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Real estate photography snapshot: Choosing a camera . . .

I keep meaning to write about real estate photography, and I keep not getting it done. Let’s consider this a first cut, to which I may return more than once.

Mark Reibman of Rain City Guide has written two great posts on digital photography for real estate, and we can only pray that he does more. I lack his talent, but the wonderful thing about photography is that quality can be an emergent property of quantity: Any one photo I take might stink, but if I take 500 shots, one of them might accidentally kiss the forehead of greatness. Film and prints were cheap, but digital photos are next door to being free. We can take lots and lots of photos and cull down to those that present the property in the best possible light.

Camera selection is always a problem. The two most-advertised features of digital cameras, mega-pixels and zoom lenses, are the two you need least.

Except for print reproduction, the best size for a real estate photo is 640 x 480 pixels — which is 0.3 megapixels. Ideally, your everyday camera should be able to produce that size image without post-processing. The photos on your web pages can be bigger than this, but not by much. If you try to load 20 images on a page, with each image weighing in at one megabyte or more, you’ll overtax most web browsers — well after you’ve overtaxed the patience of your audience.

What you want from a lens is not a long zoom but the widest possible angle. Most digital cameras have their widest angle setting at 45 – 55mm, if the lens were on a 35mm film-camera equivalent. A few cameras get down to 38mm. This is inadequate. What you want is 28mm or less — with reservations. The Fuji FinePix E500 shown in the sidebar is an excellent everyday real estate camera. It gets down to 28mm, which is very good for most rooms. The flash recycles fairly quickly. It will do 4 megapixels at the high end, which is good enough for lower-quality print work. But it will also work natively at 640 x 480 pixels, so you can move your photos directly from USB to your web site. With a little nylon camera case, this can ride on your belt or purse strap every time you leave the office.

You have no end of camera choices at the higher end of the price scale. We picked the Kodak Easyshare P880 you see in the sidebar because it seemed to deliver the most bang for the buck. The Schneider lens comes all the way down to 24mm, a breathtakingly wide point of view. We get a little bit of distortion, especially at the edges, but the extra room to be seen in photos of rooms makes up for that. The camera is marketed with a companion Kodak zooming flash unit, which is also worth having. This camera captures light and detail very well, so we use it at a mid-range 5 mega-pixel setting, then scale the photos down, either in PhotoShop or with a bulk post-processor.

If you want to spend more, you can, but you should be looking for the same features: A wide angle lens — within limits: 21mm might be too wide, 18mm certainly is — and a workably small image size. Camera manufacturers are finally starting to produce true 35mm equivalent digital SLRs, so lens selection should become an embarrassment of riches — at least if you’re embarrassingly rich.

When I can snag another minute, I’ll offer some thoughts about composition.

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8 comments

8 Comments so far

  1. […] Tips for Getting Your House Sold (Michael Daly, Hamptons Real Estate) Five Tips for Getting Your Home Appraised Before Selling (Real Estate Journal) FAQ about owning a floating home (Graham Marden, Prudential Northwest Properties) How to Choose A Client (Ardell, Rain City Guide) The Hardest Thing We Do In A Buyer’s Market (Merv, Northern Virginia Real Estate Guide) Real estate photography snapshot: Choosing a camera (Greg Swann, BloodhoundBlog) The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy: Open Your Mind To Greater Creative Thinking (Tom Monahan, John Wiley & Sons, Publisher) Listen to this podcast […]

  2. […] Coming back to this, I wanted to spend a few minutes on photo composition techniques. That’s almost absurd: Who doesn’t know how to take a picture? Almost everybody, it turns out. We’re not talking about Ansel Adams levels of perfection, we’re talking about taking real estate photos that sell the property but don’t require a lot of back-end effort on your part. That means that we want to take a photo we’re ready to show off as-is, not one that requires cropping or re-touching in PhotoShop. […]

  3. […] As Greg points out on his blog, there are pocket cameras out there like the Kodak Easyshare P880 which have the additional feature, but I did not want to go the rout of adding another pocket camera to my collection since I just got my Sony Alpha 100. […]

  4. Paul Van Buekenhout June 6th, 2007 6:03 pm

    As a real estate photographer, my weapon of choice is the Nikon Coolpix 8400, (long out of production) but the key is having the “eye” as my clients say. The key to any photo is composition. It also helps t invest in a proper flash gun and a tripod.

  5. […] to do the bulk of their own photography. Use a pro for the print stuff, if you lack confidence, but acquire a camera appropriate for real estate work and learn how to take good real estate photos. You should get in the habit of having a good-enough […]

  6. […] to do the bulk of their own photography. Use a pro for the print stuff, if you lack confidence, but acquire a camera appropriate for real estate work and learn how to take good real estate photos. You should get in the habit of having a good-enough […]

  7. […] to do the bulk of their own photography. Use a pro for the print stuff, if you lack confidence, but acquire a camera appropriate for real estate work and learn how to take good real estate photos. You should get in the habit of having a good-enough […]

  8. Sue August 23rd, 2008 7:09 pm

    I’m getting ready to pickup a new camera. The wide angle lens I definitely need…the “eye”, thank goodness I have as that would be harder to get 😉 I’d like to keep it as simple as possible, something that travels well too. Seems to be new technology time for me right now.