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When it comes to buying a tripod, most people don't know where to start. There are so many options out there, and they all seem similar on the surface. Right?
You may be thinking, do I need a heavy-duty model, or can I get by with something lighter? Should I buy carbon fiber or aluminum? Will this hold up in the wind if we're shooting outside? What about carrying it around all day - will my back hurt after lugging this thing around while getting shots of houses all day long? It's easy to see why you might put off buying a new tripod until you absolutely have no other option!
This guide is designed to help take some of the guesswork out of choosing your next tripod purchase. You'll learn everything from what different materials do, how they affect weight and price, when you should consider carbon fiber vs aluminum, whether ball heads or pan/tilt heads are better, and a few other things in between…
These Are Real Recommendations For Real Estate Photographers
I wanted to make this clear first. I’m not here just throwing suggestions to you out of a bag. I was a real estate photographer for years before moving out here to San Diego. So if I recommend it, it’s because I have either used it myself or done extensive research and know someone personally who uses it.
Just know – the best tripods for real estate, aren’t cheap. Quality comes at a price. But believe me – they pay off ten-fold long term.
Some of you reading this might be blown away by how expensive quality tripods can be… but trust me when I say this…
If you’re serious about making a living and turning your real estate photography business full-time… bite the bullet once… and you won’t have to for many, many years to come.
Continue reading the entirety of the article to hear a few stories of those who chose to shop cheap.
Why Are Tripods Useful For Real Estate Photographers?
Not all homes are well lit, but there are ways to improve them. Think of a windowless laundry closet or the lack of natural light on a cloudy day. You'll inevitably run across situations where you need to change your camera settings due to lighting.
With a tripod, this is greatly simplified.
Instead of having to adjust your settings to get a good shot, a tripod allows you to use a slower shutter speed. So you can always use the lowest settings for both the shutter speed and ISO without sacrificing image quality.
Beyond that, it’s almost impossible to take HDR photos and panoramic shots handheld.
The reason for this is both HDR photography and panoramic imaging require the images to be aligned correctly. Camera movement will create editing nightmares later on.
With the help of tripods, you can guarantee perfect camera alignment in any photo you shoot.
The Advantage Of Using A Tripod For Real Estate
There are three main benefits to using tripods when photographing real estate properties.
A Tripod Eliminates Camera Shake
The first advantage is the elimination of camera shake caused by you shaking the camera. Regardless of how still you think you're being, the camera will always move a little bit.
The problem here is that these subtle motions can translate into blurry images If your shutter speed isn't fast enough, you'll notice some motion blur in all your hand-held photos.
With a tripod, you don’t need to worry about motion blurring since your camera will remain completely still.
A Tripod Helps With Consistency
Consistency is a big part of real estate photographs. Ensuring that all your images are consistent in their composition and height from room to room.
When you shoot handheld, it's impossible for you to know whether you're maintaining the same position. It's difficult to know whether that be in height or angle, it's challenging to tell.
A tripod allows for consistently good photos because the height and angle are fixed in place. It makes it much easier to maintain a consistent look throughout a whole room.
A Tripod Helps To Maintain Straight Lines (Good Verticals)
There are lots of lines you need to pay attention to when shooting an interior space—lines between objects, lines of a countertop or table, lines of the ceiling, floor, doors, and more.
To get a good real estate picture, you must ensure that all of these lines are perfectly straight. The goal is to minimize lens distortion.
By using a tripod, you can easily fine-tune the angle of these lines with a good tripod head (that's made to do such a thing).. Once you've found a good position for the camera, you can lock it into place and guarantee perfect lines every time.
It is possible to shoot both handheld and with a tripod, but it is more tedious and can produce more varied results. Remember, consistency is king in Real Estate photography.
What Aspects Make A Tripod Great For Real Estate Photography
I'm going to assume you already know the importance of a tripod for real estate photos, or else you wouldn't be here, right? Yeah. I wanted to discuss a tripod's aspects that make it the best tripod for real estate photography. Seeing as there are countless brands, sizes, features, and all kinds of other sh*t out there, I'm here to spell out what you need to be looking for in a real estate tripod.
All of these aspects come into play when deciding on which tripod is best for you. These Aspects will be included in every recommendation - it is up to you to decide which aspect is the most important to you (because there isn't a 'perfect tripod', or anything for that matter).
