As photographers, one of the most reliable chances we have to make money with our cameras is to photograph real estate and hospitality properties like Airbnb rentals. Contrary to popular assumption, it does not require a significant financial commitment to give outstanding photographs for this reason.
I have never followed the conventional wisdom of the photography profession, which states that in order to be successful in the field, one must specialize; rather, I prefer to put in the additional effort that is required to become proficient in any type of photography that I dabble in. In the end, this proved to be a fruitful strategy for me, as it enabled me to build a diverse range of income streams relating to photography rather than relying on just one sector of the market.
Along with my other offerings, photographing real estate, hospitality, and architecture has provided an extremely stable and consistent source of income for me. In the roughly five years that I have been actively doing it professionally, I have experimented with a wide variety of different techniques and pieces of equipment in order to produce work of professional quality for my customers.
After all of that practice putting various strategies to the test, I got to the realization that it is actually quite simple to provide real estate imagery that is quite polished without spending your entire life savings on equipment.
There is no need to start out with the best and most expensive equipment, and this article details my basic guidelines for what gear you should consider purchasing to start a real estate photography workflow. Real estate photography does require a semi-specific setup, but there is no need to start out with the best and most expensive equipment.
This “beginner’s” kit guideline is more than capable of providing you with the tools you need to do it well with some practice, despite the fact that there are many options for higher-end kits to do the job, and I will offer some suggestions for those that want to spend a little more initially. However, there are many options for higher-end kits to do the job, and I will offer some suggestions for those that want to spend a little more initially.
When it comes to outfitting oneself to photograph real estate, beginning with an APS-C mirrorless camera body is one of the areas that will provide you with the best value for your money.
Because the particular workflow needs of the process imply that many of the features you pay for in a cutting-edge camera body may go completely unused, it is possible to get by pretty well with an older camera body that has been utilized.
To begin, the majority of architectural work is performed utilizing a tripod. This is due to the fact that the two workflows that are considered to be the most common and successful depend on taking multiple exposures of each scene and combining them together to produce the best possible result.
Because of this, the body of your camera does not need to have blisteringly quick autofocus (or any autofocus at all, which is something I will elaborate on more in the section on lenses) or industry-leading dynamic range.
In addition to this, the additional depth of field that is inherent in cameras with APS-C sensors can be an asset to your workflow. This is because it means that a greater portion of your picture will be in focus when compared to a full-frame camera that has aperture settings that are identical.
When getting ready to photograph real estate, the Nikon D780 is, in my opinion, the camera body that offers the best combination of quality and affordability.
When selecting a lens for use in real estate work, the most important factor to consider is whether or not it is very wide, or perhaps ultra-wide. The maximum lens length that can be used with an APS-C camera is 14mm, which is equivalent to 21mm when shooting with a full-frame camera. However, in my opinion, this is still too long.
Both of the cameras that I suggested in the previous section have a good variety of options that are even wider, but perhaps none of those options offers as much overall value as the 7Artisans 12mm f/2.8. This lens, which can be purchased brand new for only $150, has a 102-degree angle of view and allows you to take photos in more confined spaces than options that are narrower.
The fact that it is an entirely manual lens, which precludes the use of autofocus, is not, however, a disadvantage. When using a lens as wide as 12 millimeters and shooting at apertures between f/5.6 and f/8, which I frequently do when shooting real estate, one only needs to turn the focus ring until the infinity mark is lined up, and everything in your scene from about three feet on will be in complete focus. Additionally, the focus peaking feature found on the cameras listed above can further help you confirm accurate focus in a quick and easy manner.
You can even line up infinitely and place a piece of tape on the lens to keep it in that position and forget about refocusing for the entire shot because the scene will be static and you will be shooting on a tripod. This will allow you to forget about refocusing for the duration of the shoot.
You can get even wider lenses on the market, such as the Laowa 9mm f/2.8, which is available for both cameras and costs approximately $500 for a new one or less for a used one. However, these lenses come at a significantly greater price.
