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You Can Shoot Real Estate with Only a 24mm Lens!

June 6th, 2018

Dave in Gig Harbor, WA (just south of Seattle) says:

Here’s a 750 sq ft home I shot with a 24mm. If this doesn’t prove that all those zoom-wide lens aren’t needed I give up. I literally never go any wider than 24mm these days (often 50mm). The 24mm TS-e hasn’t been off my camera in 6 months (I do have another camera for longer lenses). I’ve have some of my clients actually call me–to make fun of a new listing on the Hot Sheet, and how wide it’s been shot… People are starting to get it!

I was actually trained to shoot real estate with a 24mm prime! When I started shooting my wife’s listings in around 2000, all we had was a 24mm prime for our Nikon 6006 film DSLR. We used it for all her listings for many years. When I got a Canon 5DMkII and a 16-35mm zoom, the first listing I shot for her using the 16-35mm, I racked it out to 16mm for the whole thing. I’d never even seen images at 16mm and thought they were really cool! When I showed her the images, she went ballistic and sent me back to reshoot the listing at 24mm. From then on, every time I got below 24mm, she would complain the image looked like a bowling alley!

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29 Responses to “You Can Shoot Real Estate with Only a 24mm Lens!”

  • Dave, you neglect to mention if you are using a crop sensor or full frame camera. I shot annual reports and other 35mm subject matter for 30 years with my faithful 24mm Nikon lens on first my FPN then my FE2’s and loved it although I did invest in an 18mm for those really tight spaces. But I did not shoot RE although I could have.

    In 2006 I invested in my first Canon Rebel that came with an 18-50 lens. But again I was not shooting RE. When I started shooting RE I immediately bought the Sigma 10-20mm lens and almost always used it at 10mm to 12mm, seldom longer but than all my Canon’s and now my Sony are all crop sensors so it is more like a 15mm. There is very little that I shoot at the equivalent of 24mm unless I want to have some close ups of detail.

    So are you using a full frame DSLR? Since that would make more sense to me for RE work with that focal length? Your sample images look fine but then I don’t have the same views shot with a wider lens to compare them with.

  • A couple of weeks ago purchased a Canon 24 mm II T&S together with a MC-11 for my Sony A7. The best investment I ever made. What do I do with very small rooms and tight spots. Due to the abilities of the T&S I am able to take various images and stitch them together. As we used to say in my school days (now that was many many years ago) , QED. Prior to the T&S I used a Samyang 12/f2 (18 mm).

  • Half this guy’s shots were outdoors. Of course it’s easy to shoot a 750 s.f. house with a 24mm when you’re outside. But the bedroom and bathroom shots are terrible. Kitchen is barely acceptable. But hey, if you can find clients that love your work, whatever lens you shoot, that’s really the ONLY thing that counts.

  • Trevor, I’m sorry but I couldn’t disagree with you more (about the bedroom and bathroom shots being terrible – and kitchen being barely acceptable?). I think these shots are great! They are well composed, well lit, and give a great feel for the property. I also use a 24mm TSE on my Sony A7RII and used to shoot 100% of the properties at that range. Recently, I began to carry a second body (A7RIII with a 16-35) but find that I shoot 90% of the shots with that second body at 20-24mm – almost never between 16-19mm. But back to the comment at hand – using the terms terrible and barely acceptable to describe Dave’s work here is harsh and incorrect IMHO.

  • I usually shoot around 18mm full frame or 18 mm equivalent on a crop. Once I decided to try shooting at 24mm because I prefer that look in the type of homes I typically shoot. The agent asked me to reshoot the entire house at no charge because she felt the rooms looked small. Not a good day. Moral of the story. Give the client what they want.

  • I love my 24mm tilt shift and would use it for everything if I could. However, just the other day I had a homeowner complain that the shots were not wide angle enough (most at 20mm or below). She wanted me to reshoot the entire house, but since my schedule is full, I had to give her a refund.

    I also have to say, I HATE having to reshoot a place, because then they want to stand there and and compose every shot with you.

  • James, I find it interesting that you said I was wrong, but then go on to say that 90% of your shots are 20-24. I wonder what percentage is 20 and what is 24.

    I think that photographers are all about their “art” and “craft” too much to understand who needs to see the pictures…the HOME BUYER. Pictures for home buyers should be different than pictures for furniture makers or even architects and designers. I just bought a house and was home shopping for almost 9 months. I looked at over a hundred listings and their photos. Photos like the ones above would have frustrated me and my wife. That picture of the bedroom is essentially a picture of the top of the mattress, a window and a portion of the wall. It makes the bedroom look like it’s 8×7. Heaven forbid the house is unfurnished and you end up taking a picture of a window and half a wall.

    As a home shopper, I want to see the ROOM, not a picture of the stupid pillows on the bed. 24mm isn’t wide enough.

