If you’re serious about starting a photography business, and you’re about to buy your first camera, it’s going to feel like there’s a lot to wade through.
There are terms like ISO speed, aperture, megapixels, crop factor, full frame — it doesn’t stop! If you’re talking camera bodies, there are at least four decent brands available on the market. Concerning lenses, there are even more providers.
It can be quite overwhelming!
So what are the most important factors to consider before you make your choice?
Some products on this page contain affiliate links. I use these links only when I fully support the product and its content. By using the links on this page, I get a small percentage of the purchase price, so I can continue to write valuable content. It doesn’t cost you anything! If you don’t like to use these links, that’s fine! You can buy your gear anywhere you like, no hard feelings.
Knowledge? But Nicolet, I don’t have any knowledge! That’s why I’m reading this blog post, remember?
Well, let me explain. In 2007, I was in the same position as you’re in right now. Although I’ve been shooting photos since art school and I’ve had some basic photography lessons at the Photo Academy, all those lessons were during the analog era. Yes, I’m that old! So I was also at the point where I had to pick the right DSLR for the job. Even with my advantages compared to a total newbie, there still is a huge difference between my first analog SLR — a second-hand Minolta from the ‘70s — and a digital SLR.
Find a mentor
When I was beginning my career as a home stager, my husband was also starting his professional education at the Fotovakschool, one of the more famous Dutch photography schools. He bought his first DSLR in 2002, the Canon EOS 300D; Canon has a reputable name in camera building, and it was the first somewhat affordable SLR on the market.
So in 2007, when it was my turn to buy my own, Canon was no longer a stranger to me! We also already had compatible lenses, and I had someone on hand to explain how the camera worked, what all the buttons were for, and how to correct all the different settings for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO value. In short, I had a private tutor!
Not only have I been able to freeload enormously on his knowledge, but I was also able to borrow his equipment to photograph my first properties!Five things to consider when you buy your first DSRL. Hint: It's not about the megapixels!Click To Tweet
Although I went back and forth between Nikon and Canon (Sony didn’t sell DSLRs in those days), I eventually went with Canon. I was already familiar with the brand and my husband, who was my mentor, had one.
Find someone you know who is willing to help introduce you to your first digital SLR. Having the same brand and type of camera as your mentor makes it a lot easier to understand what they’re willing to explain, especially when it comes to the technical things. It’s also simpler for your mentor to answer questions if your cameras are from the same manufacturer.
2. Crop versus full-frame
When purchasing a DSLR body, you can choose one with either a crop factor sensor or a full-frame sensor.
I can greatly elaborate on the technical differences between the two, but it comes down to this: the sensor of a full-frame camera is larger than that of a crop factor camera, which means it collects more light and data. And the greater the light input and the more data stored, the better the quality of your pictures. It is especially crucial in low-light situations like interior photography, and the size of the sensor is more important than the number of megapixels!
There is a large price difference between the two sensors. Crop factor sensors are built in camera bodies that are made up of cheaper parts and plastic housing. A full-frame sensor is constructed into a body more resistant to weather and dust, usually made of durable magnesium alloy.
The lenses for full-frame cameras are more expensive than lenses for crop cameras. But the quality of that more expensive glass is, with some exceptions, simply better. It’s also important to note that you cannot use the cheaper crop factor lenses on a full-frame camera. The reverse is possible, though.
When you’re purchasing your first camera, the price may be a good reason to choose a crop factor camera. Crop sensor bodies and its lenses are, to be honest, very suitable for producing good real estate pictures because there is no need for enlargements. The moment you have proven you can make a living off real estate photography is the time you can make the decision about more expensive camera gear. (But if you can already afford to buy a full-frame camera, you should!)
3. Canon vs. Nikon
There is no wrong choice when it comes to camera brands. If you’re able to set your aperture, ISO value, and shutter speed manually, you can do just fine with a body from other manufacturers.
However, I think it’s wise to choose either a Nikon or a Canon. You’ll have access to more help online, and there are more lenses on the market for these brands than there are for any other manufacturer.
I’ve already talked about how the most important factor is to follow in the footsteps of a mentor who already has extensive experience with either Canon or Nikon. Because not only will you learn a lot from them, you’ll also have the opportunity to test their lenses!
