Asking Santa for a new camera for Real Estate Photography? Here are a few things to Consider . . .

By
Home Stager with GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography

Asking Santa for a new camera for Real Estate Photography? Keep reading . . .

With about a gazillion different digital cameras out there, how do you even begin to narrow down the choices? With my experience as a professional real estate photographer, hopefully I can provide you with some useful guidelines of the features that are the most important for photographing your properties.

The More MegaPixels the Better . . . Right?

No, not necessarily. Though MegaPixels may appear to be the "muscle" of a digital camera . . .

(imagine the following conversation)

"Nice little unit you got there, Chuck. How many megapixels under the hood?"

"She's running at a full 15. I can dial her down as low as 3 or 4 if I want to conserve storage space when the game goes into overtime. But otherwise, she can take the heat if I run her full out most of the time."

"Sweet."

. . . they are really just a measure of maximum image resolution. Resolution becomes significant when you determine the final size an image is going to be printed or displayed at. Monitors have relatively low resolution compared to prints (72 dots per inch vs 300 dpi). A 10 megapixel (or 10 million pixel) image typically measures 3648x2736 pixels (multiply it out). In screen size this equates to an image that is about 50 inches by 38 inches! Overkill, for sure. In print, this same image would be about 9 inches by 12 inches--larger than a sheet of paper, such as your typical brochure.

Without boring you with the math (which you can do yourself with the information above) if you typically make 4x6 prints, a 10MP image will not give you any more noticeable quality than a 3MP image! That's right. 3MP is all you need for your typical 4x6 print. Now if you want to have some room for cropping or a larger image on the front of your brochure, it's best to go bigger. Suffice it to say, though, that an 8 or 10MP camera will be more than enough, unless you are wanting to go poster size.

Instead of paying for more megapixels, look for brands that are also known for having high quality image sensors (e.g. Canon, Nikon, Panasonic/Leica). It seems the megapixel race may be over, as many newer models have held back on the overall number of megapixels, in favor of improving things like low light image quality and dynamic range (the ability of a camera to capture a larger range of shadows to brightness and retain detail in those areas).

Wide Angle Lens

How many times have you seen photos of a home like this?

Room without wide angle lens 

Clearly, the typical 35mm equivalent lens just doesn't do the job when it comes to real estate. Look for a camera that has a minimum of 24-28mm equivalent viewing angle. Better yet, a DSLR with lenses that are purchased separately give you the most flexibility in this area. 14mm to 24mm is the ideal sweet spot for interiors. However, DSLR's and their accompanying lenses also cost a whole lot more cash! If Santa is feeling generous, this is the way to go. If not, you need a "wide angle" lens on a point and shoot. Luckily, there are more and more models that fit this requirement. Some cameras even have a "wide angle adapter" that can be purchased separately. While not coming anywhere close to the quality of a DSLR, they may do the trick. Beware, though, of lens distortion--correct it with photo editing software (see below).

Same room with wide angle lens and additional lighting

Flash

In order to avoid pictures like this . . .

Room on "Auto" exposure  

 . . . it is imperative to shoot with a flash. Despite all of the automatic scene settings and face recognition technology built into today's cameras, none of them yet compare to the experience of the human eye! Your eye can see across a much larger range of brightness (dynamic range, from above) and can more readily adapt as it scans a scene than any camera out there. There are times when the "smarts" in your camera are just not good enough. And when it comes to exposure--especially in interiors--this is the case more often than not!

Shooting interiors is one of the . . . yes THE . . . most challenging lighting situations. The brightness of a window can be 100-1000 times brighter than the room. If you point your camera towards the window, it will expose for that area leaving the room in the dark--something we've all seen over and over on the MLS system.

The ideal camera is one with a "hot shoe" mount for adding a more powerful flash than the ones that are typically built-in. This feature is going to be much trickier to find in a point and shoot and will definitely be at the upper end of the price range. However, at least look for a unit that has flash compensation allowing you to manually bump up the power of the flash by one or two stops. (Of course, you need to know how to force your flash to come on!)

Along the same lines, a camera that also has exposure compensation gives you additional control over the lighting. On most units with this feature, there is usually a little +/- button that allows you to adjust the exposure reading of the camera. Another definite asset for real estate photography.

Room with additional off-camera flash

Software

Lastly, having some kind of photo editing software in your arsenal is a definite plus (Picasa is free!). Like we've already talked about, cameras don't always get it right. Adjusting things like white balance and removing color casts from different kinds of lights (incandescent, fluorescent) is important when you want paint colors to read true. Do you really want the buyer thinking the walls are peach when they are really beige??

And I'm sure we've all also experienced the results of a camera that was not held perfectly level. Being able to straighten the room out goes a long way to making your photos look and feel a whole lot more professional!

