In this article I’ll show you how off-camera lighting can transform a space compared to traditional photographic techniques.
Why should you care?
Because imagery sells, but good imagery sells even better.
Photographing A Home Is Like A Box of Chocolates
Cheesy? Possibly. Accurate? Absolutely!
From small to large, dark to bright, neutral to crazy, homes come in many flavors. And like a chocolate box, you never know what you’re going to get inside!
Despite this, a one size fits all approach known as HDR has become the standard for photographing homes. It’s quick, easy and great for high volume.
But as you’ll see, it comes with a list of caveats you should be aware of. Read on and then decide how you want to showcase your listings.
The Typical RE Photo
99% of real estate photography is created using a process called HDR (high dynamic range) which combines the dark and bright areas of a space in to a a single image, one that is “technically” not possible in a single shot.
A typical sequence would look like this:
These images are then blended together by software such as Lightroom or Photoshop and finally edited to taste. Because of the speed and automated nature of HDR it’s appealing to many photographers of all levels.
That being said, it’s no free lunch.
Images created with HDR often look washed out, exhibit weird colors and artifacts such as blown out lights etc. As a realtor, you probably wouldn’t notice, unless you saw an alternative.
Let’s take a look at one.
Image on the left has been made from the 5 exposures you saw earlier. Image on the right was created using off-camera lighting.
Let There Be Light!
Off-camera lighting allows the photographer to deal with the many challenges faced when photographing interiors.
Add Remove color cast from walls and ceilings
Add clean light to dark spaces
Add depth and interest with shadows/highlights
More vibrant/crisper colors
HDR Can’t Control Color Cast
Whilst most of us love the warm glow of incandescent bulbs, the yellow color emitted by these lights are a real problem in photography as they mask the true colors of walls and objects in a room. This is known as color cast, where you have an unwanted color or tint present in an image.
Color cast can come from any number of sources such as cherry hardwood floors or curtains. Bushes and trees outside a window can create green or yellow color cast on walls and ceilings as the light passes through the leaves and window.
HDR can exacerbate color cast from bulbs or any other source in the final image as you are capturing multiple images of the space each with varying amount of color cast present and then stacking them together. This makes it much harder to remove later on and is one of the reasons color in real estate photos varies so much.
Off-camera lighting is exactly the opposite. It can be used to control color cast whilst adding contrast and vibrancy to an image.
HDR Images Are Flat & Boring
If you photograph a space using HDR your reliant on the light that already exists within that space. But what if the space is full of bad light? Not much you can do.
With flash however, you can add or subtract light helping to transform a mundane scene into something more visually appealing.
Which image is more likely to attract potential leads?
HDR Makes Bad Even Worse
Capturing a high contrast scene where the afternoon sunlight is so much brighter than the interior light level is challenging for any camera, and it’s what HDR was designed for.
Yet it often fails.
When combined with a space that has additional challenges such as color cast, table glare etc no amount of editing will save you, after all taking multiple images of something that is bad to begin with won’t make it any better.
Off-camera lighting allows us to circumvent these challenges and produce a much more pleasing result.
Bonus: Realtor sold this home to out of state buyers based on the images alone. A 30 year career first.
HDR Can’t Add Light. Flash Can.
Not every space is blessed with beautiful natural light, in fact many can be quite the opposite. Add in some color cast and you have a challenege.
Fortunately, with off-camera lighting you can add clean daylight balanced light whilst removing unwanted color cast in one swoop.
Flash Isn’t Just for Interiors
Ideally photographing exteriors when the sun is to the side or front of the property is best, however its not always possible and you end up with the home being backlit by the sun (worse case scenario as the front of the home will now be in dark). That’s OK though, with off-camera lighting and a large umbrella we can be the sun!
Very Interesting. Why Should I Care Though?
Back in 2005 when my wife and I were looking to purchase a home, Zillow wasn’t even a thing. Realtors still printed listings from the RMLS for potential buyers to look through. A lot has changed since then.
Today your potential clients have a wealth of options when it comes to finding a new home thanks to the internet. Zillow alone accounts for 36 million monthly searches for property. This means standing out from the crowd has never been more important, especially when potential clients can pass on your listing with just a click.
Even with the arrival of video and 3D mapping technologies, photography is still the primary source for marketing in real estate. Showcasing you're listings to the best they can be is not only smart for your business, but your clients and future clients.