Starting, building and running a business is time-consuming. It takes a lot of effort to find clients and carry out assignments, choosing camera gear, reading books to improve your technical skills in photography and entrepreneurship.
I learned what to use by trial and error or discovered it by reading the internet. It’s not necessary for you to reinvent the wheel. Therefore I’ve created this page. You will find all the tools and equipment I use, as well as books and courses that I recommend to grow your knowledge. I ‘ve been running my home staging and real estate photography business for 11 years now. I can imagine that your funds are not sufficient for top-of-the-line gear when you are just starting out. So I have included great cameras and lenses in case you are on a budget.
Real Estate Photography & Interior Photography
Camera: Bodies & Lenses
The big names in photography equipment are Canon and Nikon. A few years ago, Sony acquired Minolta, establishing a position within the professional photography market. My first camera was a sixth-hand analog model Minolta. A couple of years later, I bought an analog Canon (yes, I am that old). When Canon released the first affordable DSLR back in 2003 – the EOS 300D – I switched to digital photography. In 2015 I upgraded my gear to full frame, and I was considering Nikon, but again, I deliberately chose Canon.
So why Canon?
Qualitatively, there is little difference between the two brands, Sony builds good cameras too. But, first of all, the Canon lenses are less expensive than the competitors. Second, Canon offers the widest range of lenses suitable for interior photography. And third, a decisive argument for me was the fact that Guillaume, my husband, uses a full frame Canon camera too so we can share lenses.
To be honest, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Nikon or Sony gear, that’s the main reason I can only give advice on Canon bodies and lenses. I have included a full frame and crop factor body in this overview, as well as lenses for both types that I recommend. You might notice that I do not support so-called third party lenses. During the live courses that I teach, I was able to compare many of my students’ lenses with my own — and Canon always won when it came to sharpness and brightness.
My camera body & lenses
I recently bought the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. That was after my 6D broke on the tiles of a not so beautiful kitchen I was shooting. When I purchased the 6D it was a conscious decision: it’s a very affordable full frame camera with an incredibly good dynamic range. I didn’t need the extra options for the purpose where I mainly use it of much the more expensive 5D Mark III released at the same time. I fully explain all the benefits of a full-frame camera in my course, but the most important is the larger sensor. The number of megapixels is distributed over a larger area. Therefore there’s less noise is less and greater sharpness of the image. The Canon EOS 6D is unfortunately no longer available everywhere; its successor is the 6D Mark II on the market which is the camera I recommend for Interior Photography. But, because I am increasingly shooting lifestyle photography, I have now opted for its more expensive sister to replace the broken 6D. (And finally got insurance for all my equipment…)
The 17-40mm f/4 L lens is an excellent lens. It competes well with the more expensive Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L. Because I always shoot from a tripod, I do not need the extra light input. Also, the additional depth of field from a large aperture is not necessary for interior photography; the entire image must be sharp. I almost always use this lens at aperture f/11.
The 50mm f/1.4 lens is a great lens for close-ups. Here, the extra depth of field is a bonus. It also comes with an enormous light input and the ability to shoot from the hand, so you can quickly compose your detail shots.
Choose camera equipment with a professional look
To be honest, you do not need a full frame camera! Even extra lenses for close-ups are not a necessity to start. A crop factor camera is fine for interior photography. Most pictures won’t be blown up to gigantic proportions; in fact, they will be used mostly for online listings. Even for editorial use, a crop factor camera is sufficient Because you are going to offer professional photography services, I advise that you do not purchase the basic models. Not just because of the greater ease and build quality of the more expensive ones, but mostly for your professional appearance. Your customers expect that you, as a professional photographer, have a decent camera. That sounds a bit blasé, but compare it to a painter. When you hire his services, and he enters your house with the cheapest materials, you will certainly doubt his professionalism.
The following equipment is very suitable to start off with as an interior photographer. The body is similar to one I have used for more than eight years. It’s not the cheapest, but I recommend this for the reason I’ve just mentioned above. The more expensive lens, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm, is one of my favorites. If it were compatible, I would still use it on my full frame camera. Canon recently launched the 10-18mm. The reviews are excellent, but, in my opinion, it lacks in build quality. However, if you’re on a budget, it’s certainly not a bad choice. Especially when you consider to switch to full frame within a couple of years.
