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Like any other type of photography, real estate photography requires that you have the right lenses for the job.
The question, of course, is what lenses are best for shooting real estate?
What follows is a guide to get you started. Though this isn’t a comprehensive overview of every lens you could use for photographing the interior and exterior of properties, there are some critical points to consider when purchasing a lens.
You may very well find a lens that works for your purposes that doesn’t fit into the categories we’ve listed below, and that’s okay!
The key is to utilize this guide as a starting point for getting the best lenses for the job.
Zoom Lenses or Primes?
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One of the first questions to consider when shopping for a new lens is whether you should purchase a zoom or a prime.
What many real estate photographers will tell you is that having the versatility of a zoom lens is advantageous because each property (and each room) you photograph is different with varying amounts of room to maneuver.
That is, while a 18mm f/4 prime lens might offer excellent optics, superb sharpness, and be lightweight with a small form factor - all great qualities for real estate photography - at some properties, you might need a wider lens to capture the space in a small room. Likewise, other properties might necessitate a longer focal length like 35mm to get the best shot.
Naturally, with a prime lens, you’re locked into one focal length, and while you can “zoom with your feet” to alter the perspective of the shot, there’s only so much you can do to make a prime lens work for each and every room.
For that reason, it’s typically recommended that real estate photographers utilize a zoom lens. More specifically, wide-angle zoom lenses are the most popular.
Wide-Angle Lenses are Ideal for Real Estate Interiors
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There are many, many wide-angle lenses on the market today that offer great performance for real estate photography.
But when choosing a wide-angle lens, there are two factors in particular that should be taken into account: focal length and aperture.
Getting a wide-angle lens that’s too wide - say, 10mm - will result in interior shots that have too much foreground and not enough background. As a result, many real estate photographers opt to shoot in the 22-24mm range (which is about 14-16mm on a crop sensor camera), though anything in the 12-35mm range on a full frame camera will work just fine.
This focal range offers an ideal view of interior spaces and will allow you to “get out of the corners” and compose shots from vantage points other than the corner of the room (as shown above). This, in turn, allows you to create a collection of images that offers more varied and unique views of each room in the home.
When selecting a lens for real estate photography, it might be tempting to buy the fastest lens you can afford.
And while having a 24mm f/1.2 lens is great, for taking real estate interiors, that large of an aperture isn’t necessary.
Since you’ll want everything in the shot from front to back to be in sharp focus, you’ll likely never need to shoot wide-open anyway. Most of the time, you’ll want to shoot interior spaces in the lens’s sweet spot, which is usually in the f/8-f/11 range.
That’s great news because instead of spending a ton of money on a f/1.2 lens, you can opt for a much cheaper f/4 lens and still get fantastic results.
Recommended Wide-Angle Lenses for Real Estate Photography
Whether you’re a Canon, Nikon, or Sony shooter, there are plenty of wide-angle options from which to choose. Here’s just a few excellent options:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
As an L-series lens, this Canon EF 17-40mm offers upgraded optics that provide improved sharpness, clarity, and reduced aberrations. The 17-40mm focal range is perfect for interior shots and exterior shots as well. On a crop sensor camera, this lens still offers good wide-angle views, with an effective focal length of about 27-64mm.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED
For Nikon shooters, this lens ticks all the boxes. It offers the versatility of a zoom lens that covers the ideal focal length for interior shots, has an f/4 aperture that’s plenty big for interior photos, and has vibration reduction to help you get tack-sharp photos. If you have a crop sensor camera, the effective focal length of 24-53mm still offers you a wide-angle view on the lower end of the zoom range.
Sony FE 12-24mm f/4G
Built specifically for Sony E-mount full frame cameras, this 12-24mm f/4 lens offers an ultra-wide 12mm focal length that might come in handy for photographing large spaces in the commercial real estate realm. However, with a zoom range to 24mm, it offers the functionality you need for photographing all types of real estate interiors and exteriors.
Each of these lenses offer excellent transmission, minimal vignetting and distortion, and good sharpness throughout their focal range. That kind of performance is a must-have for any real estate photography lens.
Specialty Lenses for Real Estate Photography
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One of the most important aspects of photographing real estate is ensuring that vertical lines are actually vertical - something that’s difficult to do when shooting at very short focal lengths.
As a result, some photographers have turned to using tilt-shift lenses, which allow you to alter how the image is cast on the sensor in order to keep vertical lines straight while capturing the shot with the desired composition.
However, there are programs you can use in post-processing to correct wonky lines (among other common problems). These programs are far less expensive than a tilt-shift lens, and far more usable, too, given that tilt-shift lenses are so specialized.
That being the case, I would not recommend investing in a tilt-shift lens and instead focusing your spending on getting a high-quality wide-angle zoom lens.
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When it comes to photography gear, the lens you use is far more important for image quality than the camera you use.
That being the case, it’s prudent to do your due diligence, consider the factors for lens selection outlined in this article, and purchase a lens that offers you the best performance for the dollar.
As noted earlier, there are plenty of excellent lenses available for real estate photography. But if you focus on the wide-angle zoom market and choose from lenses that have excellent sharpness, reduced aberrations, and good light transmission, you’ll be well on your way to having the best lens for shooting real estate.