Lighting Gear Overview: Must-Have’s, Nice-to-Have’s, and Product Recommendations for Real Estate Photography

We recommend a lighting gear setup for real estate photography.

Today is your lucky day—we are going to give you a peak into our camera bag and show you everything you need for real estate photography. We are going to go over what's essential, what's convenient to have, and some high-end options for those who can afford them.

This article is going to be a continuation of our recent series of posts covering gear. So far we've covered in broad terms the equipment that one needs in order to complete a real estate shoot: cameras, proper lighting equipment, drones, and post production software are all nonnegotiable if you want to have career in real estate photography. Specifically we went over the anatomy of a standard camera and its key features. But having a camera isn't the only important piece of gear in real estate photography, in fact proper real estate photography is actually a convergence of many factors working together in unison to create the desired output.  

Next, we would like to switch our focus to lighting.  Something that you should consider is whether or not you are going to be using off-camera lighting.  Don’t get me wrong—you can do great things with natural lighting, but we always recommend having off-camera lights in case they are necessary.  In reality, this all depends on a variety of factors: what real estate agents request,  your location, and your personal shooting style.

There are many ways to capture real estate.  Natural light is great, but the disadvantage is that it subjects you to the whims of the weather which is unpredictable and unreliable for our purposes.  Flash photography, on the other hand, will render the most accurate and colorful images compared to any other method.  Photography really is an art form and while technology is amazing because it consolidates the functions of photography into an affordable and convenient package, it ultimately alienates the photographer from the essential parts of his or her craft.  A good compromise between natural light and flash lighting is HDR (High Dynamic Range). HDR has a knack for finding the balance between the lights and shadows in a room—you know the usual culprits—bright windows and corners.

Flash photography is more work than its alternatives (which is not something to ignore—more gear is more heavy—packing lighter will definitely be easier on your body), but it does produce the most professional photos.  There are a number of ways to execute flash.  Option one calls for you to go room by room, triggering the flash and taking the photo, and doing it piecemeal.  Option two  entails setting up multiple lights across the home connected to a remote trigger and when triggered, the lights all expose at the same time. Afterwords, you will touch things up in photoshop.

Pro-tip: A bounce flash can help you introduce a soft ambient light.  All you need to do is aim your flashgun at a wall or ceiling at a subtle oblique angle and voila!—no more unflattering shadows.

Now, this is a lot of work, and unless you are working with new construction, builders, architects, and the like, it’s probably overkill.  Instead, HDR is super popular right now and will suit every residential property you may come across.

In terms of flash lighting however, we do recommend a brand that is both affordable and functional: Godox.  Godox makes everything lightning-related from studio flash to full-service studio kits.  What we love about most Godox products is their fully integrated rechargeable battery system.  Oftentimes, when you have as much equipment as us—it is double-A and triple-A battery galore—but not in a good way.  Godox’s rechargeable battery system is super quick and convenient and minimizes the amount of distraction. We particularly love the A200 pro.  It retails for $299.99, but we recommend going used or certified pre-owned to get a better deal.  Overall, this light has great value for its price.

In terms of flash bounces, we use the AD600BM.  Now this light is both bigger and more expensive, and per our advice you should check to make sure that this is something your customers will appreciate.  The AD600BM has a massive rechargeable battery that gives it unparalleled shooting times, yet is still light enough to be carried around all day.  A great product.  It retails for $549.99.

If you are considering using a single flash lighting instrument, definitely consider mounting it to a light stand.  This will reduce the number of helpers that need to be present at the shoot and makes your life a whole lot easier.  We recommend the Cheetah Stand C8 or anything that has an aluminum frame as it is the most durable and sturdy material for stands of this type.  You should be able to find the C8 for no more than $100.  A feature we love about the C8 is how its legs automatically retract when it is lifted; this prevents you from tampering with the legs and as a result extends the lifecycle of the product.

One important point about most light stands is that they are not meant to be used on uneven surfaces (e.g. grass, brick, sand).  Often their legs simply extend to one height.  But if you are going to be doing any outdoor work on hills or a rocky beach, be sure to get a light stand that has a “wild leg” built in.  A wild-leg’s length is fully adjustable below or above the length of the other legs in order to stabilize the stand on uneven ground.  

Okay, that’s it folks—a quick overview of the essential lighting gear for real estate photography.  We went over the benefits and drawbacks of off-camera lighting (know if it is something your market demands), the available options when it comes to flash (both bounce and single-fire), and our personal recommendations for light stands and other tools.   Look out for future articles where  we discuss a full tutorial for bounce lighting—an underutilized tool to bring out saturation and wow your prospects.

Happy shooting!

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