Before you decide on your equipment, I recommend you read this blog post: 5 Things to Consider Before You Buy Your First Camera
The Canon EOS 80D above has the advantage that it has options that professional cameras also have. A wheel on the back with which you can easily adjust your aperture and, an extra LCD screen on the top so that you can see clearly which settings you use and whether the exposure is set correctly with your camera mounted on a tripod.
When you are starting on a budget, consider buying second-hand equipment. I strongly advise you to purchase at a camera store and not at an online marketplace. Buying a camera from a Marketplace has two major drawbacks: first, you don’t have any warranty; second, you cannot deduct the purchase cost from your income taxes unless you have a receipt. So, in the end, a brand new camera will probably be just a little more expensive than a used one.
Models that you might consider are the Canon EOS 70D, the 7D, and the 6D. The first two are crop factor cameras, and the last one is a full frame camera, the same one I use.
Nikon & Sony
n case you already own a body by Nikon or Sony, don’t change brands just because I own a Canon! Both brands have excellent lenses available for interior photography. I cannot test them, of course, but I have read several reviews for you. Below are the lenses for these two brands:
I have one lens on my wish list, and that is the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift lens. I will rent one soon for a test-drive, and I’ll share my experience with this lens on my blog.
A sturdy tripod to hold your camera
In addition to a body and a lens, a tripod is indispensable for interior photography. Don’t go for cheap on a tripod of $30-50; it’s just too unstable.
An inexpensive tripod will shake the camera every single time you release the button. As a consequence, you will end up with unsharp images. Besides that, if you mount your expensive equipment on an unstable tripod, someday, something will happen, and somebody will accidentally pull down on your tripod. I’ve seen it happen during my live classes.
During my first nine years in business, I used an 18-year-old Manfrotto tripod. That piece of equipment is indestructible. Unfortunately, it had no bulb levelers on the head. And, after losing my third or fourth hot shoe bubble level, I decided to buy a new stand.
More expensive tripods are composed of two parts: the legs and a head. These two components can be purchased separately, but come as a package deal. I use a three-way head with three handles that can move independently to level the camera in any position. The next step up is a geared head; it is more expensive but more precise than the one I use currently.
What I use and alternatives
The left picture is the tripod and head similar to what I have. It is a more expensive kit; the tripod head has three bubble levels so that it’s possible to level the camera in portrait mode as well. The cheaper one to the right is still sturdy, but the 3-way head comes with just one bubble level.
The cameras in the expensive segment do not have folding LCD screens and touch screens, probably for two reasons: using the viewfinder, you can concentrate more on composition, and an adjustable screen is more fragile than a solid display. Frankly, I don’t know any professional photographers that use live view. When you’re using your camera on a daily basis with a tripod set at chest height, an adjustable screen would, of course, be better for your back.
Fortunately, there is the angle finder! It’s a kind of overpriced mini-periscope that makes you look through the viewfinder from above. If I accidentally forget it when I’m on a shoot, I miss it! For me, it’s a must-have in my camera bag, and can I recommend it to anyone. Don’t be shocked by the price; the original Canon one goes quickly toward $200. It keeps you from standing in unnatural positions and will eventually save you from having back problems.
Although there are memory cards on the market with as much storage as my MacBook Pro (512GB), I prefer cards with less memory. A 32GB SD card holds the RAW files of 7-10 houses. Each day, after transferring the files to my computer, I format my cards. I prefer to have 2 or 3 smaller cards in my bag in case I forget to remove one from my computer or card reader. Believe me; it’s going to happen to you, too!
The SD cards that are present in most cameras are much more vulnerable than the compact flash cards used in the high-end bodies. In nine years, a CF card has never abandoned me; my first SD cards have already been sent to the trash bin because they tend to break at the edges. Another reason why I always have some spare cards at hand. At least from Lexar, I know their lifetime warranty policy is excellent. My broken cards were replaced or the money was refunded.
