Camera Body, Lens and Equipment Must-Haves

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Camera Body, Lens and Equipment Must-Haves

If you are just starting your real estate photography business you may already have a camera body and lens because of your prior experience with photography. But not all photographers start out having the right equipment, so let’s take a look and see what camera bodies and lenses I use, and why.

The other day Julie B. filled out my Have a Question? form asking for a recommendation for a camera body. I had planned to write some posts about the equipment that I use and Julie’s question made me realize I had better share because folks are wondering!

As with all of the other information on this site, I will share what works for me and what I use. Just because I use a certain brand or camera body doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It gets the job done for me, and that’s all I need! Unfortunately because I started out shooting Canon I don’t have any knowledge over other dSLR brands like Nikon and Sony, but my goal is to share why I like the equipment that I use and you should be able to find comparable features in other brands.

Camera Body

Canon-60DI use two bodies when photographing real estate properties, but I started out with a single body, the Canon 60D (on Amazon.com for $698.99). I used to have an older bridge camera that had a swivel LCD so that’s why I gravitated toward the 60D. The swivel LCD isn’t used much, but when it’s needed, it’s very handy. I shoot all of my stills with the 60D, so when I am shooting exteriors and need an elevated shot, I put my 60D on a pole and tilt the LCD down so when the camera is up in the air, I can clearly see the photo that was taken. It works wonders to help with framing instead of bringing the camera down between shots, only to put it back up again and not know exactly where you need to be.

I also like the 60D because it shoots 1080P video. When I first started to introduce video as part of my services I didn’t have to upgrade any equipment (aside from a stabilizer/slider). Even if you aren’t planning on doing video now, it might be something you want to add to your services later. Real estate videos are exploding and smart/savvy agents are taking advantage of YouTube so there’s definitely a market out there that needs professional services.

Canon-5DMKIIMy other camera body that I use in my real estate photography business is the Canon 5DMKII (on Amazon.com for $2749). I bought this body about two years after starting my business. My video product was catching on and more agents were requesting it, and I did a “green” house that was built into the side of a hill. It was really dark, and I wanted a body that could handle low-light interiors better than the 60D.

Another selling point of a second camera body is for backup purposes. I have broken my wide-angle lens a couple of times and I have stayed in business thanks to having a second camera body. It takes a bit of learning to remember how everything operates because the bodies aren’t identical in terms of function, but it gets me through the couple of weeks it takes to get my equipment repaired.

I actually shoot all of my stills with the Canon 60D and all of my video tours with the Canon 5DMKII. My video equipment requires different quick release mounts from my tripod, so it’s easier for me to task each camera with one function, so I don’t have to switch quick release plates in the middle of a shoot, etc.

Wide-Angle Lenses

I stuck with Canon when choosing wide-angle lenses for my camera bodies. With the 60D I use the Canon 10-22mm (on Amazon.com for $649) and on the 5DMKII I use the Canon 17-40mm (on Amazon.com for $839). There are many alternative wide-angle lenses by companies like Sigma and Tokina, so just go with whatever you feel the most comfortable. Just remember that if you have camera bodies like I do where one is a cropped sensor body (60D) and the other is a full-frame (5DMKII), that you buy lenses that will work and fit to your body. (In my case I technically could use just the 17-40mm on both camera bodies. However on the 60D that means my widest shot is going to be ~27mm. Some times I need ~22mm shots so I need the 10-22mm to obtain that range.)

Tripods and Heads

Tripods are something that you’ll beat up on, and if they are good quality, they should last a really long time. I went the Manfrotto route and couldn’t be happier. Here are the legs and heads that I use, and what purpose they server:

  • Manfrotto 190XPROB Legs (on Amazon.com for $109.95) – Used for my still photos. The height (~57 in.) is usually plenty for interior shots. I’m rarely fully extended. I also love how the legs can open up really wide and the center column can pivot, so you can get your camera super low to the ground while still being on the tripod. (Manfrotto discontinued the 190XPROB and replaced them with the 190XPRO3 or 190X3)
  • Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head (on Amazon.com for $144.47) – Used for my still photos. It’s so quick to just squeeze the grip handle with one hand and adjust the positioning of your camera. Another bonus is the quick release plate that comes with it has a built-in bubble level! As long as you are shooting landscape, there’s no need for a silly hot shoe bubble level! (See why being level is important in the Number One Real Estate Photography Tip.)
  • Manfrotto 055XPROB Legs (on Amazon.com for $149.88) – Used for video shots. These legs are beefier than the 190XPROB and extend higher up to ~70 in. I wanted some legs that would comfortable hold a slider in place and not feel as if they were going to tip over.
  • ePhoto 717AH Fluid Head (on Amazon.com for $72.89) – Used for video panning. I actually have a “Fancier FT-717AH”, but the ePhoto 717AH on Amazon looks identical, so the brand must have changed. I bought it because of the positive reviews, so I went off-brand. It’s smooth and sturdy, no complaints here!