  • @Peter – full frame, an almost worn-out MKlll.

    @desmond – I stitch a few too but that really slows me down so I try to avoid…

    @Trevor – I felt bad then I looked at some of your photos and laughed. But do I agree about finding clients that like your work (or hopefully them finding you).

    @James – TY for the kind words.

    @Brian – Generally I couldn’t disagree more. I say teach them what they want, they usually thank you later 🙂

    @Jesse – I’ve shot for a few of your clients when they have a job deep into the S Sound. I’ve been told our styles are similar (huge compliment to me that I don’t agree with as your’s is obviously M-U-C-H better). But the TS-e lens definitely sets your work apart.

    Thank you for the thoughtful feedback. The YouTube crop with KB effect is pretty brutal. Here’s what the photos really looked like:

    https://www.davespencerphotography.com/allyn-cabin

  • There’s no one way to do things. I was kind of feeling good this week that the FB group drama hadn’t spilled over onto PFRE…

    Dave, I think your photos are great. I shoot lake listings a good bit in my area of North Texas, but I’d kill to shoot even a tiny house like that. The landscape is gorgeous. You managed to show the interior space with a 24mm, which is saying something, though in the end it being a FF camera it’s not a whole lot narrower a field of view than many of us would probably shoot with normally.

  • What does the client (realtor) want. some don’t care, some do.

  • Great job and keep it up.

    Haters gonna hate!

  • These images are totally fine with 24mm, but I think some clients (agents) would complain that the entire room or adjoining spaces are not visible. For example, in the bedroom the image is almost entirely dominated by just the bed. Personally speaking, I think 24mm – 50mm is a great range for bringing the shots in tight when needed. This range is great when shooting for stagers, builders, designers, or editorial. But for real estate, most agents seem to want the house to appear as large as possible in the photos and show lots of space, which is where the 16-35mm on a full frame is king.

    Still great work and this focal length has a place in the repertoire.

  • I’d consider this more of an “ideal use case” than “proof that wider than 24mm isn’t necessary.” This property has an open layout, which is more conducive to longer focal lengths to break up the space, and it’s at ground level with double doors that allow you to shoot from outside in order to achieve angles not possible in many homes.

    With all respect to Dave’s artistic license and otherwise very nice images, I think there’s some missing information in the bedroom images and possibly the bathroom. The detail images are lovely but don’t really communicate anything about the house itself, and putting myself in the mind of a potential buyer, I have some unanswered questions about the size and layout of the bedrooms, what the floors look like, etc. Since I have not visited the property, I don’t know what other angles would have been possible, but I can’t help but feel that somewhere between 17-20mm FFE would have really helped out those particular rooms.

    I actually started out shooting real estate with my 24-105 f/4L, because it was the widest lens I had at the time. I didn’t know I was missing anything by not having a wider lens, so I learned to deal with that limitation. It worked wonderfully on larger homes, but as one would expect, I had quite a few clients ask why I didn’t go wider on smaller homes, particularly condos and single-family residences, and especially in powder rooms and other tight spaces.

    In my opinion, this image set is a great example of how freeing oneself from UFWA Syndrome can result in a much better presentation of a property. Shooting this whole property at 17mm, or God forbid, even wider, in my opinion, would have killed the intimacy of the space. But it’s a bit of an overreach to suggest it’s unnecessary to have anything wider than 24mm in one’s kit.

  • The key to using a 24mm focal length is the perspective control function, which permits retaining the desired perspective while giving a variety of compositional choices. In my opinion, a 24mm focal length without this function would be too limiting. Furthermore, I think that anyone who shoots architectural subject matter professionally should have wider focal lengths than 24mm available, even if they might not tend to use them much. There will always be some subjects and clients that may require their use.

    I do not think the bathroom and bedroom shots in question are very effective compositions. However, the problem may simply be that they are very small rooms that have limitations which prevent using a wider focal length in a way that would yield appealing results. This can be a particular problem in small rooms where a bed occupies most of the space. Furthermore, I disagree with those who think that the primary goal is to show space. That approach can lead to dull and distorted photos. Of course emphasize space for real estate marketing when it is photographically practical and does not compromise the compositions, but I think the main goal should be to create photos that highlight the primary aesthetic and functional appeal of the home, to inspire prospective buyers to actually want to see the home in person. I don’t think gratuitously wide photos suit this purpose, especially when they create excessive distortions.

  • Wow Dave Spencer,

    You are quite rude. I didn’t personally attack anyone here, nor was I rude to anyone, including the photographer of this property. Not sure why the hostility towards me. Perhaps you should be nicer to people. And perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Nearly every real estate agent who I’ve worked with loves my work and is a repeat customer. I’ve only lost 1 client in 3 years. So you may laugh at my work, but my clients are very happy and I’m not the only one here who thinks that even though you managed to take a picture of the bedroom with a 24 and the photos are nice, perhaps a wider lens would have been a BETTER choice.

