Best Focal Lengths for Real Estate Photography
- Common Types of Real Estate Photography
- Full Frame vs Crop Sensor Cameras for Real Estate Photography
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Many of the real estate photography equipment questions I get are along the lines of what are the best focal lengths for real estate or which lenses are the best lenses for real estate photography.
Real estate photography is a wonderful field to work in and can be extremely profitable when done right. The camera and lens choice is an important factor to consider, along with accessories and methods such as post processing.
Real Estate Photography Equipment
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While you can make real estate images with any type of camera, in order to capture very high quality image files in RAW format and have the ability to change exposure modes and settings as well as lenses, most real estate photography is done with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras in the Full Frame, APS-C, and MFT formats.
Lenses for real estate photography are chosen in order to maximize the view of the spaces being sold so they lean toward wide angle lenses. Lighting is an option that requires some careful thought since we generally don’t want to add a lot of contrast into the images but rather have a lot of balance from bright to shadow areas.
A tripod or some form of steady camera mount is a necessity as well, especially if we’re using the bracket and merge technique to craft the best photos for the purpose of moving real estate. (Here’s a YouTube video explaining the technique.)
Best Lens for Real Estate Photography
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Finding the best lens for real estate photography is an important exercise since good lenses aren’t necessarily cheap. We want the best lens we can afford, but what makes any one lens the best choice?
For imaging architecture indoors or outdoors, field of view, also known as angle of view, is important to think about. As we’ve discussed in numerous other articles, a “normal” lens for whatever format you’re using will create an image with a field of view that appears unmagnified and well, normal, as in a unaffected perspective.
A telephoto lens narrows the field of view and brings objects optically closer. It also flattens perspective from a normal view in that objects in the field of view appear to have less distance between them. We can take advantage of this aspect for artistic views of architecture but it usually isn’t picked first for real estate images.
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A normal lens, such as the Nifty Fifty for Full Frame format, is often compact, has a fast maximum aperture, and can be seriously sharp. These are often among the most price friendly in a lens line, too. Since we’re usually wanting enough depth of field or depth of focus to have all parts of a room or exterior view in focus, the aperture or f-stop being fast normally isn’t a prime concern since we’ll be stopping down aperture.
Which brings us to wide-angle lenses. A wide lens encompasses more of the scene than the normal field of view, and tends to deepen the perspective, so things can appear to be further from each other in the frame. All other things being equal, a wide lens provides deeper depth of focus than a normal lens.
What to Watch For
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Since it appears that we’re definitely leaning toward wide-angle lenses as the best focal lengths for real estate photography, perhaps we should simply pick up the widest lens our budget and camera type allows.
Well, there are some issues with that thought. One is that apparent perspective we talked about. If we shoot with an extremely wide field of view lens, the apparent perspective of real estate images will look odd.
Another issue is distortion. Some distortion is present in all lenses, but it tends to be especially problematic in extremely wide-angle lenses. The most common type of distortion in wide-angle lenses will cause straight lines to appear curved.
We definitely don’t want the walls, countertops, doors or floor tile to be distorted, so any wide lens choice we make will need to be corrected for a rectilinear view. So, wide, but not too wide is what we’ve narrowed down.
Wide Zoom Lenses
Thankfully, we have some awesome choices in wide-angle zoom lenses for all three common formats that are sharp, have a decent maximum aperture, are corrected very well to avoid distortion, and aren’t likely to bust a budget. Let’s look at a small sample of the available choices. Feel free to adjust for your budget and preferred brands.
If you’re shooting a Full Frame Nikon, the Nikon AF-S FX 16-35mm f/4.0G lens has the best focal lengths for real estate photography for many Full Frame shooters. APS-C cameras in several mounts can use the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di-II lens, this one in Canon mount, is a good choice. An awesome lens for MFT users is the Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens available from Panasonic.
What’s Your Lens?
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There is a high quality wide-angle zoom lens for your camera type and brand that will offer the same benefits as these examples for your own version of the best focal lengths for real estate photography. Remember to look for reviews of current equipment, useful tips, and explanations of methods on PhotographyTalk.com to decide just what is best for you.