(Note: For my 5DMKII I use a Manfrotto 394 Low Profile Quick Plate System

[on Amazon.com for $40.37] because it’s low profile and flat, so you can mount it on a large, flat plate. The quick release plate system that comes with the 322RC2 Joystick Head is not flat on the bottom so it has limited mounting applications. As such, my 60D and 5DMKII have different quick release plates on them, which is fine because I use them strictly for their own purpose.)

Extra Must-Haves

You can find out what memory cards I use in my File Management post, but I recommend having extra memory cards and batteries on hand at all times. I’ve left my memory card at home stuck in my computer and had to pull a backup out of my case. I have also forgotten to charge a low battery and was thankful for the extras that I carry. Have extras of both of these pieces of equipment is especially important when you get busy and have multiple shoots throughout the day.

Coming up in the future we’ll dig into equipment that makes our life easier, and maybe even start discussing aerial real estate photography and what it takes to build a “drone”, or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

By | 2017-06-10T16:11:29+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Equipment|34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. LUIS August 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    WHAT ABOUT LIGHTING EQUIP …IS THERE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS YOU WILL HAVE PLEASE?

    • Lance Selgo August 18, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      I don’t use secondary lighting at this time, only bracketed Enfuse/HDR. But multiple speed lights used together are great for real estate photography once you figure out how to use them. You can get speed lights that match your camera manufacturer, or you can get something cheaper like Yongnuo YN-560 III series.

  2. ariana August 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Do you use flash or other lighting in your work?

    • Lance Selgo August 18, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      No at the moment. Everything is just bracketed and Enfused/HDR.

  3. Derick October 15, 2014 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Hey Lance,

    I’m looking to try my hand at RE Photography. I currently own a Canon 600D, with an 18-55mm lens. Would this be sufficient to use to get my foot in the door?

    • Lance Selgo October 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Derick,

      You’ll be fine for a lot of spaces however for smaller bathrooms and bedrooms you will find the 18mm isn’t wide enough. I normally shoot between 14-17mm on a cropped Canon like your 600D. The body will work great – you’ll just want to look at getting a wide angle lens.

  4. Emily November 25, 2014 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Hi Lance,

    I just found your site and have gotten some great tips. I just started a new job and did my first shoot for an outside listing this weekend. I have a t2i and I recently bought a Canon 10-22 after some research on the best wide angle lens. I used an external flash. I have not invested a lot in equipment, but was hoping for my pictures to be more crisp. I have noticed with this lens that it only focus on a small part of the photograph. With my limited photography knowledge I think part of this is because I have the aperture set to the lowest number, to allow the most light in, which I know lowers the focus.

    Do you have any ideas of how I can achieve better results? I will definitely try a tripod next time. Though I do like the ability to move around quicker and get in to tight corners with out one!

    • Lance Selgo December 3, 2014 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Emily!

      The Canon 10-22 is a great lens so you shouldn’t have any issues with focusing and sharpness. I would aim for around f/7.1 or so, and because it’s a wide-angle lens, almost everything on your frame should be in focus. (With such a wide angle, the depth of field and focal length is extremely high. At f/7.1, it’s going to basically be infinity for focal depth.)

      A tripod should also be used not only to avoid hand shake when hand-holding, but also so you can shoot perfectly level. Search the site for my “number one real estate photography tip” and you’ll see why a tripod is so helpful in getting verticals straight up and down.

      Good luck!

      • Emily December 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm - Reply

        Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge Lance!!

  5. Demaurion March 15, 2015 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Does the brand of the lenses really matter? Because I want to master RT photography

    • Lance Selgo March 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      It’s not so much the brand, but the quality. I think for our purposes in real estate photography any wide-angle lens will work great. However lenses are something that should last a lifetime. So it’s important to look at reviews and determine build quality so you only have to spend money once on your lens of choice.

  6. Emilio March 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance,
    Thanks for sharing the tips. Is the 17-40mm in a 6D body wider enough for all rooms (sometimes small bedrooms or bathrooms)? Thanks!

    • Lance Selgo March 18, 2015 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Emilio,

      The 17-40 is too wide in my opinion, so to answer your question, yes it’s plenty wide! The 6D is full-frame, and I always shoot at 22-23mm equivalent as my widest focal range. So 17 is super wide and will distort/show perspective issues quite drastically.

      • Emilio March 19, 2015 at 7:45 am - Reply

        Hi Lance, thanks for the prompt reply. I already own a 24-105, but sometimes I just miss that one additional mm for smaller rooms.
        Thanks!

  7. Russell April 23, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Lance,

    The new Canon T6i just arrived and was considering to take this option…The lens EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5 – 5.6 IS STMP may be beneficial for any size of rooms even bathrooms?

    Thanks

    • Lance Selgo April 23, 2015 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      I use my 10-22 in the 19-22 range quite a lot. For an extra $300 I would go with the 10-22. It’s something that’ll last forever and it’s an integral part of your business. It’s worth the minor cost difference in my opinion for a wider focal range.

