For as long as the digital cameras have been on the market, the talk about which is better would often be compared to how many megapixels a camera would have. Later, optical zoom was the next big thing for digital cameras, but everyone always used megapixels as the tiebreaker when making the decision. Granted, more megapixels does make it easier to crop just the section you want to use so you can have that perfect photo framed, but fewer and fewer people are printing their photos anymore. The SLR cameras (single lens reflex) have been replaced with DSLR which are now super affordable for any new comer into the photography industry. Digital cameras have advanced so much over the past few years that megapixels are no longer a debate. People have realized that there are other features that affect the quality of the image instead of megapixels. When it comes to real estate photography, this is especially so because the platforms hosting the images can only support smaller images. And the likelihood of you using a full resolution image on a billboard is slim to none. Even if you were to advertise on a billboard, you’ll most likely resort to stock photography because at the end of the day, you’re advertising your services and not the home on the billboard. And who knows, you may end up using a photo of a prior listing that your awesome real estate photographer took for you—granted that they left you with the licensing rights to do so.
So if megapixels don’t matter anymore in photography or in even real estate photography, what matters? Well, let me tell you, it involves more than just the camera itself, but let’s start there.
When it comes to the core of your career—the camera—you need to make sure you have something that will produce an exceptional file format and maximizing your lens. The sensor should be the number one factor when deciding what camera to get. You can already rule out more than half of the cameras by looking for a full-frame camera. Most cameras, including the one in your phone have what you call a cropped frame sensor. This heavily limits the potential of your lens, reduces what you can do a photo in post editing and adds more grain or “noise” to you images.
If your sensor is not a full-frame sensor and if your camera is not mirrorless, more than likely you will have more grain in your photos because you’ll have to increase the ISO for low light areas or when increasing the shadows in post editing. Most of the mirrorless cameras are best for low light and even better when it comes to creating video content. Mirrorless cameras are a double-edge sword for real estate content.
When it comes to real estate photography and building your inventory of lenses, some of the best ones are the 24mm tilt-shift lens and the 16-35mm lens. At all costs, avoid any fisheye lenses. Even if you can fix them in post editing, the amount of money you’ll be spending on fisheye lens will go further with a wide angle lens without the headache of post-production editing.
The tilt-shift lenses are expensive, but they’re worth their weight in gold. They allow you to angle the camera upward or downward AND still have your vertical lines straightened as though you’re looking head on. This is extremely advantageous as you can show more of the floor space instead of the ceiling and floor space almost equally. This creates more compelling shots to properly show off the listing. Don’t get me wrong, wide-angle lenses are definitely great and I use them in my listings, but go with a tilt-shift any day of the week over the wide-angle lens.
Wide-angle lenses are used by most professionals and can create beautiful shots provided you know what you’re doing behind the camera. The Zeiss 16-35mm lens has some of the best glass money can buy with reduced lens aberration. This minor flaw can be corrected in post production, but that’s really all there is wrong with the lens—and I wouldn’t even call it a flaw. Wide-angle lenses allows you to capture a large amount of space without having to stand too far from your subject. In Utah, a lot of the homes are close to the curb or have small rooms, this 16-35mm lens is my go-to lens to get the shots I need. I’ve tried doing 24mm with my canon 24-105mm L Series lens, but even the highly-suggested 24mm angle is too close to really capture the shots I’m needing.
24mm lens for real estate photography is highly encouraged because it’s so close to what the human eye can see when it comes to spacial comparisons. That’s why I originally proposed the 24mm tilt-shift lens—if you have the money to get one. Most, if not all, commercial-grade photographers will opt in for the tilt-shift lens because at that point, they’re being flown out to commercial property, multimillion dollar homes, or high-end hotels to create brochure-quality photos. And even then, they’re producing just a handful of shots for their clients.
When it comes to software, the best bang for your buck is the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. This comes with everything you could possibly imagine for a one-man band for anything and everything relating to creating online content. My go-to software I use are Adobe Lightroom for batch editing my photos and Adobe Photoshop for combining my bracketed shots into one photo. My services include HDR photos and I usually do that with a 3-shot bracket setting. This means I take three shots at three different exposures in order to make the best possible edit I can. When I use my drone, I can’t do HDR with my drone, but I can create virtual copies to create a faux 3-shot bracket to do the same thing. The caveat with that is that I’ll have a little more grain than I would like, but with a few settings adjusted in Lightroom, you can hardly tell unless you were looking for it.
With these three things—sensor, lens, and software—you can basically go with any camera your heart desires and still be able to produce professional-grade real estate photography. Megapixels are no longer an issue and to prove it, I’ve photographed dozens and dozens of homes with my camera and it only goes up to 11 megapixels. The Canon camera I had before was 21 megapixels with better ergonomics, but those things absolutely do not matter because those impact more with my comfort level instead of the quality my clients need. Currently, I’m using the Sony a7S and it has been amazing to see how crisp, clear, and easy it is to work with because I have the full-frame sensor that provides the flexibility to make the photo look the best I can. The best part is that this Sony camera is also one of the best you can get for video editing. I’m not restricted to just photos, but I’m able to expand my services to video if my clients need video. This is why megapixels don’t matter and are no longer relevant in real estate photography.