How To Photograph And Light Real Estate At Dusk On A Budget

Last year we teamed up with Mike Kelley to produce the 7+ hour tutorial: How To Photograph Real Estate, Architecture and Interiors. We were fearful that Mike's fancy equipment would be discouraging to new photographers so we asked Mike if he could create a signature image with much cheaper gear. Mike shot an incredible, world class image with the original Canon Rebel and kit lens and only a few accessories. 


Let's first break down every piece of gear Mike used in this video. 


Canon Digital Rebel T1i - $200

Canon 18-55mm kit lens - included with camera

Nikon SB-80DX or similar Yongnuo 560 flash - $70

2 pocket wizard Plus X - $200 or cheaper radio slaves - $60

Camranger - $300

Any Tripod - $15

Total: $645

To use the Camranger you will need a laptop or smartphone but we assume most people today already own that so we didn't include it in the cost. The biggest expense is the Camranger which I must say is one of the coolest products available to photographers right now. This type of image could be created without it but this product makes it infinitely easier. 

I personally thought that this extremely old/cheap camera would struggle to shoot a clean image when it got dark outside but shooting with a longer exposure allowed Mike to keep the ISO relatively low. The final product is an incredible example of the photographer being the true image maker and not the camera. 





I was extremely impressed with this image and I think Mike proved that you don't need the most expensive gear available to take world class images. This house was the most expensive house on all of James Island in South Carolina. The house had been on the market for over 1 year and hadn't been visited once. After Mike's pictures of the house were uploaded online, 5 people visited the house within the first month and the house quickly sold for a record setting 3.5 million dollars. The Realtor in town attributes the sale of this record setting house 100% to Mike's images. 

After Mike went back to California this same Realtor started hiring me to take similar images of his other homes. You can read about that here

If you'd like to learn more about the full 7.5 hour tutorial you can read and watch the full promo here

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Aaron Brown's picture


Mike does amazing real estate work. That's how I found this site... someone I know bought the tutorial and showed it to me. When I was a photography student, I interned for an architecture magazine in the photo department. After my internship, I assisted the photographer here and there on real estate shoots for the big houses (this was in Sarasota with multimillion dollar celebrity and exec homes when we rented cherry pickers and helicopters to get aerials). I learned more in Mike's tutorial than I did on that internship or assisting. And the images he created are better than the photographer I worked with who was no hack.

It is nice to see some less expensive gear used. People who live in lower cost of living areas may not be able to charge enough for real estate photos or have a heavy real estate workload to justify that kind of higher end equipment but could still make steady money off it. Most realtors don't know cameras or they would not be paying someone to take the pictures because it cuts into their commission. As long as the end result is good, they don't care.

Kristjan Järv's picture


Michael Mellon's picture

Mike is the man!

Christian Berens's picture

That's seriously amazing work! The photoshopping is great and he has a good vision with it, but the most impressive part to me is how he knows exactly where to light so that it looks natural and how to make these shots look like a million bucks!

Stephen Vosloo's picture

fantastic work! So much with so little. That should be a lesson to all of us out there

Jay Briggs's picture

I used the technique I learned from this tutorial to create this image. The Canon 6D has wifi built in so you can use the Canon EOS app in place of the CamRanger, although I assume the CamRanger has better better wifi range.

Lee Morris's picture

I had no idea that camera had wifi built in! Why don't all pro cameras have that?

Why pro cameras have less features than semi-pro and amateur ones...?

Awesome! Thanks Fstoppers for sharing. I'm going to try this with my home and reply back with results. Hope you guys like it. BTW! I love the new webpage. Congrats!!!

Matt Donovan's picture

Mike isn't just a real estate photographer, he's a real estate artist! I have no interest in architectural photography, though I can't help but be inspired by his work, passion and creativity. He knows his shit and executes it with exceptional style!

Great balance between tutorial promo and informative video. Good job! I would buy the tut if I was into architecture photography.