On the used market, those who want greater versatility with a zoom lens can typically get the superb Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 and Sony 10-18mm f/4 lenses for less than $500. These lenses are manufactured by Fujifilm and Sony, respectively.
When it comes to shooting high-quality real estate photos, a solid tripod is absolutely necessary. To our good fortune, there is a huge selection of tripods available on the market that can accommodate any spending limit. When I was initially getting started, I utilized a bulky and older tripod that had thick steel legs with a video head on it. A highly stable shooting platform was provided to me by that tripod thanks to its increased weight and strengthened legs.
In comparison to some of the more well-known brands, some of the modern aluminum tripods on the market provide very high levels of stability while also being significantly lighter and more compact than their competitors. The Vanguard Veo 3T 235ABP, which can be purchased for the price of $200, is one of the tripods that I have discovered to provide good value for this workflow.
You can find even more affordable aluminum tripod options, but when shopping around for the best price, try to find one that has a head capable of 360-degree panoramic swiveling, the ability to easily switch to vertical camera orientation, and a bubble level to allow you to keep your scene properly oriented in order to reduce improper keystoning. This will help you avoid improper keystoning (the tilting of straight vertical lines in your scene).
Other Matters to Take Into Account
Using a fundamental HDR approach to get started with interior real estate photography is one of the most frequent ways to get started with this type of photography. This workflow involves taking a series of photographs with varying exposure values, including underexposed, evenly exposed, and overexposed.
In the process of editing, these are merged together to create a scene where your room is exposed well, but you can also see at least partially out any windows, which would otherwise be blown out due to the limitations of dynamic range in cameras. This scene provides a scene where your room is exposed well and you can also see at least partially out any windows.
A method that is commonly known as “flambient” makes use of a flash to boost the room exposure value while simultaneously setting the camera’s ambient exposure to the correct value for a perfectly clear “window pull,” as they are sometimes called. This allows for an even more polished level of window view visibility for those who are interested in achieving it.
You can also achieve a more exact adjustment of the scene’s white balance by utilizing this technique. The flambient technique is utilized by many of the very finest real estate photographers in the industry, despite the fact that I believe it is frequently used too aggressively, resulting in the creation of photographs that are spooky or artificial.
You can get started with a flambient workflow by adding a simple Speedlight like the Godox TT600, which costs $65; however, my personal preference for this workflow is the more powerful, yet still compact, Godox AD200, which costs about $300, in conjunction with a wireless flash trigger like the Godox Xpro triggers, which cost $60 each.
You will be able to employ the flambient technique in larger spaces that require more juice in order to expose effectively thanks to the additional power that is available from the AD200.
In addition, a wireless remote camera trigger, such as the Pixel TW-283, which can be purchased for around $40, is a very helpful tool for capturing interior work and is recommended for use wherever possible. You can lessen the influence of micro-vibrations caused by manually pressing the shutter button on your image by remotely triggering your camera, but you can also accomplish the same thing by turning on the two-second timer on your camera.
If you want to make money off of drone imagery in countries like the United States, you need to get certified under the FAA’s Part 107 commercial program. If you offer drone photography as part of your real estate services, you can provide significant value to many customers who would otherwise have to hire a separate photographer. However, you should be aware that this type of certification is required.
For individuals who go through the trouble of getting their Part 107 certification, an inexpensive first-time drone choice is the Parrot Anafi. The base model of this drone can be acquired through the Amazon store run by Parrot for less than $400, and it provides images of satisfactory quality.
You can acquire the considerably more powerful DJI Mavic Air 2S for about $1,200. It includes a larger and better camera sensor, as well as useful obstacle avoidance sensors to lessen the likelihood of crashing.
If you invest the time and effort required to learn how to operate this equipment in the correct manner, it is more than capable of creating high-quality real estate imagery for your clients despite the fact that it is by no means the most cutting-edge equipment available.
You can begin to think about how you want to upgrade your equipment to offer your clients higher-end work once you have begun to build a client base and are earning money; however, a practiced hand could get by with just the gear on this guideline for years with very little difficulty, thereby maximizing your return on investment.