This section will cover 6 aspects you need to keep in mind. These include:
Size and weight
Twist Locks vs Lever Locks
What your tripod is made of greatly impacts both weight and durability. Carbon fiber tripods are usually lightweight and more durable. Aluminum tripods are usually cheaper and heavier. So, it's really a decision about both cost and weight. A lightweight tripod may cost more - but a cheaper version will be heavier, weaker, and not as durable.
Generally speaking, if you had two tripods and the only thing different about them was material (one is aluminum and one is carbon fiber), the carbon fiber version would last longer.
Fun Fact: Carbon Fiber is about 40% lighter than aluminum - while being about 10x stronger (per unit volume)* This is an obvious reason for an increase in cost and durability.
Rigidity (How Rigid Is It)?
This is a pretty loaded question.
Basically, how much do you have to worry about the tripod (and your camera) falling over. How strong are the legs and their hinges/moving parts? Does it feel like what you paid for it?
These are things that some people don't think about when shooting real estate. It's only when they're faced with a broken tripod or, God forbid, a broken tripod and camera - that they realize how important these types of questions are. You want a sturdy tripod.
How long do you think a tripod should last? Is it something you even worry about? Are you OK with replacing them every 6 months to a year? If you are, are you ok with one failing in the middle of a property - having to deal with not having one then, for the rest of the day, and the next couple days as another one comes in...
Trust me... you don't. I've been there and done that.
You want something durable as hell. Something that you can toss around now and again after a really long day shooting and on the road. You don't want to have to worry about sh*t laying on it in your trunk or the bed of your truck.
It's peace of mind knowing that what you have can take a beating and keep on going, year after year.
Size & Weight
This is an aspect that a lot of beginners don't think about. The weight of everything in your camera bag/case, no matter how small, is added weight.
They may think that a couple of ounces here and a couple of ounces there isn't going to make much of a difference... well, think like that 5, 10, 20 times, and well, what you're lugging around every day is way heavier than it needs to be.
Think small and light.
I remember having a f*ckclobbering video tripod that I thought was so badass. It weighed 14 lbs - had triple supports on each leg... superfluid head... damn, I thought I was cool...
And then I had to walk it 6 blocks through the heart of Washington DC... that was to get there... Then, I had to walk the same distance back with the rest of my gear in a pelican. Needless to say - I could have done the same shoot with one of the tripods I'm going to mention today. I mean, I was shooting on a 1dx MkII. No need for such a heavy tripod.
Stories aside - think about how often you're going to be taking it in and out of your car, walking up and downstairs, through entire homes, multiple times in one day. That weight, while maybe not at first, can wear anyone down... I don't care how 'fit' you are... it will. You want to think of portable tripods over anything else (which is all we're recommending in this article).
Keep in mind the size of the tripod when it's broken down. Make sure it fits in your vehicle and your bag/case easily. You don't want to have to 'man-handle' your tripod every time you need to get it out and put it away.
How Tall Is It?
Or better put, what's its maximum height.
Depending on the type of real estate photography you do, this may not be much of a concern. For instance, architectural photography may not need photos taken from high in the air.
On the other hand, maybe you're taking normal property photography (residential), and you cannot use a drone to get those nice aerials. You would then benefit greatly from a tripod with a greater maximum height.
I knew of a few photographers that wouldn't take many aerials (Washington DC) because of the air traffic. They also didn't believe in breaking out poles... so they would stand on the roof of their trucks and take 'aerials' with the tripod extended as high as it could go...
It worked for them. Their verticals were way off most of the time, but they could fix it in post usually.
This can be an option for you as well. It's a metric I will include in every recommendation well.
Twist Locks Vs Lever Locks
No matter how expensive a tripod is, there are only two types of tripod legs: the twist lock and the lever lock.
Although both serve the same purpose, they have a slightly different approach when adjusting your tripod's height.
A twist-lock does exactly as the name suggests. You rotate these locks to loosen your tripod legs and adjust the height. The advantage is that they're slightly easier to undo and tighten, but they take slightly more time and can give the appearance of being secure when in fact they aren't.
Flip locks use latches to lock or unlock the tripod legs. It's easier to adjust your tripod with lever locks quickly and less cumbersome to make small height adjustments. The downside is that these locks can 'wear' over time. It's somewhat of a compression lock - this can lead to wear and tear in the flip lever and shorten the life of the lever itself.
You can't go wrong with either option, they both have their pros and cons. It is important to weigh them both and make a decision. Personally - I prefer flip locks over twist locks... but that's just my preference!
Buy The Legs And The Head, Separate
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about buying tripods for real estate with or without a tripod head.