My last tidbit of advice is when you get that camera, PLEASE read the manual. No, it's not a real page-turner or suspense thriller, but you cannot possibly take decent pictures-- even with the most expensive equipment--if you do not know how to use it! An average camera in the right hands will produce much better pictures than a high-end camera in the hands of someone who clearly doesn't have a clue of what they are doing. You are wasting your money if you buy beyond your ability level. (Suggestion . . . hire someone instead!)

Any questions? Ask away! Happy shopping, and HO HO HO.

 

 

Posted by

Deena Cottingham

GreenApple Staging & Images
Serving Calgary and Okotoks, Alberta

©GreenApple Staging & Images, 2010
All information is copyrighted and may not be used, borrowed or copied without written permission.

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Gary Swanson 11/18/2009 08:10 PM
  2. Darrell Backen 12/13/2009 11:14 PM
Topic:
Real Estate Technology & Tools
Location:
Alberta
Groups:
Tips and Techniques for Better Real Estate Photography
Calgary Real Estate Professionals
Home Staging Business Sense - marketing, money & more
Photography
Tech for Stagers
Tags:
photography
real estate photography
camera shopping
digital cameras

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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
238,853
Gene Allen
Resh Realty Group - Virginia Beach, VA
Realtor Hampton Roads Real Estate

Better equipment can help you take better pictures most of the time but as Lee shows even equipment that most of the agents have can take decent pictures. 

November 19, 2009 08:55 AM #8
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Thanks everyone for all your comments and the points that you have made to round out the topic! There's obviously lots of opinions when it comes to real estate photography--who should be doing it, how, and with what. Good points are made in all of these areas.

My information was not necessarily intended to comment on all the areas that many of you have addressed, but mostly just to give those who may be looking for a new camera a few guidelines of what features they might find most useful. If you're going to buy a new camera, you might as well get one that will help you do a better job of it!

As Michael points out, not only do the sellers and buyers of real estate deserve decent pictures of their property, I believe they are starting to demand it. It is a "trend" that will definitely continue to have upward pressure.

Lee and Gene, you both make very valid points that knowing how to use your camera is half the battle! Probably more! This is the reason why I promote reading the manual and investing the time into learning yourself . . . or hiring someone who can deliver what today's sellers and buyers want.

Lee, I also get a kick out of the "you must have a really good camera" comment! Too funny.

Thanks everyone!

November 19, 2009 10:05 AM #9
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Gary, thank you very much for re-blogging this post!

I also wanted to comment on Lee's great picture in his comment #7. What makes this image "work" (i.e. have good exposure throughout the frame) without any extra lighting is due to the fact that it looks like it is nighttime (no light spilling from around the blinds), and that the blinds are closed. In this situation, the camera's light meter can more accurately choose an exposure since the whole scene is more evenly lit as is. (Or if shot on manual exposure, Lee was able to successfully choose an exposure that suited the whole room). Bonus, the bathroom is also decently exposed and not appearing as a big black hole.

This is where your smarts still beat out the camera's smarts! If access to extra lighting equipment is not possible, choosing the time of day makes a huge difference in the resulting image.

Sometimes, this is not possible, however, and we need more help from our equipment. I'm sure we all can imagine (because we've seen it a 1000 times), that if the blinds were opened in the middle of the day, the photo would have very a different dynamic range (range of brightness to deep shadow).

Thanks, Lee, for the good example.

November 19, 2009 10:21 AM #10
Rainmaker
288,142
Dan Tabit
Northstone Real Estate Inc. - Sammamish, WA

Deena, I agree with everything you say.  I am a do-it-yourselfer who takes photography seriously.  Because I haven't had a wide angle lens, I've learned how to effectively stitch photos together to take in a full room.  Over the summer I bought a kit for my Olympus SP-350 with a lens adapter and a wide angle.  Its better, but I'm seeing the curving more than I would have hoped. I'm also seeing how Santa treats me this year. 

November 19, 2009 12:54 PM #11
Rainmaker
236,612
Lee Jinks
Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS® - McAllen, TX

I know we have gotten off the original topic, but that's the beauty of blogging.  Sometimes a blog takes on a life of it's own.  After all the nice comments about my photo in comment #7, I thought I would reveal the original shot.

original

This photo required some serious photoshop work.  First, my wide angle adapter creates significant barrel distortion, not to mention the vignetting.  (That's why I don't recommend them)  I found a barrel distortion plug-in for the older version of photoshop elements I was using.  Newer versions have it built in.  Then I had to correct for verticals.  Finally the light temperature (color) was quite different in the bathroom, so I masked it off the desaturated the bathroom making it appear to have a correct color balance.  The lamp on the dresser didn't work, otherwise it would have been on.  Maybe I should have removed it.  Maybe we need some blogs on what makes a strong image or what makes for good real estate photography.

