Equipment – What Other Equipment Should I Use?
TIP 1 – Lenses – Good glass can make a big difference in how your photos appear and appeal. If you are in the market for a new lens for your digital SLR, then look for a good quality, wide-angle lens that can, ideally, zoom down to a 10-12 mm focal length. You don’t necessarily have to opt for major brand name (e.g. Canon or Nikon) lenses. If you want to save money, there are some fine lenses made by Tokina and Sigma (to name a few). I have used both and can vouch for them. Use the wide-angle lens for all of your indoor shots. Consider a longer zoom lens for outdoor photos (especially for view shots or shots of the home taken from a distance). Something that will zoom at least to 200mm would suffice. I actually use 2 cameras with a wide-angle and a longer zoom lens permanently mounted so I don’t have to change lenses (which can introduce dust and take extra time).
TIP 2 – Flash – Sometimes the onboard flash is sufficient for supplemental lighting, and with point-and-shoot cameras, you may not have an option for mounting an external flash. If your camera does have a hot shoe, consider an electronic flash that will tilt and swivel. They do cost a bit more, but having the flexibility to angle the flash at a 45 degree angle, for example, will give you some bounce off the ceiling and soften the harsh shadows that can appear as a result of a direct flash. Additionally, adding a flash diffuser will broaden the flash and reduce the effect of photos showing a very bright center with weaker lighting on the sides.
TIP 3 – Tripod – A good, sturdy tripod is a must, especially for indoor photos where you will be using slower shutter speeds. It will support and steady your camera. Some tripods have a built in level. I prefer using a ball head on my tripod. There are heads available with built in levels. You could also purchase a small level that slides into the hot shoe of your camera. It would be OK for outdoors, but not recommended for indoors since you would not be able to mount an external flash.
Camera Settings – What Should My Camera Settings Be?
TIP 4 – Mode – Shoot in Aperture priority mode. Automatic is not recommended. With this setting, your camera will determine the proper shutter speed for you. Manual mode gives you full control, but until you are well versed in all of the features of your camera, stick with Aperture priority.
TIP 5 – White Balance – Auto white balance is usually fine. If you notice a yellow cast to your photos, try switching to an incandescent setting. If you notice a green cast under older fluorescent bulbs, change to a fluorescent setting. Sometimes you have to experiment with this until you get the desired look to your photos. Do keep an eye on the photos as you shoot, since you may need to change white balance from time to time.
TIP 6 – Aperture (F-Stop) – You will usually want to have a good depth-of-field for real estate photos (focus is sharp both close up and far away), so a higher number F-stop will give you that. F5.6, through F8 will usually be fine for most applications. Note that the higher the number, the lower the amount of light being let in which will, in turn, slow down your shutter speed. Again, indoors, a tripod is essential unless you have a rock-steady hand. Outdoors during daytime, you can get away with hand-held and higher (F11 say) F-Stop. If you don’t want to mess with it, generally, you can set your aperture at F7.1 or F8 and leave it there.
Preparation – What Can be Done to Get Ready for a Photo Shoot?
TIP 7 – Determine the best time of day for shooting. Getting a great front shot of the home is usually very important since this is often the photo that will start your MLS slide show or appear in print ads. If possible, you want to have the sun behind you for a shot of the home’s façade. Shoot east facing homes late morning, west-facing homes early afternoon. South facing homes can be shot most any time, but close to mid-day will give you fewer long shadows. North facing homes are the bigger challenge and should be shot either early morning or late afternoon so the sun is not directly over the home. Dusk, or after-sunset, is a great time to shoot since the sun doesn’t affect the photos. But they can be tricky since you have very little time to do your photo session. I’ll talk about dusk photo shoots in another article.
TIP 8 – Do a walk-through before starting your shoot. Make sure each area (indoor and outdoor) is “photo ready”. If there is anything that needs to be cleaned up or removed, ask the homeowner to do that while you go on to other areas. Adjust blinds if any glaring sunlight is showing through (or a messy neighboring yard) and turn on all lights as you go. Put toilet seats down and close closet doors. Make sure all vehicles are away from the property and not showing in any of the windows.