  • Dave, thank you for clearing up the full frame vs crop sensor question. As I say, I shot photojournalism in tight quarters, annual reports, facility brochures even fashion with my 24mm on my Nikon film camera and almost never needed anything wider. That said, RE has its own specific requirements that often call for a much wider lens. I have never been a fan of “one size fits all” since our cameras and lenses are just tools after all and you need, like any craftsman, to pick the right tool for the particular job.

    I tend to use my 10mm-24mm Tamron on my Canon 80D and my 12mm Rokinon on my Sony A-6500 at maximum wide angle since I tend to aim more towards the floor to get less of the ceiling if the floor is more interesting than the ceiling which it generally is. That allows me image real estate (no pun intended) to straighten the verticals which usually crops the photos quite a bit. Then based on my own visual preferences, I often crop in on the shots anyway to where it feels right. I go a lot by my “feelings” visually. While I often manage to frame my shots at the time of the shoot, in post I often change my mind about how I did it. Plus for RE I am my own art director. When I was shooting for art directors, they always insisted I leave them plenty of room to crop the image since that was their job and their option, not mine. So I guess I carry that along with me into RE photography.

    Plus with the high resolution of today’s cameras, there is plenty of space to crop and not look sharpness and clarity. But with a 24 even on a full frame, you don’t have much leeway for cropping. Even when I zoom in, I always back off the zoom a bit just in case I need some wiggle room. So I agree with most of the responses above, that even if you are happy shooting with the 24 most of the time, it would be wise to have something wider in the bag for those situations when the 24mm is just too tight. Stitching with a wide angle has its issues.

  • I get what people say when they say give the client what s/he wants, but if a client specifically asked for images with wonky verticals, barrel distortion, cooked HDR etc then I’m sure most of us would say no.

  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I use my 24 more than my other lenses, but I’d hardly say the others “aren’t needed.”

  • I completely agree with Brandon V’s + Scott Basile’s comments … IMO, both are bang on! Yet, the comment that resonated the most with me so far, has been Matt Davis’s. Over my entire career, I’ve never believed the old adage that says: “the customer is *always* right.”

    @Dave … I must confess to being taken aback at your comment to Trevor W. I find it troubling that a professional photographer would demean a colleague, on a public forum, by saying that viewing his work made you laugh. All he did was present an opinion that was contrary to yours; and BTW, you’re allowed to disagree with his opinion, too – just say so and tell him why! But to insult him like that?! Not cool!

    Dave, you’ve distinguished yourself in this community by winning a POTM – behaving like that is beneath you!

  • @Tony – no reaction would have been better of course, but the guy had just called his images terrible and barely acceptable!

  • Wow, who knew that focal lengths could bring out the worst in people ÂŻ\_(?)_/ÂŻ

    I shoot anywhere from 16-24 depending on the room, layout, features, etc. I try not to shoot too wide but there are *many* times I find myself in the 16-18mm range in tight bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. There is no *best* focal length. Every property will present you with different challenges and opportunities to create beautiful images. Use what works for that situation. It’s really that simple.

  • Dave, I truly think your images with the 24mm Tilt shift lens are fine and looked wonderful. I do wish you were able to back out a little to give me a wider view of the two bedrooms, but your images are excellent.
    When I switch from my Nikons to the Fuji X system, I bought their X-Pro 1 (now using the XT-2) and their beautiful 10-24mm lens. I was so overwhelmed by the sharpness and contrast of this lens and the view at 10. (the Fuji lenses blew away my Tokina 12-28 lens and my Nikon 20mm f-2.8lens), unfortunately, I had to fix the distortion when I shot so wide, that I started backing out as far as I could and zooming in to a longer focal length. this not only gave me a less distorted view, but the tighter view, was easier to light. I found that most of my shots were done at an equivalent of about 20mm. more and more I am shooting tighter when I can, and my images look more normal. I later struggled weather to purchase the Fuji’s incredible 16mm f-1.4 (equal to 24mm) or purchase the Fuji prime 14mm (equal to a 21 mm on full frame) which is tack sharp, faster (f-2.8) and lighter than my 10-24 lens. I went with the 14, as It gave me a little wider view and would be able to crop if needed.
    Using a prime, forces me to be more disciplined on shooting my angles and keeps me from going too wide. I can always use my 10-24 when needed. I truly wish Fuji would come out with a Tilt shift lens for their cropped X cameras.

    When I shot buildings in the film days, I either shot 4×5 or my special 6×7 Architectural camera with a super wide shift, lens (approx. equal to a 28mm). We had no choice but to move back to get the angles we needed. Now with the super wide lenses available we might tend to go to wide, which I have done many times and why I bought the 14mm prime so I don’t shoot too wide.

  • @Ryan – thanks! Yeah, little cabins can be pretty cool!

