With all of the camera gear available today, it can be hard to know what real estate photography equipment you actually need, especially when first starting out. Do you actually need the most expensive gear on the market, or are there more affordable options that will work well?
When beginning your real estate photography career, you're likely going to want to get started with the lowest possible cost. Gear can be a huge expense, so we're covering how you can find affordable real estate photography equipment and what to look for.
A primary gear driver in real estate photography is a good quality wide angle lens and this means you need a DSLR (interchangeable lenses). Don't even think about using a wide angle converter that screws on a point and shoot, most are total crap!
For real estate photography, the range of effective focal lengths you will want is between 16mm and 24mm. Understand that low-end cropped sensor DSLRs have a 1.5 (Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon) multiplier effect on the effective focal lengths. Spending money on wide angle glass is far more important than spending it on a camera body.
"Kit" lenses (the cheap lenses that manufacturers bundle with low-end DSLRs are not wide enough for interiors. Kit lens typically are in the 18-35mm range (28.8-56mm effective focal length on a Canon body) are not wide enough for shooting interiors. Learn more about the best lenses for real estate photography.
For a list of the possibilities see my lens table that shows all the major choices and a reader poll that lists what's popular with PFRE readers.
What we mean is that compared to the wide angle lens you choose, the DSLR body doesn't have all that much effect on your results. We assume that if you are going for the lowest possible cost you will be starting out with a cropped sensor DSLR camera. As cool as they look, you definitely don't need a 360 camera until you're selling that specifically.
Everyone needs at least one flash: (Yongnuo or Nikon SB80-DX) Lighting is a key issue in real estate photography. While most successful interior photographers eventually realize that multiple small flashes are the way to get the best results, many start out shooting brackets, process with Exposure Fusion and eventually grow into multiple flash technique.
Even if you are going to are going to start out shooting brackets, a single flash improves your results noticeably. This is why we recommend even beginners have at least one flash unit. For processing a series of brackets I recommend using Exposure Fusion (sometimes called blending).
We think it's best to stay away from HDR for interiors because it's just too hard and too much work to do it well. We only know a handful of people that manage to do HDR interior well, and many of them have moved to Exposure Fusion because it is not as time consuming in post-processing.
A Manfrotto or other similar sturdy tripod is adequate. We have a guide on picking the best tripod for real estate photographers. You'll probably also want a fluid head for your tripod, but you can opt for just a regular ball head if you're trying to save some money.
Get an inexpensive tripod to use for a flash stand so you can get your flash off your camera and move it around independently of the camera.
To move your flash off your camera you'll need some kind of triggering device. We highly recommend getting a trigger, as this will come in handy when you want to use multiple flashes for one location.
A polarizing filter is a must for external shots, it makes clouds look great, gives a saturated look to colors.
Here are the basic decisions you must make:
There is some classic real estate photography gear that's worth highlighting:
If we had to pick the best value for your money (new Canon gear) right now it would be the Canon T5 with a 10-18mm lens. You can get this combo for $669 on Amazon. Note that this Canon DSLR and wide-angle lens for roughly $300 less than the Nikon combo below. This is a fairly recent development since Canon announced the 10-18mm lens and the T5 DSLR. The T5 has fewer features than the T5I check here to see if you are willing to live with fewer features.
Kit Lenses: The prices above assume that you purchase DSLR bodies only. While a kit lens (usually a 18-55mm lens bundled with new DSLRs) make exterior shots look better, a kit lens is not absolutely essential. You can shoot exterior shots with a wide-angle lens racked to the longest focal length.
Miscellaneous items: Besides the DSLR and wide-angle lens you'll also need a few other items:
The photo above is Wayne's (17.60" x 5.20" x 11.69") equipment case with the Sony A6000 that Wayne Capili pointed out to us all back in 2015. The following is a list of what's in it:
This isn't the cheapest kit but it is the lightest. Yet the quality of results you can gets with the A6000 is amazing! Just to show the results that Wayne get with this small kit, here is Wayne's A6000 Flickr portfolio.
One PFRE reader said, "I discovered using the A6000 one year ago for RE photography. I saw how great it was the very first house I used it on. I got better color, wider dynamic range, much easier to carry around the house, and it reduced my photo time in the house and in post processing by 1/3. It’s a great real estate camera!"
For anyone starting out in real estate, the A6000 would be a great way to go.
For those who don't know Wayne, he is the first ever PFRE Photographer of the year (in 2008). Also, it's worth noting that Wayne actually regularly uses the equipment on the above list. You can see this by looking at the EXIF info on his Flickr stream.
He has recently also started using an A6300 and a Sony 10-18mm. A little-known tidbit is that Wayne has spent some time working with Ansel Adams! That's what happens to photographers who hang out in Monterey for a long time! Thanks Wayne for all your valuable contributions to the PFRE community!