Looking for a camera suggestion for real estate photos

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by nancy_keast, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. Hi,
    I am a realtor and a beginning photographer. I am looking for a somewhat inexpensive camera to take decent interior home photos. Any suggestions?
  2. "decent interior home photos" would mean something that has a bright wide-angle lens that will bring out decent images of a dark and closed-in environment. Unfortunately, these requirements would typically call for a relatively expensive DSLR/lens and a tripod so you can show nice images to your potential clients enticing them to make appointments to view. If you are not prepared to spend on a DSLR, your next best alternative is for a point and shoot (P&S) with a wide angle (a must to capture the whole room) and a tripod (a must to capture clear images of room interiors using longer exposure). I believe most popular P&S brands (Panasonic, Olympus, etc.) make models with wide angle lens. Good luck.
  3. Trick is you need the wide angle b/c you are in confined quarters.
    If you are looking at P&S... Panasonic LX3 has a great 24mm lens on it... with quite a bit of distortion though.
    The cheapest buy in is probably a Canon XSi and a 3rd party 10-XX lens. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina all make them. Canon has a nice 10-22mm lens as well... bit pricier.
    A tripod would also be helpful and finally a flash unit depending on what times of day you are taking pictures.
    Nikon would have similar offerings... I just know Canon better.
    My guess is that you'd be spending $1000 - $1500.
    Good luck!
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  4. Nancy,
    Quality interior real estate photography isn’t easy and doesn’t lend itself well to “cheap.” On the other hand, lots of lower-end real estate is successfully sold with nothing more than snaps from phone cameras.
    A really big element missing is what kind of results you expect. If these are multi-million-dollar homes and you want pictures to showcase to prospective buyers, then don’t even think of taking the pictures yourself; that’s not a job for a beginner. Look for the photo credits in the local high-end real estate magazine, contact the photographer, and either hire her / him for freelance work or call whomever he / she recommends.
    If you’re selling beat-up foreclosure houses, use whatever camera you already have and experiment with lighting, composition, and post-processing to make them look the best you can — and post them to the critique forum here with specific requests for how to improve the parts of the picture you’re least happy with.
    Somewhere inbetween, and I’d recommend the best 10mm(ish) - 20mm(ish) zoom lens your budget can tolerate, the cheapest DSLR you can attach to said lens — even if it’ a used older model, the image quality will still be very, very good — and an additional $50- $100 for a tripod (which is essential no matter what camera you use). Bought new, and you’re looking at about $500 each for the lens and camera; used is up to you and the seller.
    And getting sincere (and potentially brutal) criticisms from good photographers is still more important than the equipment you use.
    Oh — that magazine pro will probably be shooting with a $2700 camera and a handful of lenses, each costing $1500 - $2500. Lighting equipment could easily be another $1000, or even lots more. (It could also potentially be mere hundreds, depending on lots of factors). The rest of the paraphernalia won’t be cheap, either; just the ballhead that goes on top of the tripod can easily cost hundreds. The difference is that said pro is (theoretically) making money using said equipment, more than the equipment costs. And the equipment either makes it much easier and quicker for the pro to get quality results, or it makes things possible that couldn’t be done at all otherwise.
  5. I have looked at a lot of house listings. The universal problem with the pictures are that they are all done with cheap wide angle lenses or zooms. The walls always curve in the pictures. You need to get the straight walls straight and the curved walls curved. A buyer can't tell the difference in most pictures. And as said above a cheap camera and lens will not do it. So what you need is a good DSLR. Good does not always mean very expensive, but it won't be cheap either. If I were after a decent budget reflex I would look at Pentax and Olympus. The job really requires a normal and a wide lens.
  6. Please don't delete this as I believe it is worth it for Nancy to check into.
    An I Phone or other brands may be just what you need.
    My son is on the corporate audit staff of an international company and they supplied him with a blackberry phone that he uses in many cases instead of his computer. It has a built in camera and it has GPS. So he can take photos and tag them with information, like location and run them on the internet. He has taken great photos both inside of various locations and outside. Plus you could upload them right where you take them.
    This could help you if you're in real estate sales.
    At any rate, my original comment about the I Phone should not have been deleted as I meant it to give this person an option for portability and information gathering and transmitting that could help her in real estate sales. I'm pretty busy and I take time to post ideas only to help.
  7. Agree with Ben. As an alternative to the DSLR and wide angle you might want to consider stiching. The software is really good. The newer point and shoots have a stiching mode to make it even easier. I think the Canon SD880 starts with 35mm 28-1105 and has the software and decent ISO. The poto editing software that comes with the camera will also have someting included, or you can buy one like Panoramic factory, PUI??, thetre's a bunch of them. I've seen referb's for $180 the Canon, I think it's the SD880.
    While not as good as DSR with ultra-wide angle and tripod it's a fraction of the cost and fits in yopur pocket or purse and will produce results much better than your average real estate agent.
    The curved or keystoning can easily fixed with even the lightest version of poto editing software that comes with your camera.
    Unless you have slave strobes and reflectors (umberellas) don't waste your time with flashes. They will come out looking like crap. Try to shoot in daytime. If at night turn on all lights, with correct white blance (the little light blub) under expose by up to 2 stops if you have to, use higher ISO 1600-3200 if you have to and fix it later. Use any one of several free noise reducers (Nija Noise, and Neat Image jump to mind) to fix noise problems. Then if necessary you can brighten and/or bring up shadow detail with poto editing software. You can use Curves in the version of P.S. that comes with the camera.
    With a little pratice, planning and post production you'd be surprised the results you can get with the current crop of P&S pocket cameras.
  8. ...somewhat inexpensive camera to take decent interior home photos.​
    I fear that when it comes to interiors, "inexpensive" and "decent" may be mutually exclusive.
    (Putting on my Cantankerous Old Coot hat.)
    The down-turn in the housing market has nothing to do with the economy. It's the result of Realtors trying to save a few bucks by shooting pictures themselves and scaring off prospective buyers. Every area has a Multiple Listing Service web site. A few minutes spent on one will convince you of this. Not only are the walls often curved, sometimes the whole damn picture is cockeyed! And, if you're a professional photographer, the lighting may actually make you cry.
    I agree with Jim Swenson about flashes. An on-camera flash can easily turn a nice living room into a virtual dungeon. Combine that with a camera phone and you'll announce to the world that you're an amateur.
    Like your mama told you: You only have one chance to make a first impression. It's the pictures you put up on the MLS that cause people to say "Oh, I'd really like to take a look at that!" or to just move on to the next listing. So, especially in a tough market, "good enough" really isn't. Using any picture that's less than excellent is the same as putting up a big sign that says "Never mind!"
    (Hat off now.)
    At very least you'll have to learn about contrast adjustments that can be made in many editing programs. The king of that particular hill is Photoshop, with its "Shadow / Highlight" adjustments and its ability to produce High Density Range images. But Photoshop may be more expensive than your camera! There are, however, a number of inexpensive (or even free) programs that can help. For example there's a new (free) program called "Aurora Quick Fix" that you'll definitely find useful even if you have great equipment. (You'll find it here http://www.lightcrafts.com )
    Bottom line: Do yourself and your business a favor and spend some considerable time at http://photographyforrealestate.net. Dig into the tutorials. Plan to spend a hundred hours studying and practicing, and at least thousand dollars on software and equipment if you want to take pictures that actually attract people to your listings. If you can't do that, hire a pro.
  9. For the stitching idea, have a look at Microsoft ICE, which makes stitching easier than easy. The software is free, and all you have to do is feed it a bunch of photos. It will do the rest.
    That said, I agree with Bruce Cahn. Too many houselistings simply show awful pictures. Getting a wide angle shot to get "as much interior as possible in one picture" may seem a good idea, but without perspective corrections, it will look cheap and it will be obvious the room is smaller than it looks on the picture. Why not work with 2 or 3 "normal angle" pictures instead, and get the right light to highlight the charm of the place.
    A.k.a.: invest a serious bit more in the photography, and get results that speak for themselves instead.
  10. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Bill C.

