Real estate photographers have their work cut out for them, to say the least. Photographing a house can be a challenge even on the best day—even when shooting the best house. However, with the right lens, you can at least ensure that your camera will make the most of the situation.
The best lenses for real estate photography generally take wide, sharp photos while performing well in low or medium light situations.
With that said, I’ve compiled a list of the best lenses and will be getting into why they’re great for this particular niche in our industry.
This is a great zoom lens that covers a wide range of focal points, giving you an ultra-wide angle at 16mm and something closer to “normal” at 35mm. For real estate photographer, it’s great to know you can get everything into the picture but also focus in on specific details—this lens does that.
It’s not the fastest lens on the market.
I would recommend bringing a tripod, especially for interior shots. However, with a little bit of technical knowledge and intuition, this is one of those great lens investments that could very well be a “one and done” kind of purchase.
This Tamron lens is both cheaper and faster than the 16-35mm Nikon.
However, it lacks the extra 5mm that makes the previously-mentioned Nikon lens a solid “normal” lens. With that said, it’s a sharp, high-performing lens to shoot houses and appartments intetiors as well as exteriors, at a good price point.
As wide-angle lenses go, Tamron knows what it’s doing—this pretty much runs the gamut of ultra-wide for interior shots while allowing you to bring what’s in front of you a little closer for those impressive exterior shots.
While most consumers agree that this lens isn’t as sharp as a Nikon equivalent, it’s still plenty sharp to get the shop done. With that said, at being just slightly less expensive than the Nikon, which has a wider focal length, it might be worth it to spend the extra $100 or so to upgrade.
Sigma Art Lenses are impressive specimens that generally perform as well as their Nikon, Canon, or Sony equivalents.
The 12-24mm Art Lens by Sigma is no different. It features an ultra-wide 12mm and goes up to a still-fairly-wide 24mm.
However, when you’re shooting real estate wide is usually what you’re looking for.
Where the Art Lens really shines is in its performance. It’s fast and sharp but, due to its f/stop, should be put on a tripod.
With this lens, it’s perfectly possible to capture the interior of even the largest room on your shooting schedule.
Moreover, Sigma is a well-known, credible brand and they make solid lenses that do a spectacular job of complementing and expanding what Nikon is already offering.
Think of this lens as the budget version of the first Nikon lens I mentioned.
It doesn’t go as wide, is a little slower, but comes in at almost half the cost of the Nikon 16-35mm.
With this lens, you have to ask yourself what matters more—price or performance? Both lenses are relatively versatile for architecture and buildings in their range but the 18-35mm will perform markedly worse in low light.
However, slap this lens on your Nikon camera with a tripod and many people won’t notice the difference.
When it comes down to it, you’re still getting a great lens—you just need to be a little more methodical in how you compose your shots.
As you explore photography you’ll quickly see that Sigma fills in some interesting gaps that are otherwise left open by Nikon.
Their 20mm prime lens is one of them. At 20mm it’s in a grey area between wide and ultra-wide, which is still extremely useful for retail photography.
However, where this Sigma prime lens really shines is in its speed. With an f/stop of 1.4, this lens performs remarkably well under low light.
You should be able to take “snapshots” of house interiors with this lens and get away with it—at the end of the day, they still looked well-composed and artfully taken.
While you’re only getting a 20mm lens out of this, sometimes that’s all you need, especially if you’re a resourceful photographer.
Beyond that, it’s an inexpensive lens when compared to its excellent performance. This is another one of those lenses that can work for you so well that it becomes the only lens in your bag.
When it comes to 20mm prime lenses, the previously mentioned Sigma Art Lens is difficult to beat.
And while the Nikon equivalent 20mm lens comes close, it falls just short due to its slower f/stop. The thing is, both lenses can be found for almost the same price, so there’s little real reason to go with the 20mm prime lens.
Why you might ask, am I including it in this list? Because some photographers prefer to stick with Nikon for their lenses.
It’s no secret that a Nikon lens is manufactured for a Nikon body. On the other hand, a Sigma lens is designed for a certain universality across brands.
Furthermore, this Nikon lens has a better build quality than the Sigma; it may be hard to see the difference but, when holding the two, you’ll notice that the Nikon is sturdier and thus more durable.