Prices vary between Canon and Nikon
Aside from your mentor, there are other factors you should take into consideration when making a decision about the brand you will choose. Relevant for our niche, in particular, are that Canon lenses are significantly cheaper than Nikon lenses, and Canon has a wider range of lenses suitable for interior photography
For crop factor cameras, the Canon 10-18mm lenses are on sale for $250. The quality of that lens is a lot better than you would expect for that amount of money! I, however, prefer the 10-22mm lens. The lens will cost you double the money, but it’s more durable than the 10-18mm. I used that lens myself for eight years without any problems until I switched to a full frame camera. Nikon’s wide-angle lenses are more expensive; their better model; the 10-24mm has a longer range — but the price is around $900, nearly double the money as more expensice Canon model.
The same applies to full-frame lenses: Canon takes off with the 17-40mm at $700, the lens I own, while the Nikon 16-35mm will lower your bank account balance by $1,250.
This consideration is purely intuitive: how does the camera feel when you hold it? Is it easy to reach for the buttons? Is the camera easy to operate?
For example, the more expensive models from both Canon and Nikon will adjust the aperture and shutter speed with a ring, so you don’t need to press any buttons to change the settings. It makes these cameras more intuitive than the entry-level models.
Qualitatively, there isn’t much of a difference between the two brands. Both are good. If you want to read more on Canon vs. Nikon, check out this post by Ken Rockwell: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/nikon-vs-canon.htm
5. Skip the entry-level models
I don’t want you to buy a more expensive camera than you need to, but when offering your services as a professional real estate photographer, your brand image is something you need to consider. Ask yourself: how professional does it look working with an entry-level camera?
Used camera market
If you’re a novice photographer, you can consider buying second-hand. Almost all camera shops have cameras and lenses in their range that have been exchanged by other photographers purchasing a new body or lens. In good shops, you should be able to buy used cameras with a guarantee.
You can, of course, consider online marketplaces, but never buy equipment without having seen it. You won’t be able to see if a sensor has dead pixels or a huge amount of dust, if the screen bezel has crashed, or worse.
Remember, if you buy a second-hand camera from a store, as a business owner, you can write it off your balance. A body or lens that you buy at the second-hand market does not offer any of those advantages — and realize that the warranty expires the moment you walk out the door.
The one thing you need to remember when buying a camera is this:
No camera takes perfect pictures instantly.
Post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop is always necessary to achieve professional results. I recommend you enroll in a good and preferably real-estate or interior-oriented course. Especially if you cannot muster the patience and time to master the programs yourself.
When choosing a course on real estate photography, make sure you will learn Adobe Photoshop CC. Photoshop Elements is simply not enough for professional use! Photoshop CC also includes necessary elements that aren’t available in Lightroom, so you’ll need a combination of the two, Lightroom and Photoshop.
I created a page with all the gear, tools, software, books and course that I use and recommend. Are ready to buy your photography equipment? Make sure to check this page!
In my upcoming course, you will learn photography dedicated to interiors, as well as all the other skills you’ll need: photo styling; technical knowledge about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO value; and of course how to use Photoshop CC in a quick and efficient manner!
Some links on this page are affiliate links. All these links are from products I use myself or have tested them and therefore can wholeheartedly recommend. By using the links on this page, I get a small percentage of the purchase price so I can continue to write valuable content. It doesn’t cost you anything. Actually, in some cases, it gives you a discount. If you don’t like to use these links, that’s fine!
Toni Ebbitt-Manson says
I HAVE BEEN READING YOUR ARTICLES ABOUT CAMERAS AND WAS LOOKING AT THE CANON 80D AS AM STARTING OUT IN INTERIOR DESIGN PHOTOGRAPHY. HOWEVER I ALSO SAW THE CANON 800D AND IT IS A BETTER PRICE. WHICH IS BETTER FOR INTERIOR PHOTOGRAPY?
Hi Tony, the 80D is more comfortable to handle in manual mode, it has an extra LCD on top to see your settings at a glance. On the back, it has a scroll button to change the aperture without having to push buttons. The 800D is a camera for an amateur photographer; the 8Od is more aimed towards semi-pros.
Can you shoot interiors with the 800D? Yes, I’ve had students that delivered excellent photos with their predecessors as well.
I added the 80d as a budget option on my list of recommended gear; it is a crop factor camera with a much smaller sensor and though it is smaller it has the same body layout and functionalities as Pro Full-frame cameras like the 6D markII and the 5D markIV.
If you want to sell your services, I recommend not to use an entry-level camera that the average client uses for his or her holiday pictures. People expect professional gear from a pro; it’s not just a better camera feature-wise, it’s better for your brand as a photographer.
Renata Gross says
Hi! This is a very helpful article! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Renata! Glad to hear you find it helpful.