In Photography

I have been working on my real estate photography technique.  Why?  Because it is challenging and I love a challenge.  I read about a photographer who uses a composite technique to get the lighting the way he wants it, and decided to try it out for myself (in a simpler, probably far less professional way, but using the gear I already have.)

Here is a photograph of my sister’s living room with no flash.

Living room, no flash

Living room, no flash

The interior is too dark, and the windows are too light.  Tough to balance, unless you want to do an HDR.  I see a lot of photos of homes for sale that look similar to this … it makes the room seem dark and dreary, when it really isn’t.

Here is the same room lit by one flash on the camera pointed at the ceiling with a bounce card to fill in the shadows:

Living room, on camera flash

Living room, on camera flash

You can see my auxiliary flash in this shot, ready to go (on top of the bookshelf.)  It’s a fine shot, but parts of it are a bit dark.  It lacks a certain “pop” – the colors fall a bit flat and the lighting is dull.

The fabulous thing about Canon’s 580 EX II flashes is: they can communicate with each other!  With one flash on the camera, you can trigger however many auxiliary flashes you might like without any expensive pocketwizard gear.  It’s a fabulous accessory and makes off-camera lighting a cinch.  The shot below was done with two flashes, one on camera just as in the previous shot, but it is also triggering a second flash:

Living room, two flashes

Living room, two flashes

Can you tell where the second flash is located?  It’s on the little table on the right side of the picture, hidden behind a candle holder.  This shot is brighter and has better colors than the previous shot, but it also has some problems.  Notice the ugly hard shadows behind the pink sofa and behind the items on the mantle – the light from that second flash is too bright and too hard.  But I like the way it makes the colors pop and brightens up the room.  So I pasted the two files into photoshop together, in two separate layers, and used layer masks to “paint” in the details I liked from this two-flash shot.

Here is the composite:

Composite of two versions of the same scene, one with one flash and one with two flashes

Composite of two versions of the same scene, one with one flash and one with two flashes

Judge for yourself, but I think the composite has better colors, more interesting and even lighting, and better, softer shadows than any of the other shots.  Lighting the interior of the room means we didn’t have to sacrifice the details in the windows.  Now, if the view outside the windows was ugly (full of other buildings, or cars, or junk), then we would want the windows blown out to white.  However, this house doesn’t have that problem and I think it adds something to the room to be able to see a bit of the view from inside.

Love it? Hate it? Have a better technique? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Have a house to sell? Tell your realtor to hire me to take the pictures! 😉

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