Last Updated on September 22, 2020 by Jose Barrios
When you start photographing you more than likely bought the cheapest tripod you could find. I think I paid about $20 for the first tripod I ever bought.
You asked yourself who was paying hundreds and even thousands of dollars for those other tripods you saw online. How could you justify spending that amount of money on just a tripod?
The truth is that a good tripod saves you time, and time is money! and it can also save your camera from a nasty fall.
Cheap tripods make you lose time
Yup, you heard it, cheap tripods will make you lose time when photographing, especially if it is a house, and real estate photography has thin margins so your goal is to photograph as many houses in a day as you can and to save time when editing your photos.
When I started out, I used a nice but inexpensive Neewer tripod with a ball head, a great product for the price.
I became frustrated when I started to photograph larger houses. I noticed how much time I spent leveling my camera.
To make matters worse the tripod I had tended to move, ever so little, but enough to notice when doing window pulls and stacking the images in Photoshop.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was having my camera almost tip over and fall. The tripod would not stay still. It was also a pain mounting and dismounting the camera from the tripod.
What you need in a tripod
That’s when I realized I needed these three features: A geared head, a sturdy tripod, and a quick-release system.
Geared tripod head
A geared head is the first thing on the list. Ball heads are not any good for real estate photography, they are very hard to level. Geared tripod heads have gears that move the tripod head on it’s X Y Z axis with the turn of a knob. These knobs allow for very precise incremental movements.
I use the Manfrotto XPRO 3-Way, Geared Pan-and-Tilt Head with 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate. I love that this head already come with a quick-release plate included.
For real estate photos, you will want your tripod to be sturdy. You will not be hauling this around, so weight is not that much of a concern. Window pulls and flambients are made from combining several shots in Photoshop, so having your camera not move is an absolute must.
I use the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (MT055XPRO3). At about $300 without a head it is not cheap, it is also no the most expensive one out there.
A rapid release and mounting system is essential for your camera. Screwing a plate to the bottom of your camera and then having another screw to clamp it down to your tripod head is unacceptable.
A quick-release plate, like the Manfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter with 200PL-14 Plate, is a must-have. The great thing about these plates is that they can be used on other tripods or devices.
Your camera cost a lot of money, don’t risk it
High-end tripods like Manfrotto or Gitzo can get up to thousands of dollars each, but what you get in exchange is a sturdy platform onto which you can attach your very expensive camera and lenses.
If you are hauling around a camera and lens that is worth several thousand dollars, why would you put in on a $50 tripod? When you think about it is not only dangerous, but it is also dumb.
When I’m working I can lift my tripod with the still camera attached to it, confident that my camera will not detach from the tripod and fall to the ground.
Professional tripods are not necessary for photographing real estate, and if you are starting out your money is better spent on a good wide-angle lens. But once you start to generate some income, your next buy should be a good tripod.
My personal experience has been that my Manfrotto tripod saves me on average 30 minutes of time when photographing.
The geared head helps me frame my photos allowing me to avoid strange angle distortions. They show up when photographing a room head-on and this saves me time when editing my photos in Lightroom.
Having the ability to pick up my tripod while the camera is attached and not have to worry about the camera coming loose and dropping to the ground is great. The quick-release plate allows me to detach the camera with great ease for some handheld shots and to reattach it to the tripod with ease.
Manfrotto XPRO 3-Way, Geared Pan-and-Tilt Headwith 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate
- Load Capacity: 8.8 lb
- Spring-Clamp Controls for Fast Movements
- 3 Independent Movements with Locks
- 90° Forwards and 20° Backwards Tilt
- RC2 Quick Release Cam Lock
- 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate
- 1/4″-20 Mount, Non-Slip Surface
Manfrotto 055 MT055XPRO3Aluminum Tripod
- Load Capacity: 19.8 lb
- Max Height: 66.9″
- Folded Length: 24″
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 5.5 lb
- Quick Power Leg Locks
- 90° Center Column
- Easy Link Attachment
- Rotating Bubble Level