Minimum writing speed
Besides the storage capacity, another thing you should look for when buying SD cards is the speed at which images are saved. It is usually indicated on the card. Purchase memory cards with a minimum writing speed of 95MB/sec. Check the manual of your camera for the recommended speed for your model. Lexar and Sandisk are both very reliable brands.
In the packaging, you will find a code that you can use to download recovery software. Fortunately, I’ve never needed that software, but just in case, don’t dispose of the packaging without having removed and stored the code!
One or two extra batteries is an absolute must. I always have one in the charger, one in my camera, and a spare one in my bag.
I rarely use it, but sometimes I get in homes where no wall or ceiling is white, which makes it pretty difficult to correct the colors in post-processing. When this happens, I’m happy to have a gray card around. Position the card within the image you want to make. Take a picture, remove the gray card, and take another picture from the same spot. In Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, use the color picker to select the correct values from the gray card. Use these values on the image without the gray card. It usually comes pretty close to the colors in the actual situation.
To keep my stuff stain- and dust-free, I use a LensPen. The brands don’t differ much from each other, and they all have a $5 – $10 price tag. I also use a blower to remove dust from the camera and lens. By squeezing it. Always keep in mind to hold the body upside down, with the opening downwards. It will prevent dust particles from being blown to the sensor. I use Giottos Rocket Air, a more expensive one, though to be honest, it’s an aesthetic choice.
When I started my photography business back in 2007, I just used what I had: a Dell laptop. It was pretty slow, but I didn’t have too many assignments yet. In my first year in business, I only shot 40 properties, so I had plenty of time to edit the pictures. The software I used wasn’t entirely legal, and that didn’t feel right.
In those days, you had to buy the Adobe Creative Suite software in a box. There were two versions: Windows and Mac. So besides purchasing expensive software, I had to choose between Microsoft or Apple. Despite fierce anti-virus software, my laptop was infected, and I could fill out a death certificate. That clinched it: I bought a MacBook Pro, and Adobe CS3 for Mac and haven’t regretted it for a moment.
Integration with my iPhone & iPad
When Apple introduced the iPhone 3G in 2008, and later, the iPad, it was easy to integrate them with my Mac.
The major disadvantage of Apple is the price tag. And, when you’re switching, you need to get used to a new operating system. But I experience mainly benefits. My MacBook Pro is stable, it hardly ever crashes; updates to the OS, the office software Pages, Numbers, and Keynote and iMovie, which I use for real estate videos, are free.And hey! The eye wants something aesthetically pleasing to look at — at least, my eyes, for sure!
In 2016, I bought a new MacBook Pro with a 15-inch screen, 512GB of storage, and 16GB of memory. The thing runs fast! Even running large files like a book layout in InDesign, while simultaneously using Photoshop and Illustrator doesn’t cause me any problems. If you have the money, I can honestly recommend an Apple computer.
Does a 15-inch MacBook Pro not fit in your budget? Consider buying the 13-inch version, and use a separate screen. I have a monitor, but I edit my photo files solely on my laptop. It’s when I’m working on a large graphic design or website project that I connect to the monitor.
If the ease of a laptop computer doesn’t matter, consider an iMac. It saves you a lot of money, and you still have the convenience and speed of an Apple computer.
What about Windows?
I know photographers that use a Windows computer, and I get that, especially when you’re on a budget. As for editing software, you just download whatever you need from the cloud. Just be sure that your computer has enough memory; 16GB is not overly fancy, and regarding storage, 512GB is the least you will need. Computers with these specifications usually have a fast processor.
When you purchase a computer, explain to the vendor that you are using it for photo editing. Running Adobe Photoshop CC requires more speed than plain text editing and browsing.
It’s very simple, as a professional photographer, you need editing software. I recommend the Adobe CC Photography Plan it comes with Photoshop and Lightroom. The Photography Plan is cheaper than a single Photoshop subscription. I just use Photoshop CC; I don’t like the library function in Lightroom. All features I use for processing RAW files are part of Photoshops Camera RAW converter.
Why not Adobe Photoshop Elements?
I tested the latest version, and I must admit, it is a pretty powerful piece of software. However, it lacks a few functions in its Camera RAW converter which are crucial to raising your photos above the crowd: automatic lens profile corrections, removing chromatic aberration, adjustments per color channel, and correcting verticals and horizontals.
