Shooting Exterior Home Photos at Twilight

April 20th, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about shooting exterior photos at twilight. Recently Cherie Irwin a RE photographer who works out of St Louis, MO was showing me some of her twilight shots and remarking how much the her client liked the photos. The shot above is my favorite of the series that Cherie showed me. I find that home sellers are usually dazzled by twilight shots. We frequently have home sellers ask for twilight shots because they have seen others on our web site.

I think the crux of shooting shots like this is knowing when to show up for the shoot. Although a Google of the search term “sunset times” will revel a number of sites that will help you with knowing when twilight and sunset is on any given day my favorite is the site for the US Naval observatory site.

By just entering the city and state you are located in it will give you a number of Sun statistics for the current day. For example, for April, 20 in Seattle, WA it says that sunset is 8:06 PM PDT and end of civil twilight is 8:39 PM PDT. My experience is that I get the best shots about halfway between sunset and end of civil twilight. Sunset is not quite dark enough and end of civil twilight is too dark.

Of coarse, you need to use a tripod because exposure times will be 5 to 30 seconds depending on the aperture you use. You also need to spend some time going through the home and turning on all the interior lights to get the most dramatic effect. I frequently use large continuous lights inside to boost the amount of light coming through the windows. I’ve also seen twilight shots where continuous lights were used outside to focus light on the outside of the home. I’ve never done that myself but I’ll have to say I like the results I’ve seen with this technique.

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13 Responses to “Shooting Exterior Home Photos at Twilight”

  • Another nice article today Larry. And great shot Cherie. Was the sun setting behind the home?

  • Was this shot out of the camera, or did it have a lot of processing? Ive found my current camera leaves alot to be desired even though it does the job at night. I get real artifacting etc. Just curious what rig Cherie and the rest of you use for these kind of shots.

  • Twilight shots are popular in Australia too, but personally I’m way over them!

    They’re “arty”, there’s no doubt about that, but reveal less of the house’s actual features… and what is the whole point of the photo to begin with?

    If a potential prospect drives past a property in broad daylight, as you would for an initial drive-by and peek, then it could look completely different to the twilight shot they’ve may have fallen in love with over the internet.

    The real daylight look is going to be rather “bland” compared to any twilight shot, so this could instill some mistrust in potetial buyers with twilight shots.

    It’s not really what the vendor likes the look of, it’s what image is going to sell the property effectively.

    Use wisely and sparingly!
    My two cents worth.

  • I think that the twilight shots of this stately home are completely relevant to its marketing. Without it, a buyer might overlook all of the exterior lighting that it offers. They have over 75 exterior lights, including lighting in the soffits, spotlights and other enhancing lights. This home also has over 100 windows. If you were to see photos of the back of this house, you would completely understand why a twilight shot was not only useful, but almost necessary in pointing out just how spectacular the house is. You can see, from the outside, many of the interior features through the huge glass atrium on the back of this home. It is unbelievable and quite awe inspiring, in fact. So despite the opinion of the “arty” feeling it gives, it is also a very important marketing piece for this particular property to be used in conjunction with daylight views.

    That being said, I feel that twilight shots aren’t necessary for every home, but in some cases they are called for.

    To answer your question with regard to the details about the shot…I have never done twilight shots before. This was my first time. I took the information Larry posted in his previous post about twilight shots to figure out the timing. I just have a Canon 30D with a Canon 10-20 lens. If memory serves me correctly, I just set the camera up on a tripod, set my Aperture & auto timer to let the camera do the work. The post work was minimal, but I should say that I used DXO, recommended by Marc Lacoste, to auto process the images. They turned out better than I expected, but because the house was so wide, it was difficult to get in the entire house without including part of the driveway. I personally don’t like taking photos of concrete. So that’s the story.

  • I take twilight shot for several reasons. Primarily because they are unique images that are very attention getting and convey a mood. The shots taken in the day convey the home in daylight and represent another lok completely. I don’t think the two can be compared. I like to do twilight shots also because not many other photographers here want to take the time to get out there are the right time and make it all happen – that puts me ahead of my competitors. Lastly I take them when needed or wanted to impress the homeowner, which in turn works as public relations for the agent. Keeping listings and selling houses can be as much about keeping the homeowner happy as finding a buyer. I make it a point to emphasize to agents that their listing/client is going to be happy when they see the pictures and that reflects back on the agent more than anyone. So my good work is not just about photography and it is about client relationships as well. Of course I take it a step further and explain that the pictures will be a great marketing tool on other listing presentations as an example of marketing quality. So twilight shots might not illstrate every feature of a home but they look great, not everyone does them and they portray the home in another light – no pun intended.

    M. James

  • I looove taking twilight shots. It is also important to keep in mind what direction you are shooting. I have found that I can get a really nice east facing shot fairly soon after sunset, while west facing ones look better a bit later. When civil twilight ends you can run inside and get some interior shots with that deep blue light (WB for tungsten) out the windows.

    Larry – your blog was just posted on the front page of Strobist yesterday!

  • Hey Cherie,
    Great shot! Can we see the back yard?

    You can get a cable release for your 30D for about $50 so you don’t have to wait for the auto timer. I use mine for everything because I keep my camera on the tripod so once I compose the shot, I don’t have to bend over to trip the shutter.

  • Susanne,
    I’ve added a link to Cherie’s whole series that she sent me. To see the whole series just click on the phrase “series that Cherie showed me”. The rear of this home is the far right shot in the album I think.

  • Gadget infinity sells wireless shutter triggers for canons and high-end nikons. For cheaper Nikons the little ML-IR3 is a great, simple, low-cost device.

  • Taking Evening Portraits of your Home

    Real Estate photo or a property in Annapolis, MD
    Over at Photography for Real estate, Larry Lohman reminds me of how beautiful a twilight shot can be. I think this is an effective way to take a home portrait when marketing a home; I always try to get …

  • Hi,
    I love twilight shots as they look fantastic and I can charge almost 3 times the price for a twilight shoot.

    I sit my 30d on a tripod witht the remote shutter cord, and get a shutter time of about 20-30 seconds; I then get my trusty 12v search light and light up dark areas of the house, trees and objects. You can see some of my work in my portfolio.

    The reason people love twilight shots is actually very complicated, but in short it dates back to our primeval days when we were evolving from apes, the people would look for a cave with a fire in it as the sun would set below the horizon. It is this instinctive feeling that makes people compelled to look at a home shot in the twilight hours (dark blue sky + lit up windows, looks like a fire in a cave) and hence people subconsescily think, “I would like to live there”

    Anyway, that’s my take on it!

    Larry I would love to see a more detailed articl on the different methods that can be used, As often I will see a twilight shot that at first looks good, But when you look a little closer you can see no detail on the front of the house, The only bits that look good are the windows and the sky.

    Vince DeStefano

  • The best tip I ever had for selecting the best time to shoot a twilight shot is one I’ve been using for 20 years.

    Buy a star filter, you know the kind. It doesn’t have to be expensive because it’s not going on your lens. Just hold it up and look through it. When the exterior lights start to produce the star effect, that’s the begining of your shooting time.

    Your latitude will dictate how quickly the sun goes down. I’ve shot from the Caribbean to Canada and found I get from 5-20 minutes of shooting before it’s too dark.

  • @Vince….OMG your twilight photos are amazing!!!! 12V Search Light? Really? I mean how are you doing it…I went to you site and saw all the pics of your twilights and mine come not even close to what you have. Please advise me on what I can do to produce pics like that.


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