This list would be meaningless to people if I didn’t include a budget option.
For a lot of us, we have no choice but to invest in something cheap and simple until we can afford something better. Yet, with enough intuition and some resourcefulness, even a budget lens will take amazing, sometimes award-winning photographs.
The Sigma 10-20mm “super-wide” zoom lens is one of the cheapest (yet credible) wide-angle lenses on the market.
It’s neither particularly fast or sharp but it’ll work in a pinch.
At less than half the cost of the second least expensive option on this list, it’s certainly the best performing lens at this price point to shoot buildings and interiors, and, in the right hands, could even compare to the more expensive options.
Some consumers reported a disjointed autofocus that took a moment to find its subject—this can be a pain in spontaneous situations but in real estate photography, the extra time to focus shouldn’t matter much.
What is a tilt-shift lens? To put it simply, when used correctly, a tilt-shift lens can give you a one-of-a-kind depth of field by giving you complete control over the lateral or radial distortion control.
Do you know that photographic effect that makes a real house look like a dollhouse, or a cityscape looks like something out of a model train setup? That’s what tilt-shift does in a nutshell.
While Rokinon isn’t a name brand in lens manufacturing, their line of products are to-the-point and do what they say they do.
Their tilt-shift lens is no different. Using a tilt-shift lens to force a unique perspective in your real estate photography could get your name out there.
After all, in the world of real estate photography, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of other similar-looking house photos.
Doing something that stands out can get you attention, that’s why I’d suggest investing in a tilt-shift camera when you’re able to spare the expense.
This camera might be your third or fourth purchase—one that is more of a splurge than anything else.
Fundamental Considerations when Choosing a Lens For Real Estate Photos
Let’s first break down what we need in a real estate lens before we go any further:
- Wide Angle – you’ll want a wide-angle to photograph as much of a room as possible. Beyond that, you want your homes to look spacious even if they aren’t; a wide-angle lens will achieve this for you.
- Good low-light performance – the interior of a house can get dark and, while I suggest you always have a tripod, you’ll still want a lens that can handle low light. The last thing you want is to have photographs with a bunch of grain in them because you had to increase your ISO to compensate for the lack of light.
- Versatility – a wide-angle is great, but being able to zoom in on details is also an advantage. I would suggest you either get a zoom lens that hits the “wide to normal” range of focal points or get a prime lens that isn’t quite wide and isn’t quite normal, like 20mm.
- Clarity – real estate photography is about precision—you want your photos to come through in amazing detail and be as sharp as possible. Furthermore, a lens that suffers from prolific distortion around the edges won’t do you any favors—it looks tacky and undermines the work you did. While you can fix distortion in post-processing it will eat up valuable time. Certain, poor quality wide-angle lenses tend to take distorted photos.
With that said, I think there are two categories of camera lens to choose from that fit these requirements.
Lenses You Should Consider when Shooting Real Estate Photography
I generally recommend two types of lenses for real estate photography—wide-angle “zoom” lenses and prime lenses. However, these are broad categories with a multitude of focal points, not all of which are great for shooting real estate. Let’s break the two types and lenses down and focus on what, within those two categories, you should focus on when choosing a lens.
Wide-Angle “Zoom” Lenses
A lens is generally considered to be wide-angle if it has a focal point of 35mm or below. A wide-angle zoom lens can range wildly, but a common length is 16-35mm. However, you can find wide-angle zoom lenses that traverse many different ranges between 14-35mm. Anything lower than 14mm is generally considered to be a “fish-eye” lens due to the distortion such a wide lens causes.
Wide-angle zoom lenses are great for real estate photography because they capture so much of what’s in front of you. When you’re trying to cram the entire interior of a house into a shot while giving the impression that the room you’re standing in is spacious, then a wide-angle lens is your best friend.
A wide-angle prime lens will net you the same result as a zoom lens in most cases. The biggest difference is that a prime lens is at a fixed focal point.
To put it simply, instead of having a focal length ranging between 16-35mm that you can zoom in and out of, it’ll have one focal point of, say, 18mm or something similar.
