The main purpose of the tripod is to hold the camera steadily in the same position so that you can take the time to compose the image and shoot several bracketed shots of the same composition without any camera movement in-between or during the shots (especially when using longer exposures).
“There are several things to consider when selecting a tripod to use for real estate photography, including size, load capacity, head type, leg locks, feet type, and material.”
Figure 1. The components of a medium sized tripod
When shooting real estate interiors (for real estate agents), you will require the camera to be at the height of approximately 1.3m most of the time, depending on the room and ceiling height. Exterior shots will demand a greater height with the tripod fully extended. Most three-leg section tripods allow a height of up to 1.8m (with the center column down) and four leg section tripods allow a height of 2m.
The load capacity of a tripod is the weight that it can safely hold without risk of breaking. Calculate the combined weight of your camera and speedlight to ensure that the total combined weight is less than the load capacity of the camera tripod you plan to use.
The two main types of tripod heads are the ball head and pan/tilt head, and both are suitable for real estate photography. I recommend using a 3-way pan/tilt tripod head over the popular ball head design as it gives you more control over the setup of your composition and is generally more efficient for a rea estate photographer photographing several homes throughout the day. It also allows you to adjust the pan, tilt, and rotation individually.
Leg locks should be sturdy and easy to maintain as over time they will become loose and you will need to be able to tighten these easily when you’re out at real estate photo-shoots. Faulty or poor-quality leg locks will make shooting real estate interiors and exteriors very difficult or impossible. The two most common types of leg locks are the twist-lock and lever lock; however, I would recommend the lever lock as these are easy to adjust and are more durable for real estate photographers.
The ideal tripod feet for shooting real estate interiors and exteriors are rubber balls or square caps as these offer a stable platform. Spiked tripod feet are unnecessary for real estate photography as they are designed for landscape photography and other outdoor photography disciplines.
Medium-sized tripods are typically made from aluminum or carbon fiber materials. Aluminum tripods offer great value for money as they are durable and light enough for real estate photography.
A great quality aluminum tripod (with tripod head) will cost between $250-$350USD but should last you for several years if you look after it.
Carbon fiber tripods look impressive, are durable (which is great for real estate photographers) and are incredibly lightweight however, they can are expensive.
Avoid using ‘travel’ tripods as these are usually not tall enough and are generally too unsteady for real estate photography. Popular tripod brands include Slik, Manfrotto, VanGuard, Joby, Sirui, and Inca.
To learn more about real estate photography, visit the Real Estate Photography Club.