Real Estate Photography presents a number of complex issues for the modern photographer. Unlike capturing a natural landscape, for example, shooting a home interior can prove challenging when it comes to stark shadow differences and perspective changes. All in all, this job requires you to stay vigilant of your surroundings at all times and constantly think about your next move. With that said, here are our top camera tips to make your job as easy and as enjoyable as possible.
First up, we’re talking cameras. In terms of camera anatomy, the lens is one of the most indispensable parts of your camera. Generally, the type of lens you use should fit your purpose. There is an incredibly wide variety of lens options and in terms of price point can cost many times the cost of your camera. For real estate, a zoom lens is the norm and carries some advantages over shooting without one. For larger rooms and outdoor (exterior) spaces a 35mm will do the most justice for your subject. This is because 35mm is a narrower angle lens than the usual and will give a better, more expansive view of your subject (counterintuitive-right?). For a homes interior, any lens in the 12-24mm range is ideal. However, we suggest that you use the same range for each shot so the home's images all appear consistent. Our photographers shoot around 16mm for the entire shoot.
Let’s face it, you’re not always gonna be shooting the Palace of Versailles. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. When first starting out, photographing apartments, studios, and smaller areas will make up the lion’s share of your portfolio. Not only are these places on the smaller side, but for the real estate photographer this means that tripod, camera, and lighting setups will be more cramped and harder to work with.
So what does all of this mean? It means that a wider, 12-24mm lens is best suited for capturing as much square footage as possible without encroaching on your setup…
Shooting in wide lens such as these may produce photos with obscured edges, but do not fear, these can be fixed up in post-production, as they are fairly common.
As we all know, light is a crucial factor in photography. And even according to some, it’s the whole enchilada. This is where ISO comes in. ISO is a measure of how sensitive a camera is to surrounding light. The higher the ISO, the more light your camera can capture in low-light conditions, and the opposite in the case of lower ISOs. There are trade-offs with both. Higher ISO ratings can create images with more noise and make things appear grainier than they really are. Lower ISOs take longer to capture an image so if you are shooting by hand or the camera is moving for any reason, it can create motion blur. For real estate photography, you can keep the ISO at between 100 or 200 depending on the camera, as long as the camera is mounted on a tripod.
Shutter speed controls how long the camera sensor is open and exposed to light. The lower the shutter speed the longer the shutter is open. But beware, longer sensor exposure will also leave you vulnerable to motion blur, especially if your target is a moving one. For real estate though, these points about motion blur are mostly null, given that your target is almost always static, unless you are piloting a drone.
Aperture is another crucial part of a camera that you should definitely refer to if you are looking to purchase one. Aperture refers to how wide lens will open and how much light will enter the camera. Usually a wider maximum aperture is better because it will allow more light into the sensor, and as a result will cost you more. Higher maximum apertures are perfect for situations in which light is scarce or there is a vast contrast between light and shadow (think of the room with poor lighting but bright windows). Aperture is measured in f-stops and just like lens sizes, lower values correspond to wider spaces. For instance, f/8 is narrower than f/16. F/4 is the sweet spot for real estate photography as it is adequately equipped to deal with low light situations in addition to general use.
Now that we have gone over some key camera elements like ISO, shutter-speed, and aperture, it is time to pivot our discussion more towards the consumer perspective. As a photographer, what features should you be looking for? What are the design cues and tiny details that indicate quality, durability, and craftsmanship? We only have time to go over one of these features, but will definitely be covering the rest in future articles, so look out for those.
Well, to start, a setting known as Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is a setting that will do you well in the practice of RE photography. Let’s break it down. Bracketing is a just a term that means shooting the same subject multiple times. Exposure bracketing therefore, means that with one press of a button your camera will take multiple shots at varying exposure levels, automatically. And automatic just tells you that its digitized—redundant actually. Now, when using this feature, you will likely be able to change the exposure manually, but we suggest letting the camera do the work—it is more than sufficient. The big benefit of AEB is that by taking multiple pictures at the same time, it increases your chances of getting an image that has the perfect exposure.
Overall, the camera is to a photographer what a sword is to a knight or what the paintbrush is to the painter—put simply they are nothing without their main tool, their weapon. With this being said, just any old camera won’t do the trick; it is essential that you find the best tool for your needs. And this is not to forget the important role that lighting and a solid tripod play in the process as well—those are extremely important—but getting started with the right camera is way more than half the battle!