I have a subscription to the full Adobe CC Suite because, in addition to Photoshop, I regularly use InDesign and Illustrator for graphic design.
The advantage of the subscription model
For most photographers, the Adobe Photography Plan is more than enough for daily use. I often hear students and colleagues finding it annoying to opt in for a subscription. I was upset when Adobe decided to shift to a subscription model, but when I look back, I’m happy with the monthly payments on my bill.
I paid €2600 for Adobe CS3 Premium, and the upgrade to CS5 was around €1400, and I lasted seven years with those two versions. A quick calculation shows that over that entire period, I paid an average of €49 per month. That’s the same amount I pay for the full Adobe CC Suite, but now I receive every single update and every new program that becomes available, and I’m able to spread my cost tremendously.
Using the same calculation for Photoshop; the standalone version of Photoshop would cost € 12 per month, excluding Lightroom. Both programs together cost € 9.99 in the Photography Plan. It’s cheaper for more.
Of course, I recommend my course. I share all my knowledge of interior photography, styling, editing in Photoshop, marketing your business and building a brand. I also pay attention to the setting prices and approaching your target market. Currently, this course can only be attended live in the Netherlands or as an in-company training, but I’m working on an online course as we speak.
During the course, I provide you with the tools, and after the course, you are very capable of creating a beautiful presentation of properties.
On the internet, there are numerous tutorials and videos on how to use Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. In interior photography specifically, there aren’t many courses available, but I’ve found a few for you if you want to start right now. On the course platform CreativeLive, look for video courses from architecture and interiors photographer Mike Kelley. I have not taken his classes, but he is a well known Real Estate and Architectural photographer. The reviews of three of his courses are excellent. Those courses were about interior photography; the real estate photography course reviews aren’t that positive. You can purchase each course separately on CreativeLive, but if you have a tablet, you can take one lesson free a day! Besides, CreativeLive offers a yearly subscription: The Creator Pass (I am a subscriber myself).
In 2011, I attended a workshop on interior photography by the US photographer Scott Hargis. At that time, there was absolutely nothing to learn in the Netherlands, so I was very glad I got the chance to be taught by him. Although he works with multiple external flashes and I shoot with natural light only, I learned a lot by attending his workshop. LinkedIn Learning offers four Scott Hargis courses, they have a free trial period of 30 days. After the trial, Lynda has different subscription models.
The course platforms above offer many different types of classes. Not just on photography, but also on business, marketing, and social media. CreativeLive has a clear focus on the creative industries. LinkedIn Learning offers a
There are numerous books written about photography. On architecture and interior photography, the choices are pretty limited. Virtually everything published, I have at home, and you can tell that some books are clearly better than the other. Most books teach you how to work with strobes, while I consciously do not use a flash. Still, it’s good to read more about the different techniques.
Books I own and recommend are:
Photoshop & Lightroom
As I mentioned before, photo editing is essential for interior photography — or actually, any photography. You improve your images with adjustments in Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. During my course, I will teach you all the tools in Photoshop that I use in post-production. But Photoshop has many more possibilities. Therefore, it is wise to purchase a book for future reference. I can recommend photographer Scott Kelby’s books with confidence.
Other Useful Tools
To make searching on my computer easier and make it more transparent for my customers, I change the original names of the files. I use the following format: NG_year-month_Town_Street_012345 (NG are my initials). The picture number remains the same, so I can quickly find the original RAW files.
It’s a hassle to change all the file names manually. For Mac users, there is a super convenient tool — and free! — called NameChanger. In NameChanger, you’re able to change the names of the files inside an entire folder all at once. I’ve been looking for a similar program for Windows, which I obviously cannot test. You could take a look at Advanced Renamer and Bulk Rename Utility — it will cost you nothing anyway!
f you use Lightroom, you don’t need the above tools; Lightroom itself offers this functionality.
Sending large files: Cloud solutions
Ten years ago, I burned the photos for my clients on a DVD. Quite a hassle; after finishing the editing, the DVD had to be sent by snail-mail or brought to the realtor office. Fortunately nowadays everything happens in the Cloud. WeTransfer was the first cloud service I used, but I found uploading a hassle, and besides, the customer was shown ads from another company unless I paid for a subscription.