Oh and yes it was taken at night.  I had been experimenting with dusk exterior photography and ended up getting most of the interior after the sun had gone down.

November 19, 2009 05:11 PM #12
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Ahhhhh, see . . . not any ol' camera will do the job. It always comes back to the smarts of the user!

In your case Lee, you made a so-so picture much better through the use of some pretty serious photo editing software (beyond what comes with most digital cameras, or what you can get for free). Good on you for going the extra mile!

Having better equipment would cut down on things like correcting the super obvious barrel distortion (curving verticals). Having a lower point-of-view might have prevented you from needing to straighten the verticals as you wouldn't have needed to tilt your camera. :-)

November 19, 2009 05:35 PM #13
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer
Dan - stitching together! Wowsers! That's some time consuming editing! (Who am I to speak though! I fuss way too much in post!)
If I happen to see the Man in Red, I'll put in a good word for you!
November 19, 2009 05:38 PM #14
Rainmaker
236,612
Lee Jinks
Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS® - McAllen, TX

Yeah Deena, better equipment allows me to spend less time in post.  And I learned about keeping the camera level sometime after this session.

By the way, if you see the big guy, an SB-900 would really help improve my photos.

November 19, 2009 09:03 PM #15
Rainmaker
112,072
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Realty, llc. - Prospect, CT
Broker/Owner - e-PRO Dave Jones Realty llc Prospec

Thanks for the tips.  I have been using a Kodak v705 ultra wide angle for ever and love the features.  I have recently started mixing in some Photos from my Digital Rebel with a Wide angle lens however.  I believe the shots are a lot less granular with the SLR, and the flash is much better as well.

November 20, 2009 09:52 AM #16
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Dave, thanks for stopping by. Glad you've got a system that's working for you!

Lee - you and me both.

November 20, 2009 10:31 AM #17
Rainmaker
181,895
Karen Dembsky
Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA - Peachtree City, GA
Atlanta Home Staging

Thx Deena -- I have been looking for this kind of info to include with my letter to Santa! YEAH!

November 29, 2009 01:28 PM #18
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Perfect. Glad it is useful info for you, Karen! It's always good to be specific with Santa!

November 29, 2009 03:47 PM #19
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

I believe the shots are a lot less granular with the SLR, and the flash is much better as well.  I mostly post from cellular telephone

December 07, 2009 12:48 PM #20
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Hi Thomas, you are right, the shots from a DSLR are less granular . . . but seriously? You use your cell phone?

December 09, 2009 10:12 PM #21
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Yes I downloaded the pictures of the Hoover Dam By-Pass Pictures it comes in Handy when I am in Heavy Traffic  as I show mostly rural property

December 10, 2009 12:41 PM #22
Rainer
45,825
Sara Abbas
Realty Austin - Cedar Park, TX
CNE, CDRS - 512-522-4990

Thanks so much for this post.  I'm shopping for a camera now and appreciate the tips. 

December 27, 2009 11:48 PM #23
Rainmaker
973,701
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - Fleming Island, FL
Your Fleming Island Relocation Agents.

Deena, I love reading your tips. I was a die hard film person Canon AE1 that I had owned for years - then switched to Nikon 8400 Coolpix in 2004, and then Nikon D40 SLR this spring. What a difference! The chip in the SLR is so much better. Since the Coolpix was upper end, I had already purchased a 600 Flash that I now use with the D40. But the best discovery of the year is the Gary Fong lightsphere and dome. It works great in back-lit situations like windows and will brighten up the darkest room.

December 29, 2009 11:17 AM #24
Rainmaker
275,428
Bill Foxworthy, Jill Turner
Carpenter Northeast - Indianapolis, IN
Real Estate - Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel

Deena

I am in the market for a new cameral  Thanks for the information.

January 03, 2010 01:59 PM #25
Rainer
128,921
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Sara - glad the post was timely for you!

Frank & Sharon - wow, you're straight from the film world?! It's great that you stuck with a name brand and are able to make use of previous equipment. Especially since it probably cost you a bit when you bought it, and it's great quality. I use something similar to the Gary Fong diffuser, and they work awesome, as you've discovered!

Hey Bill - glad to help. Happy New Year!

January 03, 2010 06:10 PM #26
Rainer
332,937
Paul Gapski
Berkshire Hathaway / Prudential Ca Realty - El Cajon, CA
619-504-8999,#1 Resource SD Relo
 

thank you very much for the informative and interesting post. I get so much out of the active rain network.

March 22, 2012 08:08 PM #27
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Rainer
128,921

Deena Cottingham

Home Stager & Photographer
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