Real Estate Photography Equipment: Everything For Success
August 29, 2021
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Real estate photography can be a very lucrative business. However, it does take some time and investment to get your business off the ground. You'll need to invest in camera equipment, software for editing images on your computer, and perhaps even office space if you plan on expanding.
If you're looking at getting into real estate photography but aren't sure where to start then we've got you covered! We have put together a comprehensive list of all the different types of equipment that are needed.
In this blog post, we will discuss exactly what type of equipment is needed and which brands and models are the most reliable and cost-effective. By the end of this article - you'll not only know what you need - you'll have a very cost-effective list of real estate photography gear. It'll be everything you need to start practicing and reaching out to realtors!
So that you aren't too confused by the way I have structured this article, I thought it would be fitting to add a little bit of context in regards to that.
Here is how the article will be structured. You can use the table of contents at the top of this article to navigate through its entirety. I will do my best to keep this article as short (while still informative) as I can.
The sections going forward will be:
Camera Body Recommendation: Full Frame or Crop Sensor
Lens Recommendation: Wide Angle Is Necessary
Recommended Flash Trigger
CPL Filter (circular polarizer)
Remote Camera Trigger
Combining these topics will leave you with a great idea of what the best real estate photography equipment is - while recommending affordable options that will work for you just as well as top-tier equipment (which you don't need, especially getting started).
Camera Body Recommendation: Full Frame or Crop Sensor
We always recommend a full-frame camera for all work. If full-frame isn't something you're interested in, that's not an issue. You can achieve similar results on a crop sensor (like the Canon 80D). You will have to use either crop sensor lenses or be OK with using full-frame lenses. You'll have a crop (directly related to the crop factor of your camera), but it'll work just fine.
Check out the video below for a deeper explanation of the difference between full-frame and crop sensor cameras.
If you're just starting out - we always recommend purchasing used equipment. This allows you to obtain the exact same results as a brand new version - at literally a fraction of the cost.
Over 80% of all my equipment is used - and it yields the same results as equipment that's purchased brand new.
Now, there is a time and a place for new equipment, but that's another article.
From this moment forward - I want you to forget about eBay and the used Amazon marketplace.
This is for both buying and selling. There is entirely too much risk, especially on eBay when everything now has a 30-day return policy... regardless if you honor it in your listing or not.
KEH specialized in used camera equipment and had been doing so since 1979. They offer a wide variety of camera bodies, wide-angle lenses for real estate, tilt-shift lenses, ultra-wide lenses... basically anything you need; they've got you covered.
Not only that - you can sell them your gear or trade for an upgrade. They'll even give you a higher trade value if you stick with them to make that upgrade. Their business has stood the test of time and they remain the largest online retailer for strictly used camera gear.
The point of all of this is to encourage you to think about purchasing used (if you don't already) - and to do it with a safe and trusted company like KEH. This is the main reason why we have partnered with them - to save creatives their hard-earned money - all while doing it safely and honestly.
The Full Frame Cameras We Recommend
Just so this article isn't too long, we will recommend a series of cameras from different brands. These cameras are about the same in price and performance. The only difference is the brand and whether you prefer one over the other.
As far as the megapixel requirement for real estate photography - it's a lot less than you may think. Theoretically, you could get away with an 8-12 MP image. The majority of cell phones and monitors don't benefit from an image much higher than that when looking at it full screen.
With that being said - we don't recommend 12 MP or anything around there. There may be a time when you need to shoot a property, and those images need to be printed. You'll be SOL if that's all you have.
So, we recommend anything between 18 and 24MP. This ensures you're getting images you can easily work with while editing while still being covered if someone wants to print your work.
As you can see, the difference between used and new can be up to 3x.
Again, these are excellent cameras for all skill levels. They will get the job done and done well if used correctly. If you feel you'd like something newer - go for it! This is just an excellent place to start.
The Ultimate Real Estate Lens: Wide Angle Is King
I'm sure you know already, but your lens is actually more important than the camera body.
It's the lens that captures the light and funnels it to your sensor. It's in this 'funneling' phase that determines ~85% of your image quality. Very few changes between camera bodies... Your camera body does afterward is one thing - but the first thing to capturing a great image is the lens.
We recommend a 16-35mm (of any brand) as the go-to lens for real estate. To save a little dough, go with the f/4 version. You'll shoot above f/4 99% of the time anyway - no need to double the cost for something you'll rarely use. The lens can be pricey, but ~$800-$1000 lens has made photographers hundreds of thousands of dollars off their investment. If taken care of, they can last you your whole career.
Notice how the Sony version is very inexpensive, and it's the f/2.8 version (used from KEH). It's an A mount lens - you would need an A-to-E mount adapter. You'll still save over $200 and have a better lens for it!
A tripod is a must in the real estate photography game. I mean, some shoot handheld HDR all day long... and great for them. But trust me, their editing work is 2-3x longer than someone who uses a tripod (and they usually outsource their editing).
What you'll want to get is a solid set of tripod legs that'll last you a great while. I'm not recommending picking up a pair of RRS legs... but there is a brand that's 'kinda' expensive for beginners to intermediates... but they're last you quite a long time (especially in the beginning when you aren't shooting as much as you will be a couple years or so from now).
But, we generally recommend geared heads to real estate photographers. Vertical lines and maintaining them are critical. A geared head allows you to do just that while creating muscle memory so you can do it over and over again very quickly.
You don't need a flash for real estate photography. If you take HDR and aren't interested in blending ambient with flash shots, that's fine! There isn't anything wrong with that. But, if you're interested and want to get into it... that's great too.