Let's talk about the legs (or the actual tripod) first.
I'm sure you have an idea of what your height needed and what your daily payload is. Choosing between 3, 4, or 5 section legs comes down to how tall you need your tripod to be (obviously). The more sections you have (even if you don't need it now), the more flexibility it offers.
There Are Two Types Of Heads
Now for the head - and this is why real estate photography for a living will tell you to buy them separately. You should purchase the head that works best for your needs and style.
Generally speaking, there are two types of tripod heads for real estate photography. You have your traditional ball head that swivels freely as any other ball head does.
Then you have a geared head. A geared head allows you to make every minute adjustments across multiple axes using gears (you adjust them using knobs). These are perfect for real estate or architectural photography.
Now, you should have a pretty good idea of whether the way you work (or your style) supports a ball head or a geared head. Are you more of a 'set it and forget it' kind of shooter and fixes verticals and distortion in post (or has their editor do it) - or do you care more about getting everything perfect in camera? You'd benefit more from a geared head then. Generally speaking, you will need to purchase a quick-release plate for any tripod head you purchase.
So, buying them separately allows you to not only choose the type - but the quality of the head as well. There are many different 'styles' of both ball and geared heads on the market... and it gives you the flexibility to choose which one is best for you.
Quality when purchasing 'kits' is lacking most of the time as well. There are a reason manufacturers offer a tripod/head combo - they make more money off of cheaper products that way (*ahem* Manfrotto *ahem*)
Don't fall for it... buy the legs and the head separate.
Let's Recap What We've Discussed So Far
Before diving into the best tripod for real estate photography, let's go over what's been discussed thus far - really drive the importance of it all, home.
The 6 aspects you need to keep in mind when thinking of your next real estate tripod is:
Material (Carbon or Aluminum Tripods)
Flip Locks or Twist Locks
All 6 aspects are fundamental. However, finding a balance between the 6 and getting them as close to 'equal' as possible is a different story. We will get to that here shortly.
The last suggestion/pointer is to purchase your tripod legs and tripod head separately. You'll have much more flexibility that way - and you won't waste money on ahead and/or legs you will ultimately throw away in the trash or a closet later on.
Let's move on to the tripods now!
The Best Tripod For Real Estate Photography Goes To...
RRS stands for 'Really Right Stuff.' Yeah, I'm not kidding. Regarded as the most reliable, dependable, and plain ol' rock-solid tripod on the market for real estate photographers today (any type of photographer, for that matter).
Paired with the Arca Swiss D4 geared head - and you literally have the best tripod setup for real estate photography. This setup will probably last you your entire career (if taken care of).
Let's go over the aspects of the tripod that we mentioned earlier.
Along with that - you have a few awesome features (as seen in the graphic above) - Their platform allows for quick changing for different accessories, quick leveling base, quick column, and compatibility for fluid video heads. It's about anything you can ask for.
With that being said, I'm sure you can see why it's regarded as one of the best tripods on the market, especially for someone who uses their tripod daily. It's meant to be used - and last. That's the most important part.
While It's More Than Worth It - Let's Talk About Price...
Yeah, all the features and dependability are fantastic. But, If you were to price out the tripod itself with an Arca Swiss D4, you're looking at a price tag of about $2,300. Yes, that's correct. If you want the best - you'll have to pay for it.
If you have the money to invest in this kind of quality that will last you a decade or more - great. I highly recommend doing so. You can thank me years from now when you hear about the thousands others have spent in replacing theirs over the years...
Now, if you don't have the cash to purchase the best of the best... don't sweat it. Not many people have that kind of cash sitting around - I totally get it. However, there are still 4 more tripods on this list that won't break the bank quite as much.
**I recommend visiting their website for even more information about their products and who they are. Their products are out of stock often (as of writing this, it's currently out of stock). Pick it up if you can and when you can!**
Rigidity: 9/10 - While the tripod is solid - because of its size and being a travel tripod, it doesn't maintain the same footprint and stability that a larger tripod would. A bag or sandbags would alleviate this issue.
Durability: 10/10 - You can't beat carbon fiber over billet. Everything that Gitzo produces is made to last.
Size/Weight: 4 section tripod//Max payload: 26.46lbs (12.02kg)//Length when closed: 17.5 inches//Weight of tripod itself: 2.94 lbs
As you can see - it is smaller and lighter. So while you lose on max payload and a little stability, you gain from it being smaller, lighter, and less expensive.
