I receive a lot of messages asking about my camera set-up and recommendations for lenses and tripods, so I figured it was worth a post. To preface this, I’ve had the same camera for five years, so while it’s expensive, it’s definitely an investment. And one other tidbit – often times, upgrading your lenses can have a bigger impact on the quality of your images over upgrading your camera body, so I often start there if I’m feeling like I can’t get the shot I’m envisioning.
One final note, I’m not a camera tech junkie, so for me, I’m looking for gear that allows me to get crisp images for the scenarios I’m shooting in most frequently, but I’m not one to get into the nitty gritty on specs.
I’ve been shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III for over 5 years and have had zero complaints. If I were buying a camera today, I would upgrade to the newer model. This is a full-frame DSLR, which means it has a full-sized sensor and is compatible with all standard lenses.
About 12 years ago, when I first started shooting photography, I started with a basic Canon Rebel, which has a crop-sensor, meaning that when you use standard lenses with it, the images are cropped tighter than if you used the same lens on a full-frame camera body. If I were getting into photography today with the intention of it being a hobby, I would likely pick up a mirrorless camera (like this one) with a few good lenses, since it’s more user friendly and portable, making it better for travel.
My first big piece of advice, if you’re investing in your first DSLR, do not default to buying the stock zoom lens that is often an option bundled with the camera. This lens is typically one that’s trying to do all things, so it fails to do anything well. You’re not going to get the high-quality images you crave with this lens, on average.
So what do you buy? First, I recommend investing in one good quality lens. Typically a fixed focal length lens (one that doesn’t zoom) is going to be your best value, where you’re getting a high-quality lens at a price much lower than a zoom, but you are limited by the focal length, which means moving around a lot to get the shot. My best recommendation for interiors photography is to get a 35mm lens that’s as high-quality as you can afford. If you’re looking to shoot people or a more general lens, I’d recommend a 50mm lens, which is more flattering for portraits and is most representative of how our own eyes look at the world, so the shots are the most familiar and generally pleasing. The 35mm will give you a wider range, though, so it’s typically ideal for interiors photography.
If you can afford it, I’d instead, recommend a good quality zoom lens in the 24-70mm range. This is going to be your most versatile lens for interiors photography, where you can drop down to the 24mm focal range when needed in tight spaces or to get wide views of a full room. You don’t want to shoot any lower than 24mm for interiors because you will get a lot of distortion (e.g. that look in real estate listing photos when it looks like it was taken with a fish eye lens) that looks really bizarre and isn’t pleasing to the eye. I resisted buying a zoom lens for a long time and finally picked up this one a year ago and it has quickly become my go-to for about 80% of my shots. If I was starting today as an interiors photographer, it would have been the lens I’d have purchased out of the gate (and yes, I know it’s a pricey lens, and that there are other manufacturers of a similar len, but I trust Canon and know that they almost always deliver exactly what I’m looking for).
I’m a brand loyalist when it comes to camera gear and tripods are no difference. I only buy Manfrotto and have this tripod stand with this geared head. Something I discovered when buying my first professional tripod is that the head is a lot more important (and sold separately) than the base, and people have a lot of opinions on how their heads are set up. I find the geared head to allow me the most control over micro-adjustments.
I also have a compact travel tripod that I almost use exclusively when we’re on vacation. It’s lightweight and folds down pretty small, but I wouldn’t use it daily since the adjustments on the head are much more difficult and it’s definitely not as rugged or sturdy as my everyday tripod.
I make sure to have a reflector on hand on shoots, as well as a sheet of diffuser fabric (a simple white sheet also works), and a roll of tape. I also make sure to have a lens pen to clean my lenses before shoots and an air blower for my camera sensor, because the last thing you want is to have a spec of dust that needs to be retouched out of every single shot.
I also use a simple off-camera monitor (but I don’t actually love it, and am waiting on the CamRanger 2 to be released so I can tether remotely to an iPad screen instead).
That’s it! What else can I teach you about interiors photography?