January 23rd, 2007
Recently I was having a discussion with a local RE photographer friend about the pros and cons of using an external flash as opposed to using natural light. The discussion arose because of the images my friend had seen of the Sam Hill Mansion (an old Historic Seattle land mark) that is currently for sale. My friend claims that all the images on the listing (click on the photo above to browse through all the images) are done with natural light only. I’m not sure who the photographer is.
After looking through the images carefully I think my friend is right. On some of the windows you can see evidence that the windows are a separate PS layer because the edges of the windows are not perfect. That is, if you don’t use lighting equipment to raise the light level inside the room to near the light level outside you have to combine two images, one exposed for the windows and one exposed for the interior.
I’ll have to say, the style of the Sam Hill images is distinctive and have a certain elegance. They have a desaturated, soft look. This soft, desaturated look is I think, a result of not adding any artificial light. I can see where many people would like this understated, elegant look for marketing photos. I think it is interesting to compare these images to the Thomas Bliss image I featured a few months ago. Two very different styles and a whole different level of work making each style of image.
One needs to understand the amount of Photoshop work that is involved with this technique when there are windows in the scene. For example, to get shadow detail on the near side of the bathtub (darkest part of image) and highlight detail in the distant clouds (brightest part of image) you have to use photo-editing gymnastics.
The main point I wanted to get across is that for real estate photography, there is a trade off you have to make between carrying lighting equipment and spending time in Photoshop. The less lighting equipment you carry the more time you’ll have to spend in Photoshop to get a use-able image. My guess is that Thomas travels with a pick-up truck load of lighting gear! An the photographer that shot the Sam Hill Mansion spends a huge amount of time in PS to get good looking windows.
What I advocate for Realtors and RE photographers that have to shoot a home in 1 to 2 hours is to carry an external flash unit and a tripod. Use the external flash unit most of the time to minimize the amount of Photoshop work you have to do when you get back to the office and use the tripod for that kitchen full of stainless steel appliances that want to cause reflections no matter what you do.