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Getting Started Shooting Real Estate with a Sony A6xxx

January 15th, 2019

Karen in Sunriver, OR says:

I’m a licensed agent and general contractor in California; although I currently live in Sunriver, OR. Since the passing of my husband a few years ago, and needing to support myself, I am looking to switch gears. I’ve always had a good eye for design, have an appreciation for real estate, and think real estate photography may be a good option for me. Do you have any YouTube videos, etc. with “how-tos” for real estate photography? Specifically using the Sony A6000 since that is the kind of camera that I have.

Yes, the Sony A6xxx line is a good way to get started in real estate photography. To start off with, be sure to take a look at the post here on the PFRE blog that Wayne Capili did on his discovery of the A6000 as a real estate camera. Wayne’s post talks about the other gear you need to go with the A6000 (wide-angle lens, strobes, and strobe controller) to do real estate photography. Many readers here on the blog use the A6000 or one of its follow-up models, A6300 & A6500.

There is nothing unique about learning real estate photography with a Sony A6xxx. All the books, video series, coaching, and workshops we promote here on PFRE will help you get started.

Last minute update: Just a few hours before this post went live, Sony announced the A6400, a new camera in this line that will be shipping in February for $900. For more info see:

If you are getting an A6xxx this is probably the way to go.

 

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9 Responses to “Getting Started Shooting Real Estate with a Sony A6xxx”

  • Karen, the gear is far less important than composition and technique. Interior photography is not the easiest genre of photography to start with. There are no magic buttons that instantly deliver a good image and no formulas such as you might find for lighting a portrait that are going to work in most situations. Mike Mirello’s (sp?) Photography for Real Estate podcast which hasn’t been updated in years might still be available. Nathan Cool, Rich Baum and Andrew Pece all have YouTube channels with real estate centric tutorials that you can watch but you may need to start at the beginning with basic courses in photography and using a digital camera since all of those videos are going to assume you have a certain level of proficiency with the camera, flashes and Lightroom/Photoshop. I often recommend signing up at Lynda.com/LinkedInlearning and going through Ben Long’s “Foundations of Photography” series. They are generally pretty gear agnostic so the concepts he’s teaching apply to most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. I like the way Ben teaches and I appreciate his sense of humor. Scott Hargis has a series on Lynda.com about RE photography that is very detailed and very well explained. Another noted photographer is Mike Kelly (fStoppers), but I’d say to wait until you are well into it since his tutorials are on the advanced side and expect you have top end gear and are very comfortable with Photoshop to keep up with many things he teaches.

  • I have owned an a6000, a6300, and a6500. The a6300 is the minimum, IMHO. I don’t think the a6000 is up to the task. However, I now shoot on a Sony A7Rii. Once you go full frame, you don’t go back.

  • Yes, as Ken Brown said, The Ben Long series on Lynda is excellent. If you can’t get anyone to give you a shoot, just volunteer to do it for free. You’ll definitely many jobs that way! Then get paid later when you’re good enough to charge.

  • I agree with Ken. RE photography is just a branch of professional photography. First you have to learn to be a photographer. Learn how to light, how to frame, how to see and expose. Only then can you become an RE photographer which is a speciality within photography. So as long as the camera you start with is good enough and have a decent lens preferably a wide angle, you can learn photography. For that I would think the 6000 is more than adequate. Hell even an older Nikon or Canon Rebel will take good photos. But it’s not the equipment that will take your photos, they just record them. It is the photographer’s eye and brain that take the shots before you press that button.

    I have client who can afford to buy and does buy much more expensive equipment than I have or can afford who throw up their hands and say “I was standing right next to you, so why don’t my shots look like yours?” I have learned to keep my mouth shut since the answer is obvious. I can speak but I could not sell a house if my life depended on it.

    So Karen. I would suggest you follow the recommendations above and focus on learning photography first. And of course you can learn it with RE as your subject matter, but I would hold off on shooting anything for agents and realtors until you have something good to show, something you know is of high enough quality to actually be effective in selling a property or attracting a seller to get you to list them. Then do some freebies so you can develop a good reputation for quality, not have to spend a long time overcoming a poor reputation by shooting properties too early in your skill development. And it’s not just the shooting and lighting, it’s also the processing of the images and what software to use and how to use it effectively. You could try out your developing skills on model homes if you are allowed to since they will be staged. Or the homes of friends and family. But first learn how to use that camera and I agree Lynda.com is an excellent online way to study although I think a hands on class in real time is better to start. Somewhere where you can ask questions and get answers.

  • Karen, everyone has to start somewhere. If money is tight don’t go out and spend money yet, wait until an income from your photography is available, and certainly don’t get into debt for same! I use an A7RII but on certain occasions for very tight spaces I still use my “trusty” old a6000 together with a Samyang 12 mm wide angle lens. With the crop factor the 12 mm will be the equivilent of 18 mm. I don’t have a 17 or 18 mm in my kit so this serves the purpose. As a rule I use my 24 mm T&S from Canon via an MC-11 adapter. I mention my “trusty” a6000 because this my first real step into digital photography after being a roll film user for many years.

