Photography Light

Real Estate is about Location, Location & Location
Photography is about Light, Light & Light

Photography is all about capturing light on film, slides or an electronic sensor. There are four important components affecting image quality: The camera, lens and film or sensor, (we'll discuss number four a little later). Essentially, the camera itself is just a light-tight box with a shutter! A cheap camera and a good lens is better than a good camera and a cheap lens.

The chart represents the amount of light entering a camera lens at a given f/stop:  f/2 is only half a large as f/1.4, f/2.8 is only  a fourth as large as f/1.4. Looking at this chart, it becomes clear why larger f stop lenses (smaller f/number) are more expensive and much heaver due to the larger amount of glass required to make the larger aperture. F Stop Chart

For example: a simple fixed length Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is  around $110 while a Nikon 50mm f/1.4  costs around $320, and these are discount prices. So for only a half stop of light there is three times the difference in price. The f/1.8 weighs 5.5 ounces while the f/1.4 weighs 9.9 ounces or weighs almost twice as much (for a half stop of light). keep in mind that a majority of professional zoom lenses start at f/2.8 and are at their best when stopped down about two stops. Most lenses do not perform very well wide open (shooting at their maximum aperture). You need to stop it down to get best result out of the lens. A fast f2.8 lens stopped down to 4 or 5.6 will give great results, where the slow 5.6 lens would need to be to be wide open and will not be as great a picture. There is no wonder the kit lenses (those sold packaged with the camera) only work well in good light and stopped down around f/5.6 or more. Almost all of the newer lenses work well in good natural light. Why do we need faster lenses? We don't always have good natural light.

AV -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
f/# 0.5 0.7 1.0 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22 32 45 64 90 128
Standard F Stop Table

I am often asked about point and shoot cameras for real estate. Almost all the newer point and shoot cameras take good photos in good light. They are not very good for interiors, you usually cannot add an external flash to get bounce flash and the lenses are not  w i d e  enough. This leaves the DSLRS or SLRS

The other question I get all the time is "What's the best real estate lens?" The answer is "for interiors, wide". And for residential real estate exteriors a wide lens also works well to. For cropped sensor cameras, Tokina makes the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (discount price $659). Sigma makes a 10-20mm lens (discount price $600) which distorts some at the wide end and it is a slow lens f/3.5 which translates into "when shooting interiors, you need flash lighting. (for Best Prices for the on-camera flash, The 10-20 is so big around, the built-in camera flash casts a huge shadow across the bottom of your images.), you need external bounce flash lighting with this lens. and you need Photoshop post processing for distortion and brightening. The Nikon 12-24mm f/4 is an excellent lens, but is also a bit slow for interiors (discount price $789) and the 12mm on the wide end is not as good as the 10-20. You also need a tripod and or bounce flash for this lens. You could use the kit lens which usually starts at 18mm (just not quite wide enough for interiors though)  Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, good reviews, ($659 discount price) so unlike the Sigma 10-20 with HSM, there is no built-in motor on the Tokina, so it is manual focus only on D40/D40x D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and D5100 cameras. If money is no object, the Nikon 14-24mm (discount price around $1500) there is no equal. Drawbacks, it weighs a ton (almost 2 pounds) and you cannot put a filter on this lens, so hang onto your Sigma 10-20mm for your D40 and outside work. Real Estate Camera Lens at a Glance or

The other item you need is a good bounce flash that will help light up the room. Most flash units do not accommodate lenses wider than 24mm and there is where the flash needs to be bounced off the ceiling. This works fine on most 8' to 10' ceilings that are of a light color. You could also use a tripod and a slower shutter speed or set a higher ISO to compensate for the loss of light.

There are hardly ever ideal conditions for exterior real estate photography. What do you do with a dark house facing North? This is what all the graduated neutral density filters are all about. without the filters, take your choice,  meter on the house with burnt-out sky, or meter on the sky with a dark blob for house. A graduated filter darkens the sky, and lets you meter on the house with a slower shutter speed to lighten up the house. Or how about a house facing West and you Best Prices for there in the late afternoon. Same solution as the house facing North

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10-20mm Lens

Here are two examples of the Sigma 10-20 lens used on the same house. The exterior had parked cars at the curb. I was standing on the lawn to take this shot. The 10mm did the job and got me on the house side of the curb. The interior of this room was very dark with only a 40 watt bulb, I could barely see in this room. This is where the 10-20mm lens and the bounce flash really got to work. 

