in attics, as well. I am currently shooting a Fuji F900EXR. My biggest complaint is that the Fuji images are out of focus 10% of the time and the detail level is way below what I need due to low light graininess or underpowered camera mounted flash. These are not meticulously setup tripod cover photos, rather a way that I can go back through the property and revisit details photos for reports. The photo to the right is an example taken with my Fuji F900EXR.

Here’s your problem:

Your Fujii F900EXR has a built in flash which is VERY weak. In attics and crawl spaces you need a lot of light for the camera to focus and get sharp, well-lit images. Even when shooting standard interior spaces you need a more powerful flash than the one built into the Fujii.

This is why a fundamental requirement for shooting interior photos is a camera that can accommodate and trigger an external flash. You can’t do this with a camera like the Fuji F900EXR or a SmartPhone.

My recommended kit for real estate photographers is here. But since you are moving fast and documenting spaces and not concerned with even looking lighting here is what I would recommend for your use:

  1. Sony A6000 with the 16-50mm kit lens – $548
  2. Neewer NW320 TTL Flash Speedlite for Sony A6000 – $79

With this setup you can mount the flash on the Sony A6000 set it to TTL and the camera and the flash will automatically decide how much flash is needed for every situation whether you are in a dark attic or ordinary room. This isn’t the setup a real estate photographer would use but for documentation of spaces, I think you will find it fast and easy to use.

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4 Responses to “Why Point-and-Shoot Cameras and Smartphones Don’t Work Well For Interior Photos”

  • I just noticed that Nikon is coming out with a hi-end point and shoot camera and has a super wide, fast zoom lens. it is not cheap, but it might fit your needs.

    B&H has it listed as Nikon DL18-50 f/1.8-2.8 Digital Camera

  • The Sony a6000 and TTL flash combo would be an excellent and economical choice and the short end of the zoom is essentially the same (24mm Sony, 25mm Fuji equivalents). If that range is serving you, then a 10-18 would not be necessary and would be a luxury. Also, learn to bounce the flash. As a side job/offering I do lock changes and documentation photography. After being ripped off by a locksmith and seeing how easy it was, I acquired the lock picking skill…but usually just drill out if can’t pick or otherwise gain entry (always check for unlocked windows and doors first), as the lock is being replaced anyway. Realtors learned of the skill and now all me for new bank foreclosures where the bank pays me, then the Realtor pays me when reshoot as fixed up and ready to list. Lock change/documentation photos take less time than formal RE photos + post. While I use full frame camera, UWA lens and the only time I use TTL, it is equipment overkill for a quick rip of jpg to document condition at time of first entry. More photos are taken as banks are very specific of what they want, such as opposite angles of each room, cabinets and appliances – if they exist – doors/drawers open and closed. Knowing the capabilities of the a6000 which my wife owns, it would absolutely work.

  • It sounds like what he’s doing color won’t matter at all, so turn on all the lights you possibly can of course, even work lights.

    I think what Larry recommended is great. I would personally recommend an image stabilization lens. If you got the flash you may not need it, but if you decide not to go with flash then the image stabilization lenses will help a ton getting a sharp photo in low light with your ISO bumped up to maybe 800 or even above.

    I recommend the d3300 and a vr kit lens personally but that’s probably just because I usually stick with Nikon. And yeah a flash that would work with that ttl would be great and I put the little plastic diffuser down.

  • To document interiors with photos, you can use a point and shoot. I do it all the time. I’m an insurance adjuster and since I’m also a photographer, my wife makes sure I have equipment to get the job done. If you have a P & S that has a manual mode function and preferably a hot shoe, then I suggest this flash:

    It has a universal pin that you can mount on just about every camera with a hot shoe. I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 and the flash works great with it. I will not recommend the Neewer TT560 flash that does the same thing. I bought two of those and both were dead in less than four months.

    You could also use a flash bracket and mount the camera and flash and set the flash to slave mode. I did this for a couple years using a Yongnuo before finding the universal flashes. Now I just mount it on my camera.

    Hope this helps.

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