So you bought a DSLR Camera, but no matter what settings you try you can't figure out how to take the stunning interior photos that you see on many high end listings. Don't worry, you're not alone. Every day I meet a new Real Estate Agent that finds themselves in this same scenario. The simple truth is that you absolutely can get to the point where you can take stunning interior photos. However, it's not solely a matter of camera settings. A camera simply captures the light in the frame. Though that light can be manipulated in some degree by adjusting the shutter speed, the aperature or the sensor sensativity, the inherent problem with Real Estate Interiors is the drastic difference between the exterior light coming from outside, and the interior light. These differences cause issues with balancing the exposure values, color casts, color temperature and shadow detail. Basically speaking, the sun outside is bright and the light bulbs inside are not. The trick to stunning interior photos is to balance the exposure between the two light sources. However, that is easier said then done. In fact there is an entire Professional Community devoted solely to Real Estate Photography. Before you can move on to the various techniques used throughout the industry, you first need to ensure you have the right equipment.
The first item is the camera itself. Most DSLR's on the market today are Consumer Cameras. They cost significatly less than Professional Cameras, mainly because of the size of the sensor. Many camera enthusiasts look for pixel ratios to determine the quality of a camera. However, though the pixel ratio is important, the most vital component of a camera's quality is the size of the image sensor. A Full Frame Professional Camera uses an image sensor that's equivalent to 35mm film. However, most Consumer DSLR's use smaller sensors called APS-C which are roughly half the size of full frame sensors. Compact consumer cameras use sensors that range from 1/1.7" up to 4/3". And finally cell phone cameras use very small sensors, usually around 1/3". Though technology is constantly improving, starting with a larger sensor captures more light, which increases the dynamic range and provides more detail and natural color saturation.
Next you have to tackle the lighting. You can't decrease the amount of light the sun puts out, so the only way to balance the exterior and interior exposure is to increase the interior exposure. The best way to do this is with flash equipment. Wired Studio Strobes, Hot Shoe Flash Units, Battery Operated Studio Strobes, and Wireless Speed Flashes will all work. However, the more that you can use with wireless radio transmission, the easier it is to make adjustments right from the camera to avoid precious time running around changing flash settings at each unit. The trick is to keep all of the light off the camera to keep the picture looking natural.
Lenses are next. The inexpensive lenses that come with kit-cameras are manufactured to keep the packages cheap. This results in cheaper glass, focusing elements, motors and poor stabilization. In addition, they tend to start around 24mm (18mm using the APS-C crop factor) which is not wide enough to capture interior space. Ultra Wide Angle Lenses allow you to capture more physical space than standard lenses, compact cameras or cell phones. These lenses for full frame and APS-C DSLR Cameras tend to be very pricey because they use high-end glass, ultrasonic motors and stabilizers. These all add to the overall image quality, but as you can see the lenses alone can cost a significant amount of money.
If you're determined to shoot your own photos, start by making sure you have the right equipment. Feel free to call me or email me with questions and I'll point you in the right direction. You'll also need to realize that you now are trying to run 2 businesses. If you do your own taxes, build your own websites and craft your own furniture, then this is right up your alley. If you're simply looking to enhance your overall image as an Agent by providing top notch photos on all your listings, then give me a call. The new DSLR is certainly not a waste. It will be wonderful to take pictures of your kids, grandkids or on vacations.