  8. Angela July 13, 2015 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance. I have a Nikon D3100 with an 18-55mm VR Kit Lens. Will this lens be ok for properties and interiors

    • Lance Selgo July 13, 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Angela,

      The D3100 is a crop sensor I believe. So the 18-55mm is really going to be only about 27mm wide at a 35mm equivalent. You usually want to be around 22-23mm wide. You’ll be able to get some shots, but you will probably find it difficult because the 18-55 lens won’t be wide enough.

  9. Bryan August 18, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    What stabilizer do you use?

    • Lance Selgo August 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      I used to use the Glidecam HD-2000 but in the past couple of months I have switched to the DJI Ronin-M and absolutely LOVE it. You can check out my review here on the site.

  10. Shauna October 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance,
    I’m working with some older equipment. I have the Nikon D60 with the 18-200 mm lens (from my backpacking days). I think the D60 is not full frame so if I was to buy one lens what would you recommend?
    Thank you!

    • Lance Selgo October 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Shauna,

      I don’t know anything about the Nikon system unfortunately! But I would get something that covers the 10-20 or 10-22 range and you should be perfect. 🙂

  11. Justin January 15, 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance! Im looking to get a new camera and wasn’t sure what to get. Would you recommend the Canon 7d mark II over the 5d mark II? Or is there another camera that you would recommend? And would the Canon 17-40 still be the best lense? Thanks!

    • Lance Selgo January 16, 2016 at 11:45 am - Reply

      Hi Justin,

      Yes I believe the 17-40 is your best bet for a lens for real estate. The other option is the 24mm tilt shift but it can be quite expensive.

      I do not know much about the differences between bodies. I would look for a site that has the features lined up against each other and compare them. I just bought a 5d mark iii last week and so far I am loving it. It shoots up to 7 brackets which is a nice improvement from the 3 I could shoot with my 60d. So I would definitely make sure you can get 5-7 brackets, or plan on getting a Promote Control or use Magic Lantern if you are shooting brackets like I do.

      The thing I miss from the 60d is the articulating LCD. When shooting tight up against a wall in a bathroom or something, it was super nice to be able to flip the screen out and see what I’m taking a shot of. Same with doing pole aerial photography – I could point the screen down to see what the resulting shot was without bringing the camera down. Can’t do that with the 5d mark iii!

  12. Scott January 29, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Lance,
    I started real estate photography a year ago. I used the canon 10-22. Then for whatever reason sold it. I did a lot of research on the best wide lens for the money for use on real estate and found the recommendation for canon 10-18. I finally got the chance to shoot some property for Keller Williams Realtors. I believe that because the images turned out so well I now have been asked to come and speak to Keller Williams Realtors office next Wednesday. The images that this very inexpensive lens produces is superior to the 10-22 which produces much softer images for some reason.
    I was wondering if you had the chance to use a 10-18 yet? And if you have how the images turned out for you? I think it also helped to use HDR in 3 exposures. Do you use HDR?
    Your effort and time to produce this blog is very much appreciated. I find it very helpful and thank you for sharing. This is awesome! Your amazing!

    • Lance Selgo January 29, 2016 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      I had no idea a 10-18mm existed Scott! I shoot with 5D MK II/III now though so the 10-18mm won’t work for me unfortunately. Good to hear though, perhaps that will help folks who are just getting into purchasing a wide angle.

      Yup I do HDR usually with 7 brackets. You’ll find my workflow, etc here on the blog. Good luck Wednesday!

  13. Scott January 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you for responding Lance.
    Wow! 7 exposures. Gulp!!
    I will certainly look at your workflow. That’s very interesting!
    Have you done a side by side comparison with 3 exposures vs 7 exposures and looked at the results to see if there is any difference. Maybe I just need to read your workflow first :).
    Cheers!

  14. Barb May 16, 2016 at 6:16 am - Reply

    This is great to read and I am sure I will have questions as my xamera only turned up today. Thanks everyone and especially Lance.
    Cheers 🙂

  15. Sam July 19, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I am going to by the canon mark iv thats about to be released. I currently have a crop sensor and the ef-s wide angle (10-18, i think…the one that is $299). What wide angle do you recommend for full frame for super crisp shots….under 1k. Thanks

    • Lance Selgo July 19, 2016 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      I use the Canon 17-40mm.

      Good luck!

  16. Michael Lasko November 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    what is your thought on tilt shift lenes

    • Lance Selgo November 17, 2016 at 10:10 am - Reply

      I haven’t used one myself but I know they are fantastic for real estate! It will allow you to shoot from a higher vantage point so you can shoot over furniture, and show more counter/table space, while at the same time minimizing the amount of ceiling that is showing.

  17. Tessa Lennett May 16, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    I am using a Canon 70D and have a Canon EFS10 -18mm lens and a Canon EFS 18-135mm. Are these lenses good enough for interior photography?

    • Lance Selgo May 17, 2017 at 12:18 am - Reply

      Yup, I am at ~23mm (full-frame equivalent) for 95% of my shots so the 10-18mm will work great.

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