    @Bill – Clients that want what you want will find you.

    @Darren – I don’t work for brokers that want the homes to look as big as possible. My clients (and I) don’t feel that’s what creates buyer interest.

    @Brandon – I agree, it’s definitely an ideal case. But please remember, it’s only 750 sq ft lol! The bedrooms don’t look big, because – well, they aren’t?

    @David – Totally agree; 24mm TS-e is a world apart from 24mm.

    @Trevor – I’m laughing because you called those photos terrible (who even does that?!?) which made me feel bad because I really loved them for the place. So I pulled up some of your work and saw a bedroom that you shot over the bed into the room, suuuuuper-wide. The bed looked as long as a football field. It brightened me up considerably!

    @Peter – I get that. And agree. I have commercial clients that want area to play with in post. But for RE, at my volume, I like to walk out of the house with what I’m using and feel good about (saves me time consuming 2nd guessing myself later).

    @Matt – Amen.

    @Scott – It’s worked out real well for me (closing in on 3000 homes now). And I definitely *do* use longer lenses regularly.

    @Tony – If you’d feel less “taken aback” you’re welcome to strip me of my award.

    @Daniel – Agree, no “best”. Just whatever makes a buyer come see it.

    @Eric – You’re talking in cropped sensor terms so that might seem confusing… thought I’d mention… if anyone is actually still reading this 🙂

  • @Matt … Do I think the images are “terrible” and “barely acceptable” as Trevor stated? No. Do I think it was constructive criticism. No. Am I justifying his comments? Absolutely not!

    Dave is a good shooter and most of us who are familiar with his work know that! While there were a couple of images in his post that, IMO, would’ve benefitted from his going a bit wider — overall, I thought he did a really nice job on that set; and to be honest, I regret not saying so in my last comment. So, Dave, if you’re reading this: Nice job!

    That said, I think there was a better way for Dave to reply to Trevor. First of all, I agree with you, Matt, that perhaps the best answer was giving none at all. If, however, Dave wanted to pursue it, he could’ve said something like: “Trevor, thanks for your feedback. Could you please tell me specifically what it was that made the images so terrible, in your eyes.” I think saying something like this puts the ball back in Trevor’s court and, then, we all get to see how (if) he responds. But jumping immediately to calling Trevor’s work laughable, crossed a line in my eyes and I felt compelled to say something.

    One of the other commenters on this thread mentioned FB groups, and yes, there is so much negative crap that goes on in so many of those groups — feels like being in junior-high again with everybody gossiping about others! I just don’t want to see the PFRE blog spiral into something like that, as that’s beneath us all.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment, Matt … it gave me a chance to clarify my thoughts!

  • @ Dave, you must’ve posted your comment to me, just before I posted my reply to Matt this morning. I hope you will accept it in the spirit/positive intention in which is was offered. 🙂

  • I could and have shot homes with a 24mm, do I prefer it, not really. I have both a 24 & 19 TS and my 19 has become almost my only lens, I can crop when needed and it is nearly perfect for most rooms, great lens for composing. Guess I feel about the same with my 19 as you and your 24.

  • @Dave Thanks for posting these. It’s an interesting idea to limit to a set focal length, but I find that the 24mm shots are too cropped on the sides. I think it’s safe to say that we all have our preferences, but my preference is about 17mm on a full frame. This provides more opportunity to create a “peek” into the adjoining areas or rooms. I also think the wider focal length makes a room look larger and more spacious, an important element if you want to attract more buyers. The other challenge is that when you very large rooms it’s almost impossible to show-off the entire room in a single 24mm shot. Just some thoughts.

  • I don’t go out on a job with one foot encased in concrete and would never restrict myself to just one focal length. I see focal lengths the same way a painter might see brush sizes; I use what I think is going to work the best for the composition I want to make. I also want to be able to move quickly on an RE job so a zoom is better than constantly changing lenses from one prime to the next. Tilt-shift lenses are awesome, but they aren’t particularly fast to use and RE is a fast paced business. If you are always shooting 10,000sqft homes with larger rooms, you may be able to get away with just one lens and zoom with the feet. In my neck of the woods, a 3500sqft house probably has a medium sized master and 4-5 small bedrooms. A 24mm lens would be very restrictive.

    @David Eichler, I have to disagree with you about shooting “the space”. I try to always keep in the back of my mind that I am showing the house and not the things in it. I’ve only photographed a couple of vacation homes that were being sold furnished and even then I was in the mind set of showing the space as the buyer may just wind up chucking the old furniture before they move in. I have yet to make images of a very upscale home where the furniture may be a bonus. Everything else has been vacant or the furnishings were not included.

  • I really liked the photos and while I agree the bedroom shots would have benefited from a wider lens, I think the kitchen shots are nice… although I would have removed the towel from the oven haha.

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