Last Updated on August 16, 2020 by Jose Barrios
When I started photographing homes, I quickly realized the need for a flash (Speedlight). I use flashes to illuminate just about every photo I take, either for window pulls or flambients. The downside is that I use a lot of batteries and buying regular disposable batteries gets expensive quickly.
You need rechargeable batteries
Most regular disposable batteries are deficient when it comes to powering a flash. The time between flash cycles (the amount of time it takes your flash to be ready for another photo after it triggers) is dependent on mAh (mAh means milliamp Hour and is a unit that measures (electric) power over time). The lower this number, the longer it takes for your flash to be ready again, and regular disposable batteries can be as low as 1,200 mAh. To effectively power your flash, you will need at least 2,000 mAh. For people like wedding or event photographers, 2,400 mAh or more is recommended, this can be crucial when timing is of the essence. For us real estate photographers not so much.
What is mHa?
mAh means milliamp Hour and is a unit that measures (electric) power over time. It is commonly used to measure the energy capacity of a battery. In general, the more mAh and the longer the battery capacity or battery life.
A higher number means that the battery can store more energy, so it has a higher capacity. Of course, this also means longer battery life for a given usage. Source: Ubergizmo
In my experience photographing homes with anything over 2,000 mAh is good enough for me and will cycle my flash in a decent amount of time. A single set of 4 batteries will give enough power for 2 to 3 regular sized houses (2,500 sq. ft).
Rechargeable batteries save you money
Name brand batteries are about $0.80 each when bought in bulk, four packs at your local hardware store can be much more expensive. This adds up fast, you can spend almost $4 a day on batteries alone, that comes out to over a $1,000 a year, that is a lot of money.
Rechargeable batteries start at about $2.50 each, over three times the cost of a regular battery, and can go as high as $4 each, but even on the high end, you will recoup your investment in just a few photoshoots. Good rechargeable batteries can for years.
Rechargeable batteries also save the planet. By using the same batteries over and over you are not filling up landfills with e-waste.
The batteries that I use every day
I have narrowed my pick of rechargeable batteries to just 4. There are other options, but this is what I use. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments.
Panasonic eneloop (2000 mAh)
I love these batteries; they last a very long time between recharges and are rated to be recharged 2,100 times. They come in at 2,000 mAh but actually average about 1,900 mAh, not quite the 2,000 mAh I recommend, but close enough.
Eneloops are made in Japan and can hold 70% of their charge for almost 10 years. In practical terms, this means that even if you leave your batteries on the shelf for a long time, they will still have a decent charge in them.
Amazon Basics AA Rechargeable Batteries (2000 mAh)
These Amazon Basics batteries are almost as good as the eneloops and quite cheaper. Even though they also sport the 2,000 mAh rating, they are cheaper for a reason. They are only rated for 1,000 recharges, still an impressive number, especially for the price, and will only hold 80% of their charge for up to 2 years.
In my experience, they do last a bit less than the Eneloops, but for the price, you really can’t complain, I own a whole bunch of these also and use them in everything that is less essential (like my TV remote). But even with its shortcomings, they have served me well in my flashes.
Panasonic eneloop Pro (2550 mAh)
These batteries are considerably more expensive than the white eneloops, but have a 2,550 mAh punch. They are more suited for occasions when cycle time between flashes is essential, like a wedding or a live event.
Besides the higher price, they also come with a catch, they are only good for 500 recharges, that’s 1,600 less than the white eneloops.
If you other types of photography besides houses it would a good idea to carry a few of these around.
Amazon Basics AA High-Capacity Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries (2400 mAh)
Just like it’s 2,000 mAh version, these batteries are considerably cheaper than the eneloop Pro with a similar capacity of 2,400 mAh.
If you are on a budget, or just occasionally take photos that require a very fast flash cycle time, these might be for you. They hold their charge at 70% for the first year, not bad for the price and should last several hundred charges.
Get a big charger
This I cannot stress enough: you need a large battery charger.
Eneloops when bough in kits will bring a charger, but it can only handle 4 batteries at a time, not the best for a pro photographer.
I personally use the Tenergy TN160, it can handle AA and AAA batteries and has a large LCD screen so I can see which one is charged.
When I get back from a photoshoot the last thing I want to do is wait around for groups of 4 batteries at a time to charge.
Tenergy even has the monster Tenergy TN438 with 16 bays, If you are more than one photographer maybe this is the model for you.
If it is your first time buying eneloop batteries
Get the Panasonic K-KJ75MC64ZA eneloop Power Pack 6AA, 4AAA, 4 C Adapters, 4 D Adapters, “Advanced” Individual Battery Charger with USB Port and Plastic Storage Case.
This was my first ever purchase. The reason I picked this kit was that it included not only a charger, but it included 4 AAA batteries and adapters for C and D (you place the AA inside the adapter).
The C and D adapters are worth the purchase price of this combo, I use them for my flashlights, and they will accept non-eneloop batteries like the Amazons Basics brand.
The small 4 batterie charger that comes included in the kit, though not ideal for charging lots of batteries, is great for traveling and taking on the road. I always carry one in my bag. It would not be the first time I have arrived at a gig and forgot to charge my batteries.
Stop using old fashioned disposable batteries, rechargeable ones will not only save you money, but they also help save the planet, and if you are in a bind because you forgot to charge them, you can charge them on-site with a small charger.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great.