And then the rise of Dropbox began, the company is just as old as mine. The significant advantage of Dropbox in the initial phase was I could invite everything and everyone and as a result, got extra storage capacity. That is still possible, but nowadays there are so many users, so who to invite? Dropbox is free up to 2GB, and you can store about 6-10 property presentation in the cloud. Dropbox doesn’t show whether a file is actually downloaded and, I have regularly had clients who decided to put the house on the market three weeks after the photo shoot. With the upcoming real estate videos I switched to a subscription. On the free plan you need to clear it regularly, and if a client hasn’t downloaded the files in the meantime, you can move everything to Dropbox again.
Advantages of using Dropbox
Of course the storage capacity but especially the possibility to use it from your file manager on your computer. Drag the zipped files to the public folder in your Dropbox folder, and the uploading starts automatically. Meanwhile, you can compose your email, copy the link to the zip file with your right mouse button and paste it into the text. It feels more professional to send the images from your own branded email.
When the recipient clicks the link in your email, he goes to the Dropbox site where he can download it. But you can make it easier for the receiver to paste the following code snippet: ? Dl = 1 behind the link. You can use that code to share on your website and make files directly available from Dropbox. For instance for your terms and conditions or a giveaway when someone signs up for your newsletter.
What I use these days: pCloud
I learned about pCloud via the Appsumo website. At first, I was hesitant because I never heard of it and you trust such a company to store all your files. Reading various reviews convinced me it was a good and reliable product. The company is based in Switzerland and therefore has to comply with the strict privacy laws of the Swiss government. Moreover: for Dropbox, I paid $ 9.95 per month, pCloud costs a one-time $ 175 for 500GB. I bought the 2TB version for double the money — a significant investment but a massive saving for the long term and moreover no more monthly billing!
Additional benefits of pCloud compared to Dropbox:
- Just like Dropbox, pCloud is a folder in your Finder or Explorer, so you don’t have to upload files in your browser.
- Files are genuinely stored in the cloud, so what you see on your computer are not copies like most cloud services. Perfect when you don’t have that much storage on your hard drive.
- The ability to track links, so you can see if something was downloaded and how often. You can protect those links with a password if necessary.
- Share a link to let someone else upload files. This way my students can easily upload their homework!
- For Lightroom users: pCloud has a Lightroom plugin!
- You can place your logo on your download page so that everyone immediately knows who the file is from.
- Automatically synchronize folders on your computer with a folder in pCloud: Always have necessary files at hand (on your phone or iPad) without having to think about whether it is the right version.
- Streaming videos in real time. Great when you offer real estate videos and want to show something quickly without having to download it on your smartphone or tablet. You can even embed them in your website!
- Speed: I asked my customers if they were satisfied with the new solution; if they were not, I would continue to use Dropbox. But they all indicated that downloading is faster than Dropbox and, so is uploading!
Other Cloud solutions
In addition to Dropbox and pCloud, there are many more solutions for sharing your files. Google Drive, for example, is a great alternative. It also comes with an app that you can install on your computer. I have never tested it myself for a more extended period. But it is indeed worth it to try and see if you like it. Besides, the upgrade to a paid program may be compelling because it can be done in smaller steps and therefore in smaller amounts of money.
Interesting websites & Facebook groups
Photography for Real Estate is the website about our field. You can ask questions in the forum, and the general information is excellent. The e-book Photography for Real Estate is for sale here.
I am a member of several Facebook groups that are specifically focused on Real Estate Photography. The groups that are most active are:
No, that’s not a mistake, both groups have the same name. You can give feedback on other people’s work or ask for feedback on your photos. In general, it is pretty focused on the American market. Don’t be intimidated with Window Pulls, Bracketing and HDR. It is always good to see and assess various working methods. In the beginning, I sometimes got the feeling that I was working too effortlessly, but when I placed my work I received very positive criticism, and people were particularly curious about my method.