Much like everything else on this list - what you're getting is something that lasts... regardless of price, this will last you a decade or more.
Note: The average lead time for shipment of this tripod is 3-5 weeks. If you're planning to purchase - expect to wait at least 6 weeks to receive it.
Just a heads up - this tripod is even more affordable still!
The Benro Mach 3 is the most affordable on this list. It offers many of the same features and meets payloads like the rest of them. You can't find a more recommended tripod (along with their gear head) at this price point for real estate photography. Period.
With that being said, there are quite a few setbacks that you should be aware of. Remember what we were talking about earlier... if you decide to purchase the bottom-end, you will probably get bottom-end quality.
Let's go over the aspects before we get into the details you need to know.
Rigidity: 10/10 - As seen in the photos, this is a substantial and solid tripod with the ability to remain standing in some of the worst conditions (2 different feet - spiked ones for added stability when outdoors).
Durability/longevity: 7/10 - While a great tripod for the price, it has its cons. We will go over that here in a minute.
Size/weight: 3 section tripod//Max Payload: 35.3 lbs (about 16kg)//Length when folded: 20.3 inches//Weight of tripod itself: 3.4 lbs
As you can see - it's an excellent tripod. Professional photographers from all genres rave about it. But, while you hear the raving - you have to dig deep to find the underlying issues...
First are the tripod leg screws. No lock washer or backward threaded nut is keeping the bolts tight. Over time and depending on how much you use it - you'll have to tighten these bolts once every 1-3 months. Not a big deal, though, right? Well, I guess...
Some speak very highly of Benro - hell, I used them for years without a problem - and some don't care for them at all (like everything else in this world). So it really comes down to how well you use and take care of your equipment.
With that being said, some people claim the tripod only lasted them a year. Then some claim to have been using it for 5 years or more... Like I said, take care of your equipment, and I'm sure this tripod could last you years (and invest in thin lock-washers if the bolts start giving you a problem.
FLM may be a company that you've never heard of before. I hadn't heard of them until I met another photographer that said he loved them. He said their quality is superb, coupled with an Arca Swiss D4... he said he hadn't used anything better.
After that, I checked them out - and believe it or not, FLM has been around since 1994. Everything was designed and built in Germany. Then they were shipped to Canada, which then shipped into the states.
Since then - they have sold to a different company while maintaining their quality a reputation. I have done extensive research on this tripod and brand - and while slightly less in the quality department than the RRS... it's still a wonderful build and company.
Rigidity: 10/10 - 10 layers of carbon fiber (highest on this list) makes it one of the most rigid on the market today.
Size/weight: 4 Section Tripod//Max Payload: 121 lbs (that is not a typo)//Length when folded: 23 inches//Weight of Tripod: 5.6 lbs
Pretty impressive, right? It's taller and stronger than any of the tripods on the list so far. Its strength is slightly due to the layers of carbon fiber. It supports nearly 40% more payload capacity than anything on this list.
Though, it weighs more than anything on the list too.
It is worth it to advise that this is the second version of the tripod, released this year. You get revised leg angle selectors, easy to adjust central column bowl, and taller.
If you need the extra payload but are OK with the added weight, I would highly recommend it. But, again, it all depends on your workflow and what you need daily.
Rigidity: 10/10 - It shows; checkout the payload below.
Durability: 9.5/10 - I'll get into one small reason it's not a 10/10 here in a minute too.
Size: 2 section tripod//Max Payload: 132.2 lbs//Length when folded: 28.74 inches//Weight of Tripod: 8.75 lbs
Height: Max 63.77 inches
Yeah, this is a big boy. We're talking nearly 10 lbs to lug around. It's, of course, heavier than anything on this list. It's also larger when folded than anything else on this list. What it does have going for it is the added payload. It's the strongest tripod on this list.
The one thing that is both a pro and con about this tripod is that you can take the legs off of the tripod. This is great when needing a monopod or walking stick... but what it isn't good for are the screws that hold the legs on.
Those hex key-set screws can be absolutely terrible. They strip very easily if not tighten correctly (like the Benro) and can become a pain in the ass later on down the road if you aren't mindful about stripping them.
But, if extra weight and customizability is your thing - do not think twice about 3 legged things (no pun intended).
That About Covers It For This One!
Whewww... that was a long one! But I really hope you got something out of it!
We talked about what aspects make a great tripod, along with a few things to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing one. Then we went over all 5 recommendations in detail.
The list of best tripods for real estate photography (From best to worst) include: