Property Photography Equipment
What Camera Kit Do You Need To Get Started?
Property Photography Equipment - When photographing properties, it isn't just a case of plonking a cheap flashgun on your SLR and taking a shot from a corner of the room! That just won't do.
The lighting will be poor, the composition won't look right and I can guarantee it won't get you any referral work. The lighting has to be spot on to show the room or house at its absolute best, no matter how small or ugly it is. In fact, the uglier the property, the better the lighting has to be.
For this type of photography, the equipment needed is not dissimilar to that used in portrait photography. In effect that is what you are doing, taking a portrait of each room in a property however large or small with a large portrait of the exterior.
If you don't have the required property photography equipment now, don't despair. Read on and by the end you can decide when and how much to invest or you may want to borrow or hire the equipment until you get going.
Choosing your kit
When I started photographing properties back in 2003/2004, I used a 6MP Digital SLR, the Canon EOS10D. Even with a crop factor of 1.6x, with the right lens I was able to get the job done. This camera produced some stunning images and many were enlarged up to A1 for window displays and exhibitions and looked perfect.
I now use the full frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV which, when used with ultra wide lenses, makes my job so much easier. If you have the budget, go for a full frame DSLR as the main item in your property photography equipment. If your budget is less, most manufacturers now make lenses that take into account the crop factor. 10mm wide angle lenses!
The following is a list of property photography equipment that I take to every job I do. You can get away without some of it but it is better to be prepared for anything.
- 1Camera - 16MP or above Digital SLR with interchangeable lenses.
- 2Lenses - Taking into account any crop factor, 16mm (or less) up to 100mm. I use the Canon EF16-35mm and 24-70mm "L" zoom lenses. You need to be wide enough to get the majority of a room in view without the "pincushion" effect from a lens that is too wide.
- 3Speedlights/Flashguns - I keep 2 (sometimes 3) with me for reasons that will become clear later in the book. They will need to have swivel/bounce heads. Also, see the Flash Softboxes link at the bottom of this page. You can swap the studio lights for two flashguns with softboxes for easier portability…
- 4Studio Lights - 2 or 3 Studio flash heads with 500W power and above. You will need more power for the bigger rooms, but also have the ability to "power down" for the smaller ones. Mine are now 15 years old and still going strong. A true investment in my business!
- 5Stands - For the studio lights. They need to be strong, expandable and flexible enough to go anywhere from "in" the bath tub to on the lawn or muddy borders of the garden. Cheap as chips.
- 6Umbrellas - I use 2 or 3 "Luminescent" or transparent, white brollies. These allow you to fire the lights "through" the umbrella, giving a more diffused and pleasing look to the room.
- 7Leads - You need all the relevant leads for the lighting and then some more. It is a very good idea to carry at least 10-15 metres of extension cables for the lighting equipment as well as some double adapter sockets.
- 8Tripod - An absolutely essential piece of kit. You will find that you use a tripod most of the time for interior/exterior property work. Make sure it is sturdy.
- 9Batteries and Media - Make sure you have backup power and storage capacity. Although in most cases you are able to re-shoot if necessary. It is better to get the job done efficiently and smoothly first time round.
- 10Slave Unit - No I don't mean a cheap assistant. This is a small device that attaches to your flashgun or speedlight allowing it to be fired remotely. Its usefulness has saved me bags of time and effort in the past. Check out my Pocket Wizards review...lovely piece of kit!
- 11Computer with Photoshop ;- Once you have taken the images, about as much work again is required in Photoshop. That is to get the images looking clear, bright, colourful and punchy. Images that really stand out in the property world.
So how much will all this property photography equipment cost? Let's break it down and keep it as cheap as possible to start you off. I am assuming that you already own or have access to a PC;
- 1Camera - A new or second hand, mid range Semi Professional DSLR is a good start - $4-700 approx.
- 2Lenses - If you are on a budget, Sigma are excellent quality and much cheaper than the branded names such as Canon or Nikon. A 17-35mm new is approximately $300-$500 and will do the job for now. A 10-22mm would be better later on.
- 3Flashguns - $200-600 for both, making sure that the heads swivel left to right and up and down. Alternatively, and you are so lucky to be starting now, you have other options. Much cheaper companies are producing multiple speedlight kits for next to nothing. Check them out!
- 4Studio Lights – $100-$200 for 2 flash heads, 2 stands, 2 luminescent brollies and relevant cables. So sooo much cheaper than when I started you lucky things!
- 5Tripod - $100-$200. Don't skimp here, go for sturdy quality!
- 6Batteries and Media - $100 but could vary wildly depending on what you get.
So in total, if you are starting with no property photography equipment whatsoever, a modest investment of around $2,300 or less (£1,800-2,000) will get you well on your way. This may sound like a lot to many people. However, with this equipment and the knowledge you will obtain from this book, you could earn this back in no time at all. How much does it cost to start a conventional business these days?
These prices will obviously vary depending on where you shop, your location and whether you opt for new or second hand property photography equipment, but the above is a realistic starting figure for your business.