The know-how you make use of when taking your own photos can have a huge bearing on the quality of the results, as can the choice of equipment you use.
If you plan to take your own photos to market your accommodation, don't skimp, but don't overspend. Try to work out, based on the revenue you are looking to achieve over the lifetime of the project, what is realistic.
The heart of your system is the camera. As these are constantly changing, look at comparisons and online reviews, and shop about for price. The dynamic abilities of cameras are quite variable. As with everything else, you get what you pay for.
The smallest and simplest cameras are generally not suitable for interior photography because they do not have a wide enough angle of view. When selecting for shooting interiors, you need to primarily consider the width of view a camera can achieve. We'd recommend a maximim of 24mm [equivalent at 35mm], and ideally 16mm which is what professional photographers would use for interiors.
Mid range cameras: Between £170 and £250 are some good performers. They may be big and clunky compared to the sleek compacts in the same price range, but they are inherently better, with physically larger lense and manual control. The widest you'll get is about 35mm as standard, and maybe 28mm with a lens adaptor [be aware that the distortion you'll get with such adaptors would make a professional photographer weep]. They are just about usable, but forget sweeping vistas or any finesse whatsoever... among the options [in 2007]: Olympus SP550, Fujifilm Finepix S6500fd, Canon A720IS.
Premium Compacts - simple to use cameras with some extra abilities... the GTi from their respective ranges, you could say. Under £500, these cameras come with all mod cons, huge resolution and the widest angle lenses you'll find without buying a digital SLR. Options include Canon Powershot S5 IS and Canon Powershot G9 [this is my choice of the moment] - you need to use an add-on lens to get a wider angle.
Digital SLRs - where it starts to get serious, and potentially expensive.
A tripod is essential to avoid camera shake when taking interior shots and in other low light conditions. For low-light situations outdoors you may find a monpod useful. We have found that Manfrotto make well designed, light and strong monpods and tripods. However, any camera support will have a huge effect on image sharpness in poor light, and if your camera isn't heavy and you're not planning to make frequent use of a monpod or tripod, there are plenty of serviceable options for under £30.
The objective of a tripod is to minimise movement, which could easily be caused by a breeze, or your finger on the shutter button. When the camera is on a tripod, if the exposure is slow, eg less than 100th of a second, use either the self timer – all cameras include this feature – or a remote shutter release if one is available for your camera.
Disigtal SLRs have a feature called 'mirror lock-up', which is where the mirror [which SLRs use to direct the image from the lens to your eye via the viewfinder] can be set to only go 'up' on exposure. Using this will further reduce the likelihood of camera shake at low shutter speed. Look in the manual to find out how to invoke this arcane command – it's really worth the effort.
Don't forget filters. Any lens needs protection. A simple UV or clear filter will stop sea spray, fingerprints and the rest. For outdoor shots, consider using a polariser to make skies more saturated and add more contrast, or a graduated neutral density filter to reduce brightness in over-bright areas of your compositions. Hoya offer a full range of filters online for UK buyers. Be aware that polarising and ND filters will slow your camera down by between 1 and 3 stops, depending on the severity of the filter you're using, increasing the need for stabilisation with a monpod or tripod. A lens hood is essential if you use any filter, as the forward-mounted glass is very susceptible to glare and reflections.
Good lenses make a huge difference. The lenses which come as standard with most digital SLRs are not particularly good. Canon and Nikon make some lenses which are optimised for their small part-frame sensor digital SLRs [Canon calls them 'EF-S', and they cost £450 upwards]. Both makers also offer a 'top of the range' series which are primarily designed for use on full frame cameras, and built with rugged, high quality. These cost from about £700. The really desirable ones are in the four figure range. If you don't plan to buy good lenses, don't buy a digital SLR: a decent compact with lens attachments will achieve the same for you, for much less cash, plus it will fit in your pocket.
Processing your shots: Adobe Photoshop is the tool of choice for all professionals. Adobe Dimensions is a fraction of the price, and includes all the essentials for web use and desktop printing, but does not include CMYK processing and many other 'serious' features, so is no good for professional or pre-press work. Anything else is, frankly, not worth considering.
Our favourite accessory is a camper van. Nothing else comes close.
Places to buy cameras – see our photography resources page.