After graduating college over 25 years ago, I worked for two years as a photo assistant to an architectural photographer. This was great technical training, as I had to handle heavy 4×5 and 8×10 view cameras on location, shooting with very slow, Kodak Ektrachrome Tungsten sheet film. The work was physically demanding and technically challenging. But it paid off in bringing my technical skills to a much higher level than that I had from my college education.
Jumping forward in time: Over the last three years, I’ve been doing photography for real estate advertising and marketing. The city I live in is a hotbed of real estate activity, so there’s huge demand for photography, virtual reality and video when it comes to marketing homes. Last year alone, I was at over 750 photo shoots, both conventional still photography and virtual reality.
The days of using large format view cameras are long gone, and I’m happy that’s the case. Using that equipment for commercial work was a miserable affair. I’m very grateful for the Fuji X system, and use it exclusively for all of my still photography in real estate. Central to that system and absolutely essential for my work, is the Fujinon XF 10-24mm f4 lens.
The catalyst that triggered my decision to purchase into the Fuji X system a couple years ago was when the 10-24mm lens was released. I had already been doing real estate photography with an older Canon DSLR and an ultra wide zoom. But I was attracted to the Fuji X’s lighter weight and very high image quality.
Once the 10-24mm became available, I quickly ditched my Canon gear and never looked back.
This isn’t a lens review, but rather how I use the 10-24mm specifically for my commercial work. Needless to say, the 10-24mm is more than good enough when it comes to its optical quality. Nothing else needs to be said – if it looks good to both my clients and to me, then it is good.
While I much prefer prime lenses for my personal and fun photography, a zoom is fantastic when making a living. It allows me to tweak the focal length quickly, capturing exactly what I need and filling the frame as much as possible (with one situational exception which I’ll detail further on).
Another interesting advantage with zoom lenses, is that I’ve found mirrorless, interchangeable bodies are much more vulnerable to dust landing on their sensors when changing lenses. The less one removes a lens during a shoot, the better.
The XF 10-24mm is Fuji’s widest, available lens. At its widest focal length, it’s roughly equivalent to a 15mm full frame. Photographers who are new to shooting real estate will often underestimate how wide a focal length they’ll need to shoot interiors. When I look at my EXIF data, I’m at 10mm on this zoom lens, well over 90% of the time, when shooting real estate.
Those are the three reasons I chose the 10-24mm and why I find it so invaluable for paid, commercial work in real estate, shooting for contractors and architecture.
I’ve had several inquiries about my techniques for this type of shooting, and I’m happy to share the details of my working method.
- While I’m excited about the new X-Pro2, I’m still using the ancient X-Pro1 and have no immediate plans of upgrading to the X-Pro2. My clients are very happy with the great image quality from the old camera
- I always use a tripod. More than the camera or even the lens, this is absolutely essential for quality shots of buildings and interiors. Shooting hand-held for this kind of work is lazy, unprofessional and doing a disservice to clients
- I always use the 10-24mm’s factory hood and never use a glass filter. This keeps flare to a minimum. I bring a blower bulb with me on location, and use it often to keep dust off the front element
- For the majority of shots that I make, I’m at 10mm
- I always shoot in Raw. I don’t even bother shooting in dual capture mode, combining the Raw with a JPEG. Why would I want to limit myself to reduced dynamic range of a JPEG?
- My base exposure is always +1 EV or f-stop on the exposure compensation dial. I find Fuji exaggerates its ISO by one stop
- I shoot with plus and minus bracket of one stop on either side of my base exposure. I don’t combine the triple exposures into an HD shot (which often looks artificial to me). Instead, I choose the best exposure, that gives me the appropriate detail in both the shadows and highlights, and work with that exposure in Capture One
- Aperture Priority, with the lens almost always set at f8. This f stop optimizes the optical quality of this lens, gives me great depth of field and isn’t so stopped down that the image suffers from diffraction
- ISO 200 for best image quality
- I use the 2 second delayed exposure timer on the X-Pro1, to ensure no loss of sharpness from vibration. A cable release or remote trigger is also a good idea, although using those items adds one more piece of gear to carry (not a huge deal, but I like keeping equipment to a minimum)
Leveling the 10-24mm
This is, simultaneously, both highly important and, in certain situations, completely irrelevant, for the type of work I do.
Shooting the 10-24mm completely level has the effect that of keeping vertical lines straight, and reduces the perception that the image is being shot by an ultra wide angle lens. It’s all about ensuring that the camera sensor is perfectly vertical. This is how I keep it level –
- Again, I always shoot with a tripod
- I much prefer a pan-tilt head, with its separate controls. I can control tilt and side movements (yaw and pitch) independent of each other
- I use a bubble level at the top of the pan-tilt head
- Sometimes, I’ll use the artificial horizon on the Fuji X viewfinder or screen to further level the camera
- For interiors, I usually have the camera on the tripod roughly at chest height. The camera at eye level is usually far too high, capturing way too much ceiling and not enough floor
- If I need more or less ceiling (and therefore, more or less floor) for an interior shot, I raise the camera up and down on the tripod, rather than tilting from the tripod head. This keeps the rear sensor perfectly vertical
Interestingly, I’ve never had a real estate client complain about converging lines when I’m shooting with the camera tilted up or down. As photographers shooting buildings, we can sometimes be obsessed in keeping everything perfectly vertical and level. But often, our customers either don’t care or they might even prefer the more dramatic look of converging lines.
Beyond that, there are three exceptions to shooting with the camera perfectly level, when I’m doing real estate photography.
Sometimes, I have no choice but to shoot with the camera pointed down or up
An obvious example of this is when I’m shooting in a tiny powder room (two-piece washroom). These washrooms are the size of a closet and if I want to show the sink and toilet, there’s no choice but to point the camera downwards. It’s better to sacrifice perfectly vertical lines for showing the features of the room.
Tilting the camera results in a more dramatic look
When tilting an ultra-wide focal length like a 10mm, it can give a very dramatic look to the shot. This is sometimes desirable, such as this image of this exercise pool.
Tilting the camera in order to capture all of the building, and then correcting in Capture One
For exteriors of buildings in a dense city, sometimes I can’t back up enough to capture the entire building, even with an ultra-wide lens. If I want the building to be straight up and down, I’ll tilt the lens up and then use keystone correction in Capture One, which is a wonderfully fast and powerful tool to correct converging lines. This has made the use of my Kipon Shift Adaptor on the Fuji X camera, obsolete.
In the example below, I’m backed up against a parked car, on this quiet, downtown street.
When using the keystone correction in Capture One (and presumably, any other processing software): be sure to capture more images than you need towards the top of the frame. Using keystone correction will make a lot of the upper section of the capture unusable, so you need to be able to see more than you’ll need, and then crop appropriately.
To photographers seeing the two images one after the other, the correction is obvious. To most other viewers who aren’t tuned into the photography as much, the correction is either very subtle to them, or not noticed at all.
I hope this article is helpful!