You’ve made it! I am impressed that you’ve made it through the bottom of this page. Perhaps you are wondering now why I did not include anything about lighting. Well, I own three Canon Speedlights, but I never use them. Over the years, I developed a method in which I don’t need any artificial lights. I call it my quick and dirty way of interior photography and photo editing, but it works! My clients love the brightness of my pictures and especially the reality that my images show. Currently, I am teaching my method during live courses in the Netherlands and, an occasional in-company training abroad. But right now, I am creating an online course so you can learn from me too! So, if you want a career in this niche, leave your email address in the field below, and I will keep you posted.
The Links on this page
Several products on this page contain affiliate links. I use affiliate links only when I fully support the product and its content, and the information is worth sharing with you. 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.
lou souza says
Amazing post, and good tips.
Great article – Id love to know about your online course if it is ready (and in English!) Many thanks!
Jane McCormick says
Hello! I loved this full article and would like to learn from you! I am an interior designer, real estate broker and started my own real estate firm last year. I used to have my own design practice as well. I now have integrated the two fields in this new business!:). I’m still getting my business off the ground and have been taking my own photos because I don’t see any service that does much better unless I want to pay a lot! I have a Nikon D5300 camera, a Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 lens, as well as a Nikon NC 52mm lens (AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G II lens) that came with camera. I’ve really had no education or direction on how to take interior photography. Everything I’ve done has been instinctual and trial and error. After reading your blog article, I see there is so much more to this that I don’t know!! I would love to learn to be a great interior (and exterior) photographer. Can I set up some zoom instruction with you in the near future?
Hallo Nicolet : this article was such a breath of fresh-air for me. So indepth, resourcefull and s pleasure to read.
Your technique for shooting without flash in daylight is most interesting. Could I please hear more about it?
I frequently have to shoot “couvert-on-spec” of commercial interiors and hotels. So I use a 20 megapixel compact camera which makes me look like a nerdy tourist. One luxury I am wishing for is using a tripod in this act. But that’s not to be. Only later, once I’ve presented/impressed a potential client ca I officially return with bulkier tripod.
Would you perhaps have a suggestion that’d help me with steadying my camera when in “JamesBond” mode ?
Thanks once more& kind regards,
Oh gosh, I whish I could invent a James Bond modus. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to great shoot interiorphotos with a compact camera without a tripod.
Sarah Barton-Hills says
I find your posts so very helpful, thank you so much for putting so much information out there.
I am just getting into the game and would love to know more about your on line course, and when it will be available.
Also, I wonder, would you recommend icloud for storage? And any particular brand of tripod?
Hi, Sarah! I am sorry for my late response, it’s been quite hectic the past week. Fortunately, I still have a lot of photoshoots. I hope to release my online course around summer, just subscribe to my newsletter and I will certainly keep you posted.
For storage, I use pCloud. I bought a lifetime subscription a couple of years ago so I don’t have any recurring fees. It’s fast, reliable and unlike Google drive or Dropbox doesn’t take up any hard disk space.
I use a Manfrotto carbon tripod with a junior geared head as posted above. It’s pretty expensive but it is durable and very sturdy!
Amazingly useful post, thank you so much. I’ve subscribed so will be interested to hear more about your course. Thanks again.
Hi Lauren! Sorry for the late approval! I was stuck in Italy with my art-supplies for a couple of weeks 🙂 And, thank you for your lovely compliments. I will keep on working on my courses, all the written content is done. But oh my, those videos! I’ll keep you posted!
Richard young says
I was just looking for information on the web about using large format cameras in Architectural Photography, wondering if anyone in todays digital world uses 4” x5” – 8” x 10” View Cameras anymore?
What attracted me to your site was, the fact everything is straight forward, clean, easy to read and nothing is missing. Or misinforming. I plan to look into your publications.
Hi Richard, I don’t know a lot of people using medium or large format cameras. We do have an analog Hasselblad, though 😉 I do think that, since medium format cameras are getting cheaper are quietly become more widely available that they will become more common in the future.
Anyway, I am so happy to hear your compliments on my website and content! That means a ton. Right now I am translating my Dutch course into English. In 2020 I will finally launch it. Besides, I am translating my books as well. It’s very time consuming I can tell but it will be worth it.
Thanks for your support!
Im interested in your technique of shooting without extra lighting?