Prime lenses tend to be costlier than zoom lenses but typically take sharper photos and function better in low light.
However, that rule is not always in play so it’s important to compare your lenses!
When shooting real estate photography, a wide-angle prime lens is great for the aforementioned reasons we already covered.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Would You Consider to be the BEST Real Estate Photography Lens for the Nikon FX Cameras?
No two houses are alike, especially on the inside. With that said, you’re better off sticking with a lens that you know in and out. Typically, a lens that performs admirably in low-light is one that you want to carry with you on real estate shoots.
Maybe I am playing it safe, but I am a proponent of efficiency when it comes to real estate photography.
Unlike many other facets of our industry, it’s a relatively straightforward process.
Getting too artistic or creative can actually be a detriment to your clients, as they want uniform, expressive but simple photos of their homes in most cases. Because of this, I’d suggest you save up for the Tamron 15-30mm lens. It’s the fastest lens in its category while still giving you plenty of focal length should you need to zoom in or out on your subject. However, as I always say, it’s up to you to understand what is most important to you and make your own decisions based on the information I’ve provided.
What is “f/stop” and Why is it Important?
The f/stop or focal ratio of a lens is the ratio of a camera’s focal length (of the lens) to the diameter of its entrance pupil (to the body of the camera). To put it simply, a lens’s f/stop rating is a cumulative measurement of its speed.
The lower the f/stop of a lens, the faster that lens shoots photographs, and subsequently, the better it performs in environments of low light.
What is the Best Way to Light a House?
Any seasoned real estate photographer will tell you that light is your friend when taking photos of a house.
Bright, cheery photographs are what allow a house (inside and outside) to really shine. Beyond that, bright photos will hide imperfections that could otherwise detract from a potential buyer’s first impression.
With that in mind, you should start a session by openings all curtains, turning on all lights, and letting in as much natural light as possible. From there, take photos with the lowest ISO you can to avoid excessive noise in your photos. If you can’t wring out enough natural light, don’t be afraid to set your camera down on a tripod for stability, take some good, clean but dim photographs, and boost the exposure and brightness in post-processing.
When is the Best Time to Shoot a House?
The time of day to shoot a house can vary on its location. However, a nice, sunny day is an ideal jumping-off point.
When taking photographs of the exterior, a sunny, intensely blue sky will make the house look its best—just ensure that the sun is behind the house or else it will wash out the color of your photos.
How Can I Make My Real Estate Photos Stand Out?
Having an understanding of post-processing can make your real estate photographs next-level by giving you the ability to tweak and fix any issues that might have arisen on the day of your shoot.
Increasing the brightness of a photograph without blowing it out is a great skill, one which you’ll find by experimenting with sophisticated post-processing software like Adobe Photoshop.
One other thing to consider when shooting the exterior—turn all of the interior house lights on, even during the day.
You’ll be surprised by the amount of depth the interior lights will give a house even if you can’t fully appreciate the scene while the daylight sun is bearing down on you but you’ll be glad you did when you see the effect even one light has!
How Many Photos Should I be Taking?
It’s one thing to snap a few photos when you’re out and about. However, if you’re a professional photographer then you should be taking 100s of photographs per session.
The Pareto Principle of 80/20 applies to all things in life, even photography. For every batch of photos you take, only 20 percent will be worth keeping. From the point of view of a professional photographer, you’ll probably end up keeping even less than 20%. To put it simply—take more photos than you think you need. You’re better safe than sorry.
How Much Should I Charge?
People have written entire, multi-part articles about how much to charge as a professional photographer. However, I give very simple advice on this topic—set an annual salary goal, calculate your projected yearly expenses, estimate how many jobs you should expect to have in that year, and then find a per-project figure (minus the aforementioned expenses) that adds up to your salary goal. It’s that simple.
I know I’ve left some of your favorite lenses out—let me know what they are in the comments!
Ultimately, I think that real estate photography is a rewarding and creative outlet and one of the most lucrative ways to work in our industry.
No two houses are the same, heck, no two rooms are the same, so your intuition and skill are at play like nowhere else. Your lenses are just a small fraction of what it takes to get good at shooting real estate.
Feel free to share your real estate photography tips below.