Flash real estate photography makes for some of the most unique photos out there. However, you can easily tell the difference between HDR and flash - and usually, the flashed shots are favored over the HDR.
As far as the flash goes - we only recommend one. The Godox 200AD Pro. It's a very affordable 200 w/s flash that comes with a brand-specific trigger. So you get all of that for just over $400. This combo cannot be beaten... trust me.
This flash will be more than enough power to light 90% of all homes on the market today.
Recommended Flash Trigger
Assuming you read the last section - we recommend Godox flashes.
With that being said, we recommend that Xpro flash trigger. It's a great trigger, batteries last forever in it, and it's backlit. It comes with most wireless flash kits too.
The trigger communicates with any Godox product. The brand 'flashpoint' is a sister company, and it works with their equipment too.
It can control 5 flashes independently from one another; each flash can be set at a different power level before firing.
I can't beat it. Stick with Godox.
Be sure to check the make/model of the trigger before you purchase one. They're camera-specific.
You'll want a circular polarizer for real estate. It's going to cut down on reflections quite a bit. This is reflections on anything, including floors, windows, countertops, water/pools... you name it. I'm sure you can see the benefit in that.
As far as brand goes - We recommend both Hoya and Moment. They're both excellent brands where Moment is a bit more affordable than Hoya.
Remember, lens mm size matters - and I don't mean your focal length - I mean your thread size. Check that before purchasing.
Hoya 72mm Circular Polarizer
Moment 67mm AntiGlare Circular Polarizer
Tiffen 67mm Circular Polarizer
Remote Camera Triggers
After shooting real estate for years, I never noticed how many other photographers didn't use a remote trigger until I started looking and was curious.
Well, not very many people do, and I'm not sure why! Most complain about having something else that can break... but it can make your workflow so much faster and easier.
Usually, they set a 2-second timer and hit the button, wait 2 seconds, and move on to the next one. With a trigger, you don't have to wait. Instead, get your comp exactly where you want it, take your hands off the camera, and hit the button on the trigger. Boom - done.
Now, this is assuming you didn't handle the tripod like a crazy rabid beast - in that case; you would have to wait for the camera to settle before taking the shot.
All major brands have their own wireless trigger. They're usually very inexpensive ($15 for Sony) and can save you a bunch of time when shooting.
**As of revising this article (January 20th, 2022) - Sony has discontinued the RMT-DSLR2 trigger. Linked below is the 3rd party version. It is exactly the same minus the Sony logo at the bottom of the remote.**
RMT-DSLR2 For Sony Alpha
Canon Camera Remote
Pixel Wireless Remote For Nikon
First off, this is only assuming you're new and need a bit of a recommendation for software.
If you're even intermediate, I'm sure you won't get anything out of what I'm saying.
So, for those who're new... I only shoot flash/ambient real estate. So, I don't know what the latest and greatest is for stacking HDR frames.. but you can do that in the software I'm recommending (it just may not be as effective as other software).
The real estate editing software I recommend is, you guessed it, Adobe lightroom and photoshop.
Lightroom is pretty decent and works well with photoshop. I would recommend it if there were anything better for real estate editing (like Capture One is to portrait/landscapes). There are Lightroom alternatives on the rise - and I might not be saying the same thing a few years from now...
Photoshop, on the other hand, is a totally different beast. There isn't anything on the market like it. The power of layers and smart objects can't be touched. Period. Once they introduce batch exporting like Capture one has, I will use photoshop exclusively for everything I do. I can't recommend it more - even to those that're afraid to use it and think it's too complicated...
I mean, yeah, it takes a little bit to get used to it. Once you do, though.... the sky really is the limit.
That About Does It!
I will continue to add and adjust this article over time through the years, but you have a great foundation and understanding of what equipment is needed for real estate photography.
Honestly, you only need a camera, memory card, and a tripod to make great money in the real estate photography game. Real estate photography equipment may be the least expensive to get started and start making money.
Take advantage of it, read some of my other articles about real estate gear, and go from there!
Until next time, be safe and keep creating!
What equipment do I need for real estate photography?
Generally speaking, a DSLR/mirrorless camera, wide-angle lens, and a good tripod and head will be everything you need to get started. As you advance and get better you can add flash, Matterport, and a drone to the list of services you can offer your clients.
How much does a real estate photographer cost?
Three factors come into play when determining this (this coming from a real estate photographer) - the size of the home, how many photos (or services) you'll receive, and the housing market in that specific area. For instance, a real estate photographer in the heart of Las Angeles is going to be much more expensive than a photographer in a rural town of Missouri - even if it was the exact same house. Generally speaking, good real estate photos aren't cheap and can range from $150 to $1,000+ for just photos - it all depends on the factors previously mentioned.
How do you photograph a house for real estate?
The way you go about taking real estate photos depends on your style and what you offer your client. For example, an HDR image is taken with bracketed shots, while flash real estate photos are taken differently. As far as angles go, you want to include at least 2 walls in every photo (3 walls is preferred) - this will give a better perception of the size of the room. Height should be taken between 6 and 12 inches above the lowest object closest to the camera that's in frame.
What is a good camera for real estate photography?
Well, any camera with a MP range between 18 and 24, and can bracket, can take great photos. Great full frame 'starter' cameras include the Nikon D750, Canon 5d Mark III, and Sony A7ii. But, the camera isn't nearly as important as the lens. Your lens determines 70% (or more) of the quality of your image. Putting the lens first, before the camera body, will lead to better results. A 16-35mm f/4 lens is regarded as one of the best and most versatile real estate lenses on the market today.