    I deleted your first comment since the one line response "Get an iPhone." seemed a bit flippant with no content. On this Beginners' forum, moderators' prerequisites are that the answers given are in the spirit of real assistance and information. It is assumed that beginners know very little and so the more information and explanation given the better. The information that you give on your last post could be very helpful.
  11. James,
    Thanks for the explanation.
    I was in a hurry in my first response and should have written more. Sorry. I was hoping to turn on a switch that would spur Nancy to check out an I phone or other portable eletronic devices that could help her.
    Eric Schmidt of Google has been interviewed with various media and I watched on a recent Charlie Rose segment as he was discussing how all of these smart phones will cause, perhaps it has already, many changes in the way we obtain and create information for everyone.
    Interesting area.
    Thanks for your response.
  12. My daughter has done interior/exterior photography for realtors. She's a varey talented photographer. She's still in college, and was fretting about what to charge early on for such work. Then, when she saw an estate listing for 13 million, she realized that what she was charging was nothing compared to what the realtor's commission would be. Her photographs were fantatstic, and are what would bring a potential buyer in.
    My suggestion to realtors -- hire a photographer that knows what he/she is doing. Merely having the equipment doesn't make up for knowing how and what to shoot.
  13. I've actually been looking for a Townhouse / Condo for the last 5 months and have seen some horrible, horrible, ugly, disgusting pictures taken by real estate agents. My first advice for any real estate agent would be to learn a few things about photography and take a minute to compose the picture before you press the shutter button.
    I agree with Ben. If you are serious about learning and have a few bucks to spend all you need is a Camera, Tripod and Wide angle lens and a passion for photography.
    Equipment wise... a used 6 MegaPixe DLSR will be more than enough. At 6 MP your images will be about 3000 x 2000 pixels in size, while most (in my area) MLS websites consider pictures that are 1024 x 768 to be large, so you'll have a lot of room to play with resolution wise. Even the pro with a $3000 - 24 Mega Pixel camera will need to downsize his pictures for the web.
    A kit lens that comes with most DSLR's such as a 18-55 mm lens will do the job, but a wider 10-20mm would be better.
    As far as brand goes, (Pentax, Sony, Olympus, etc... ) I suggest you go to the store and play with each brand for 15 minutes, taking pictures and fiddle with the controls. It's mostly a matter of which one feels better in your hands, as the actual image quality is very similar and nearly indistinguishable from one brand to another.
  14. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    One "advantage" of using a wide angle lens is can make a room look a lot larger:<P>
    <img src="http://www.geocities.com/dainisjg/office_norm1.jpg"> . <img src="http://www.geocities.com/dainisjg/office_wide1.jpg"><P>

