Equipment (and skills) you will need to get started in Professional Real Estate Photography:
The purpose of this post is to serve as a basic checklist for someone who is looking to get into Real Estate Photography as a career option. This post is intended to help you understand a few key things Avista Media looks for in our professionals and focusing on an overview of what kind of equipment you’ll need. When we have time, we will update this to include some of the “out of scope” topics to help those seeking knowledge; for now, there is plenty on Google and YouTube.
ADVANCED UNDERSTANDING OF PHOTOGRAPHY THEORY
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional and is beyond the scope of this post. If you don’t have this, join a photography club, attend meetings, and ask questions; it’ll help get you closer.
ACUTE SENSE OF WORKFLOW and TIME
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional. You’ll need to understand how essential a good workflow is and how having one will save you (and a client) valuable time. We teach our professionals our workflow and system to better serve our clients with a predictable service.
PROFESSIONAL & HEALTHY ATTITUDE, PRESENCE, and MINDSET
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional, and WAY beyond the scope of this post.
LANDSCAPE and ARCHITECTURAL COMPOSITION SKILLS
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional, and also beyond the scope of this post. Composing a photograph of a space (interior or exterior) shares the same general concepts as a well-composed landscape photo. I like to think of Real Estate Photography as being similar to Wedding Photography, but without the people; you still photograph the space and details, just without conducting people into a pose. We teach our professionals the specific types of compositions relevant to the Real Estate market for consistent and professional results.
CERTIFICATIONS or LICENSING (if your state requires it, TN does not)
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional, and also beyond the scope of this post.
TRIPOD (Sturdy enough to support a minimum of 6 Lbs)
The ability to break the legs into a low spread-out position helps tremendously. Base feet should not be the type that will scratch new hardwood floors (Handballs can be fitted to the feet if needed for extra safe footing). Your tripod should be strong enough to use as an effective self-defense weapon.
HEAD + EXTRA MOUNTING PLATE
The extra quick-release mounting plate will help save you time and trouble of needing 2 different setups. A Ball-Head will work, but you will not enjoy using it with the indoor mapping system used to build 3D Virtual Tours. The Manfrotto 410 is the most common small-format geared-head used by professionals today.
SQUARE BUBBLE LEVEL
Inexpensive and easy to use. Although the tripod and/or head may have mini bubble-levels, it’s often difficult to use them in real life and they’re often not perfectly installed. While the one direction may be level, when you rotate the 3D Camera System, you’ll see why I don’t trust them. I’ve actually hot-glued a square bubble level to my camera system and now it only takes me a moment to easily level my gear from any position without trying to eagle-eye those small levels from above the system. These can be found on ebay for $2 each.
CAMERA + WIDE ANGLE LENS
Our images are built using a 3-Bracket Set of photos blended into an HDR Image, your camera must be able to do bracket image sets. If your camera has a built-in zoom, it must have a zoom range down to 10mm. Most built-in zoom lenses stop at around 18mm or 13mm, which is not wide enough. Spare charged batteries will save you from at least power failure experience. A petal lens hood for the type of lens you have will help reduce lens flares tremendously. A Circular Polarizer will also give you greater control over your image quality whilst protecting your base lens. I use a Nikon D7000 that gets the job done very nicely; what you use should be comparable to today’s standards of high quality imagery.
NO POCKET or TOURIST CAMERAS.
Professional equipment builds on the perceived value of what we do for our clients. Even though a pocket camera may perform perfectly, they have an unprofessional appearance. Having one as a backup is permissible, but only for last-resort use.
LENS (10-24mm Zoom)
Most Real Estate photography is done using a 10-18mm Wide Angle Lens. You can do this with prime lenses, but having a zoom setup will save you countless lens swaps & on-location time. I use a Tameron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 (di ii vc hld) and have not needed to change it for Real Estate yet.
GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE (our professionals must carry a GL Policy)
Hope you never need it, but be glad you have it in case you ever do. Camera Gear Insurance will not cover damages to a property or its contents. Damage to a property, as little as a banged up wall, will cause delays or other problems with the real estate listing sale process; it doesn’t just end at the cost to repair the wall and paint. Additionally, the camera system we provide for you to use and maintain costs more than what it’s worth, and you don’t want to end up having to pay for expensive repairs or be responsible for any lost production. I am a PPA Member, and membership includes Camera Gear Insurance, and they also offer affordable General Liability Insurance tailored specifically for professional photographers. There are many other insurance providers that provide similar coverage at different prices to consider. (www.ppa.com)
TRANSIT CASE (for your camera gear)
You probably (should) have one already that is perfect for your needs. The camera system we supply you with has its own hard-shell carrying case. I decided long ago to treat my camera like a money machine and to keep it protected with a good hard case. Currently, I use a Briggs & Riley Carry-On Luggage Bag modified with inserts to carry all my gear in one bag (my DSLR + Virtual Tour Camera + Smart Tablet + Battery & Media Box + a few other camera related needs). When I load-in for a job, it’s my tripod + that one bag. If that interests you, I can help you build one, but it will need to be a Briggs & Riley bag with the 2 big wheels (not four wheels); they’re expensive, but the best. They can sometimes be found at discount stores for half price or better, I found mine at bargain hunt for $75.
LIGHTROOM and/or PHOTOSHOP
This is an expectation of any photographer that wants to be a professional, and also beyond the scope of this post. We have our own team process our images, so this specific software or how to use it isn’t really needed to work with our team. On your own, you’ll need to have advanced Photoshop skills or you’ll need to outsource your editing work at a cost.
LOTS OF REALTOR FRIENDS
Yep, it helps to have a lot of friends that are Realtors, and on your own, that’s a network that is hard to build in your favor, especially with cheap service providers that are more than happy to put you out of business with their low prices. We have spent time building our network and are consistently adding to that network of thrilled clients.
I’ve run out of time, so that’s all for now. Don’t forget, treat yourself to some personal time every day and aim to help others achieve their dreams! Thanks for reading!