December 18th, 2009
This last week I gotten several questions about the basics of real estate photography like “should I use autofocus?”, “what should I do about reflections from my flash?”, “should I increase the ISO if there isn’t enough light?”. “should I use RAW or JPG?” So I thought it would be useful to step through some of the basics.
- Expect to do some post processing to get the best image possible. You can do everything you need to do for real estate photography with Photoshop Elements or Photoshop. Lightroom is easier for most post but doesn’t fix vertical and barrel distortion. PTlens will fill that hole.
- To get the very best results in post processing you should be shooting in RAW. A RAW file allows you to make more changes to white balance, exposure etc without ruining the image. Yea the files are bigger but these days memory cards and storage are cheap.
- Use the histogram and expose to the right. This rule takes advantage of how CCD and CMOS sensors work.
- Pay attention to white balance. It’s easy to adjust white balance in Lightroom, Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. There’s no right white balance, it’s what looks good to you or your client.
- If you are using flash (on-camera or off-camera) you don’t need to use a tripod (because the flash duration is so short) but if you don’t use flash you should use a tripod to keep good focus at long exposures.
- Reflections (particularly if you use on-camera flash) and hot-spots are inevitable when using flash. They can be removed easily in post processing (with cloning).
- Use hyper-focal focusing to make sure your images are sharp from a few feet to infinity. You can’t fix an out of focus image in post processing. You have to get it right in the camera.
- Autofocus can be hard to control in low light interiors. There are a bunch of reasons to just turn it off and use manual focusing.
- Even though many modern day sensors look good pretty at high ISO settings, you are better off keeping the ISO as low as possible. The rule of thumb is if you are shooting HDR keep the ISO at 100 or lower because the HDR process increases noise so you want to start out with as little noise as possible. For flash work use ISO around 400. This effectively gives you flash(s) more power and there’s less of a problem with noise when using flash.
I may have missed something. Feel free to add your favorite basic rule or tell me if I’ve missed something important.