    You have to be careful with that.
  15. Nancy,
    To help you......
    Just received the print version of Professional Photographer, October 2009 issue, with an article that caught my eye and triggered a thought that could help you.
    Please Check this out:
    Suggest reading at least page 6.
    Hope this helps you.
    Best to Your Success in real estate.
  16. Hi Nancy,
    There are a lot of opinions here (!) but I would recommend that you start out with a compact point-and-shoot camera like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1. It's simple enough to use that you won't have to read an encyclopedia to learn how to operate it. It's small enough to carry in a purse or a briefcase. It has a high-quality lens that extends to a fairly wide angle. It has a vibration-reduction feature to help you hold the camera steady in low-light situations (like interiors). And it will make very sharp, high-quality photos.
    (NOTE: A lot of the specialized gear that has been mentioned here requires considerable skill and experience to use. You're better off avoiding sophisticated equipment in the beginning. A smaller, simpler camera is ideal to start out with. In cases where you NEED the ultimate in quality, you should hire a professional to help you.)
    TIP: Interiors have low light levels, and flash can give a "fake" look to your photos depending depending on the type and location of surfaces that reflect it. Here's how to take a sharp interiou photo without flash.
    Turn off the flash.
    Set the camera on the edge of a sturdy table or countertop. This will act like an impromptu tripod.
    Take the picture being careful not to shake or move the camera.
    If the picture looks YELLOW, set the white balance to Incandescent Lighting and try again.
    For even more stability, put the camera into the 10-second timer mode, press the shutter button, let go of the camera and wait for it to take its picture.
    Be sure to return all settings back to normal when finished.
  17. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Do not expect to see results, no matter what camera you buy, like you see in magazines unless you use a lot of feature lighting. Take a look at this photo:
    A soft spot has been set to throw light on on the wall above the bed, onto both hanging pictures, on the pillows and onto the desktop at the right. Without that, the wall would just be a uniform flat gray, looking very dull as would the rest of the picture.
  18. Hi Nancy,
    I happen to photograph houses for a realtor in my area. We use the Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS cameras. This camera has a good wide-angle and also a good zoom. It works perfect for exterior and interior pictures. It even has a panoramic setting. Always leave the flash on when photographing interiors. If not , you have a good chance of getting underexposed pictures.
    I hope this helps,
    Dan Gray
  19. Nancy,
    I took the picture that Daniel Gray uploaded and used it to show you why you need to learn Photoshop or GIMP or some other digital editing program. It took me about 7 minutes to put the attached "before and after" picture together. If you were house-hunting, which of the two listings would you choose to see in person?
  20. For some reason my picture didn't upload, so I'll try again.
  21. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Most cameras can capture a decent outdoor image of a house. I believe Nancy is more concerned with interiors. A lot more than just the camera goes into that.
  22. I believe Nancy is more concerned with interiors. A lot more than just the camera goes into that.​
    So very true!
    Here's a link that may help:

    And I very much agree with what both Bruce Cahn and Wouter Willemse wrote above.

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