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Another example with the 18mm on the left and 10mm on the right.
The 10-20mm lets you show more of the room.

Our mission in photographing homes is to provide real estate clients with professional images to enhance their print and online marketing efforts and ultimately result in and an increase in sales with more profit.

In a market as competitive as real estate, it is important to have an advantage over your competition. In a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, they found that 80% of people across the county who bought a new home last year used the internet as a tool when looking for a home. They found that people rated photographs as the most useful tool in their search process.

At no time does the saying "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" ring more true than now. At a time when buyers have an advantage in the marketplace and the ease of access to various listing websites are at an all time high it is paramount that your home is represented in the best possible light.

Recently I was asked to critique a virtual tour. The virtual tour had photos of vacant rooms, photos of a hallway, photos of the garage, and photos of the exterior with no landscaping. The problem is what to do when you need to sell an empty home or new construction. Unless the space itself has an interesting aspect, photographs of empty rooms usually do not do anything for the room. here are three bad examples:


You must remember that real estate photography is not documentary photography. You are not simply documenting the property; you are trying to make it look attractive so someone would want to purchase it. Real estate photographers and agents should consider working with interior designers, today they are often called staggers who can move in furniture and décor items to decorate a home to make it look good. This service may seem expensive but it usually pays for itself in the long run for the seller.

Another problem is occupied homes that have too much furniture or furniture that does not present well. Not all home sellers have a good sense of home decorating. Much of the time home sellers would be better off if they just move out and have their home professionally staged. Solving these problems is ultimately up to the real estate agent and the home seller. However, it’s the job of the photographer to raise the issue to who ever is having you photograph the home.

A photographer can do a lot to improve the look of a home by simply moving around furniture and making sure clutter is out of photos. I spend half of my time moving stuff out of shots, but that’s OK; remember the job of a photographer is to do what ever it takes to make a home look good in the photographs!

NY Times Article On The Importance Of Professional Photography In The Real Estate Market. View New York Times Article Making Every Pixel Count

It has been said that you never have enough "Stuff", It seem like there is always just one more thing we need to make that perfect shot easier. (Ok, this is number four from above, Ansel Adams said "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.") Your camera equipment does not affect the quality of your photos, the photographer does.

Buying a $2,800 Nikon Mirrorless Z7 with a $2,300 Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens will not make you better photographer.

The less time and effort you spend worrying about your camera equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great photos. The right camera equipment just makes it faster, easier or more convenient for you to Best Prices for the results you need. If you are not going to do anything larger than 8x10 prints, the camera simply doesn't matter at all. (See Megapixel Printing Chart).

Just look at the following photos that were shot using a $50.00 cell phone:  

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How do you become a better photographer?

Since digital cameras, computers and Photo Shop for post processing, photography has gotten easier and cheaper. To improve your photography, you should always be looking for an unusual shot. Keep your eyes open, there are opportunities everywhere. Get closer to the subject and be aware of what's in the the background. Take several shots of the same subject from different angles, apertures, shutter speeds and focal lengths. Always look at your exif data. Try to remember what you did good or bad. Create a folder on your hard drive labeled discards, but keep them for review. Put your good shots in another folder. Never make extensive Photo Shop changes to your originals but rename the changed photos with a slightly different name.  Try to do some shooting daily or at least weekly. Upload your work to photo sharing sites like Flikr and ask for critiques. Improving your photography is not unlike playing the violin or piano: It takes years of dedication and practice.

There are three important basic filters for exterior work that cannot be duplicated in post processing: (We are still talking about light here)

You will wonder how you ever got along without them. Tip: Buy filters for your widest lens and step-up rings (lens to filter) for all your lens sizes. This way you only have to purchase one set of filters. If you are using a point & shoot camera with no filter threads.  A company called Cokin, makes adaptors to attach filters to your camera. The naysayers like to criticize the Cokin filters for being plastic. Some are made of mineral glass and most «A» & «P» filters are made of CR39* Organic Glass which is today a reputable lightweight and unbreakable optical material also used for ophtalmic glasses. I have been using the Cokin P system for many years and have yet to scratch one. Cokin makes inexpensive rings to fit all your lenses.

What's in My Camera Bag?

  (This Bag Rarely if Ever Leaves My House - See Walk Around Bag Below)


Camera Lenses