    So Karen, I wish you all the success in the world……..

  • A lot of solid points made as can start with entry level interchangeable lens camera of most brands, and the Sony a6000 that you already have is an excellent choice. The fact that it is still sold new after now 3 “improved” models is virtually unheard of in the camera industry and speaks volumes. If you do decide to upgrade to another camera in the series, or even go full frame in my case, don’t sell/trade the a6000 but keep it as a backup, which when charging clients for services, you ethically should have. Also comes in handy as a second camera shooting video B-roll, particularly in interviews where can switch angles from straight to profile with the same audio track syncd. The Samyang/Rokinon 12mm prime lens is a good choice, however, it is not autofocus and wife has found manual focus override to be frustrating, programming one of the function buttons on the a6000 to enable it. While that is a prime lens, with zoom, there is only one choice, the Sony 10-18. Pricey (still cheaper than the Zeiss Touit 12mm autofocus prime) but consistent with the Nikon/Canon brand zooms while the less expensive Tamron/Sigma’s don’t offer their equivalent in the e-mount for Sony. That said, an ultra-wide angle lens is one of the harder lens to use than the almost seamless “normal” to telephoto and requires a lot more practice to get it correct in camera – particularly verticals. Many good YouTube videos series by the photographers mentioned earlier, and also Lynda.com which does have some but perhaps more valuable on software training. While Lynda.com is relatively inexpensive, and no long term commitment, may want to check your public library online resources as mine includes Lynda.com. Finally, one thing not brought up and wanting to avoid “free” shoots, practice in your own home, then develop an initial portfolio at new home sales nicely staged model homes. As a (former) Realtor you are use to talking to their agent, and if you ask during their non-busy time (midweek) they will usually allow it.

  • Karen, a PS to my comment. Larry mentioned more or less the disadvantage of a manual focus lens. Yes, it takes practice but if you can focus with a manual lens you will be ahead of the competition. The Sony range of mirrorless cameras also offer excellent assistance in achieving this. My Canon 24 mm TS is manual focus only, so if one day you are able to purchase a TS, which I find is almost essential for some RE photography you must be able to focus manually. Unfortunately the TS lenses are expensive but they are good. If you do decide to get one, then don’t buy a “cheap” one! There is one on the market for $999. Hold it in your hand and then hold the Canon in your hand. Worlds apart!! The “cheap” one performs quite well, but remember, only top quality will sell images and enable you to sustain a business.

    There is no need to rush out to buy one of these because I have proven to a friend who challenged me, one can achieve saleable photos with his kit lens and entry level Canon.

  • Karen, like Desmond, I am adding a PS to my comment based on a mention of the Rokina 12mm wide angle lens for the Sony mount. When I bought my A-6500 I bought the Rokina 12mm. It is a fixed focal length and does not connect to the auto functions of the camera. But I and others who have used it with the Sony A series find it not only a really sharp lens but since the focal length is fixed (i.e. no zoom) the lens distortions are minimized and I find I have to make very little corrections for lens distortion in post processing. Excellent for video that I believe I read somewhere it was designed for. Yes it is fixed but I have found it covers 99% of RE shooting. I subsequently bought the Sony 10-18mm lens because I do need zoom but it has more lens distortions especially at 10mm than my other ultra wide lenses and a lot more than the Rokinon. And I bought it for $399 new. You might be able to find it for less used.

    Sure it does not have auto focus, but I have found that shooting at f-stops above 5.6 (I tend to shoot at f-9), when set on infinity, pretty much everything is is focus up to about 3.5-5 feet from the camera. Getting the infinity setting is a question of lining up the infinity symbol with the little white line almost at the end of the focus ring travel, not, like many lenses, all the way to the end of the ring travel. Important. I used it normally on my first shoot with it and the ring all the way to the stop and found everything had gone a touch soft. So now when I use it I use some gaffers tape (or duct tape) to hold the setting of the ring in place. But it would indeed be an excellent choice, and if you want to use auto exposure (which I don’t recommend) you can set the ISO on auto.

  • Ken Brown’s response was perfect. I had access to a lynda.com account around a decade ago and learned the foundations of photography (well, digital photography at least) from those Ben Long courses. Great stuff. Only a year ago I learned most of what I know about real estate photography for free watching tutorials from Rich Baum, Nathan Cool, etc… If you already have a good base knowledge of photography and Lightroom/Photoshop, Larry Lohrman’s ‘Photography for Real Estate’ would be a great place to start. If you’re already pretty familiar with the real estate business and just want to get started with making nice looking interior photos, then Scott Hargis’ book Lighting Interiors is great. The fstoppers ‘Where Art Meets Architecture’ series is a little pricy, but is great if you like comprehensive video tutorials and want to learn more about the intricacies of compositing. There’s so much great info out there and most if it is super affordable if not free.

    But really, a basic camera & wide angle lens on a tripod and an off camera flash will get you started shooting. Get an Adobe Photography subscription and you’ll be off to the races. That, and lots of practice.

    Oh, and listen to the ‘Shooting Spaces’ podcast!

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