I went to a workshop put on by Scott Hargis and Thomas Grubba earlier this year and learned a lot about flash photography for real estate. Prior to the class, I took some good photos, but I did not use flash at all. I was the “ambient guy” as far as photography goes. At the class, I learned how to use multiple flashes (or strobes) for lighting up various parts of rooms.
There are 4 common thoughts to real estate photography and I’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of each of the methods.
The first method called “Point and Shoot on Automatic”. This is what the majority of agents do and it shows. The quality is poor due to a couple of reasons. The first is that the lens on most point and shoot cameras isn’t wide enough to get a sense of the size of the rooms. The second is that the flash on the point and shoots usually make the foreground objects bright white, while leaving the rest of the room dark. But it is cheap, and hey, anyone can take a picture, right?
The second method is called “Ambient shooting only”. With this method, you are not using external flashes to brighten the rooms, but are exposing for the inside room, while blowing out the windows. This was my primary mode until I became more familiar with flash photography. Using this method is fast, taking just 1 photo to be the final shot. You may take 10 test shots to get the 1 that will work, but that’s still fairly fast.
HDR multi exposure shooting and layering in photoshop. The term “High Dynamic Range” or HDR as it is called, refers to the fact that there is more dynamic range in the typical scene, than what the camera can record. Knowing this, we set the camera to take several shots of the same scene, but of varying exposure levels. The typical is 3 or 5 or 7 shots of the same scene. Then using photoshop, or photomatix, or some other HDR software, you combine the multi exposure shots into 1 final shot. The one major drawback is that you have to be good with the software otherwise HDR photos can look unrealistic, and you need a solid tripod. Shooting time is pretty fast on site, but processing takes a while.
“Multiple strobes” onsite. With this method, you set up flashes around the room to put enough light inside the room to match the light coming in from the windows. This method is requires you to know how to shoot flash photography and how to balance the flashes with the ambient light. It’s not overly complex, but it does take some time and effort. I am by no means an expert at it but I do ok.The drawback to this method is that there is more equipment to haul around, and more setup time per shot. But processing time is reduced greatly. All the photos here are taken with multiple strobes.