As mentioned last week, I am doing a series on taking better real estate pictures for your listings.  Most of the tips are for those that wish to DIY (Do It Yourself), but there is a HUGE caution that goes along with that… if you aren’t willing to take the time to do it right, hire someone to do it for you.  Remember, you are representing your client’s property and you need to put it forward in its best light (no pun intended).  That doesn’t mean that every listing needs to look like a feature from Better Homes & Gardens, but it DOES need to have good, clear pictures that are well composed and lit appropriately.

English: A Baldafix folding camera by Balda, w...
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You do NOT need to run out to the store and get the most expensive camera and lighting system you can get your hands on (Hasselblad H4D-50 Medium Format DSLR Camera Body Only affiliate link).  In fact, that might be the exact opposite of what you should do.  Instead, there are a few things you should look at to start…

  • Wide Angle Lens… The camera needs to have AT LEAST a 28mm (35mm film equivalent) lens.  A 24mm focal length, or even a 20mm would be better.  Too much wider and there is a high likelihood of distortion.
  • Super high resolution isn’t that important, but you do need to be at least above 5mp.  This isn’t so much for the web as it is for possible use in creating flyers or other media aside from web publication.
  • It HAS to have a tripod socket.
  • If it has the ability to accept an add-on flash, that would be better than just the on-camera flash.
  • Finally, if there are manual controls, you will be ahead of the game.  You might be able to get by with something semi-automatic, like Aperture-Priority, or a REALLY good scene selector.

Of course, the camera isn’t the only thing you’ll need to have.  You’ll need to have a few other things in order to wring the most out of your camera.

  • A good tripod.  Keeping the camera steady is ultra important, especially if you don’t have the ability to use and external flash… but even if you can use one, the tripod will make life a lot easier.  You want a tripod that is light enough to carry, but solid enough to be stable.  And the bigger and heavier your camera, the bigger and heavier your tripod will likely need to be.
  • Add-on flash… or even flashes.  Some are equipped with sensors to allow use even if there isn’t a “hot-shoe” on the camera.  Depending on how nuts you want to go, these could cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to thousands…
  • Light modifiers.  These can be any of the following, including combinations… umbrella, light box, reflector, white index card or white foam-core.  There are other things that can be used as well, and as you get more comfortable, you might try experimenting with different items.  Many are cheap or even free…
  • Convenient camera case.  Even though I haven’t been shooting professionally for a few years, I still have a little fetish for camera cases.  At one time I had at least 30 of them.  I had some cases pre-packed for specific kinds of shoots.  Others carried film (remember film?).  Some were for certain jobs.  Finally, there were the general cases I carried my cameras in.  One thing to keep in mind, after you build up a collection of equipment, you probably won’t want to carry it all.

With all of that in mind, I’ll outline a few options that are currently available on Amazon (all product links are affiliate links), but you can shop anywhere convenient. All prices are as of this writing.

  • Point and Shoot Cameras… these aren’t the most compact P&S cameras, but they are quite capable of delivering a high quality image and allow manual control, external flashes and (in the case of the Nikon) an external wide angle converter.
  • Entry Level DSLR Cameras… these cost a little more than the Point & Shoots above, but also have a wider lens selection.  They can actually use the same flash units, tripods and maybe even bags as the Point & Shoot cameras above, so stepping up isn’t that tough.  The main advantage of the smaller cameras is that they are a lot easier to carry around… more of a vacation issue than a problem when shooting a property, though.  If you are going to use the camera for general photography, you might consider adding
  • If you really want to go nuts or get serious, Nikon and Canon both offer options to fulfill those desires.  Prices and options can go up DRAMATICALLY.   In fact, you can spend as much money as you want.  Canon EOS 1D Mark IV bodies go for about $5k.  The Canon EOS 5D Mark II full frame bodies fetch about $3200.  Lenses range wildly, but if you are shooting a “pro” body, shooting with pro lenses would be a good thing.  Expect to spend at least a similar amount for the first couple of lenses.  For real estate shooting, I would recommend the 14mm for the EOS 1D ($2100) or the 16-35 F2.8 ($1530) for both… but you’d also need the wider lens for the EOS 1D since it isn’t a full frame sensor.   In the Nikon range, the Nikon D4 is about to hit the streets.  Currently, the top of the line is the Nikon D3X ($8k).  It is a full frame camera, which means there is no factoring lens focal length.  the 14-24 F2.8 ($2k) would probably be my first choice for real estate shooting.  In the case of any of these top of the line cameras, you can add multiple flash units and they will ALL sync together and the camera can meter them… they run about $500 each.  Both Canon and Nikon also have “perspective control” lenses which are great for architectural photography, but are pretty specialized.

The steps and techniques for each camera are pretty similar.  the primary differences revolve around the aperture range of the lenses and the available shutter speeds.  The more expensive cameras have more shutter speeds and better metering (measuring the light and exposure), while the better lenses let in more light at one time.

Coming up we’ll talk about some of the tips, tricks and techniques that you can use with any of these cameras, as well as the basics of exposure.

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