Real Estate photography can be a fun and lucrative business to get involved with as proper photos of a house can be an essential element to attracting the right buyer. Whether you are a photographer looking to jump into the business or a realtor who just picked up their Canon DSLR to shoot your listings, the following article should help you decide which lens to invest in to improve your real estate or architectural photography.
My criteria for choosing the lenses listed below were based on a few things that I looked for in particular when choosing a proper lens for real estate:
- Wide or ultra-wide focal length – there are many advantages to shooting wide in a real estate setting, and often you can make a room look bigger or more appealing just by using a wide-angle shot. I typically prefer to shoot in the 16-24mm range (there are lenses like the Zeiss 25mm f/2 that still work great for real estate despite not falling directly in this range), as from my experience this range gives you the best outcome without adding any large amounts of distortion.
- Quality optics – I seek sharp optics easily correctable distortion in post and an accurate color representation of my subject
- Include a lens hood – if you are shooting outdoors in direct sunlight, a lens hood is a must to avoid obnoxious flaring that can be difficult to remove in post
- Support for filters – I often rely on my circular polarizer especially when shooting outdoors so to have the option of adding a filter just will give you that much more versatility in the future should you require it
You may notice that I didn't emphasize the importance of fast glass or minimal vignetting. For my real estate photography, I'm typically always shooting on a tripod and not wanting noticeable depth of field so shooting between f/8-f/16 is typical.
Since I started professionally for the a few years ago, I never have found myself in a situation where I sought the need to shoot wide open and so having the fastest glass on the market isn't a necessity for this type of subject matter.
This model is one of Canon's most affordable lenses and offers quite a bang for your buck. While it doesn't offer a constant aperture or rugged build quality, the lens performs well optically with relatively decent sharpness all the way to the corners. The 10-18mm zoom range is ideal for capturing a room wall to wall though I'd likely stay at 14mm or above to refrain from any nasty distortion that becomes more noticeable at its widest settings. Keep in mind, this is an EF-S lens meaning that it is designed for Canon's more affordable APS-C sensors and will not be supported on full frame bodies like the 5D or 6D.
Rokinon (or Samyang depending on which brand you purchase from) has been pushing out a lot of budget-friendly lens models that have become popular due to their price-points. The 14mm f/2.8 is a reasonable choice for real estate photography, and I had shot a few houses at the beginning of my career with this lens prior to upgrading my lens kit. There are three notable downfalls to this lens that one should be aware of. There is no support for lens filters due to bulbous front glass element, there are no electronics for communication with the camera body (no EXIF data or AF support) and lastly the distortion is more complicated than most competitors, so I found it sometimes being rather difficult to compensate for in post. I still included it within this article is that it is the only 14mm lens at this price-point that offers support for full-frame sensors so that alone makes it a contender if you are on a budget and shooting with a 6D or 5D. Read our full review of the Rokinon 14mm lens.
Tokina's 11-16mm f/2.8 is a commonly owned lens by photographers and filmmakers due to its affordable price, reliable performance, and constant f/2.8 aperture. I have had extensive experience with this lens, and it has performed exceptionally well for the price. While it is produced for APS-C, it will mount on a full frame body and function with minor vignetting at 16mm and show heavy vignetting at wider focal lengths. If I were shooting on an APS-C body and wanted to invest in a lens under $500 for real estate photography, this would be the lens that I would choose.
Sigma's ART series is what the L-Series is to Canon offering high-performance optics and build quality though Sigma's versions are more reasonable in price. I'm a huge fan of their ART line, and while this 18-35mm is most often associated with filmmakers, the optical performance remains exceptional for stills as well. While it isn't as wide as some of the other options in this article, it has a great zoom range and is actually only f/1.8 zoom lens on the market at this time (good for non-real estate use). Expect excellent color representation and tack sharp images throughout the aperture range when using this model. Unfortunately, this is an APS-C only model with severe vignetting when shooting at its widest setting on a full-frame body.
Canon's 16-35mm f/4L will provide the most bang for your buck with a reasonable price-point for exceptional performance. The lens is sharp throughout the range with minimal distortion and vignetting as well as a robust build-quality that is sealed for all-weather shooting conditions. This is the only model on this list offering Canon's signature image stabilization feature though this isn't a necessity when shooting on a tripod as I do nor is it all that necessary when shooting this wide. This is my most commonly used lens for real estate photography currently and my “go-to” lens for capturing interior shots. As an added benefit, this model supports use on both APS-C and full-frame camera bodies.
I haven't had a ton of experience shooting with Tamron's higher-end lenses, but I know several photographers who swear by them due to their overall value. Their 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC model offers excellent optics with an unconventional zoom range and constant f/2.8 aperture. The design provides a built-in lens hood and Tamron's vibration compensation (similar to Canon's IS). Unfortunately, there is no filter thread due to the bulbous front glass element that extends too far for a filter. This model supports use on both APS-C and full-frame camera bodies.
This model is an absolute powerhouse with some of the best optics in any of Canon's zoom lenses. While the 24mm is not all that wide, it is typically enough to get the job done. I particularly love this zoom range for exterior shots or to highlight key fixtures or features inside the home. There is no image stabilization, but it does support both APS-C and full-frame sensors. Along with the 16-35mm f/4L II, this is the only other lens that I bring on my paid real estate shoots as these two are versatile enough to handle nearly any situation that I approach. This model does support use on both APS-C and full-frame camera models.
Tilt shift lenses are not a necessity in the architectural photography world, but they are very convenient in keeping the lines straight and consistent regardless of your viewing angle. The 17mm model is the widest tilt-shift that Canon has in production right now and likely the most suitable for real estate use. While it is expensive, it offers sharp images with excellent color representation and extensive versatility via the tilt and shift adjustments. Downsides included the lack of a filter threat of AF capabilities. This model supports use on both APS-C and full-frame camera models.
This is the newest L-series lens to be introduced by Canon and also one of the most expensive. This lens offers stellar performance in terms of optics with a wide field of view than the more affordable 16-35mm option. If you have the disposable income and want tack sharp images as wide as 11mm, this model is going to be a tough to pass up. This model supports use on both APS-C and full-frame camera models.
I hope you found this article helpful in your journey to becoming a real estate photography master. Keep in mind, the models listed above are just nine examples of suitable lenses for real estate photography, and there are likely others on the market or new to the market that may be good options though were not mentioned here. Prices are subject to change over time so click through to the retailer links provided to see up to date information for each model.