In Real Estate Interior Photography, A Kiss Of Flash Makes A Big Difference

September 16th, 2015


Yesterday Scott K asked the following question:

I stumbled into interior photography by enjoying photography as a whole and then accepting a position as an interior photographer from an individual I met out one evening in February of this year. This site has been go-to for me when questions arise, and there have been quite a few. So, I thank everybody for their assistance here.

My question is, when shooting in one location, is it possible to use flash in some shots when needed; shadows, blown out windows, and not use it in other rooms? I’m curious if it’s blatantly obvious that it’s being done, if so, is it awkward looking while scrolling through the done images. And if not, is this something that everybody does?

The most obvious thing that happens when you use flash for interiors is that in shots where you use flash will have whites that are brighter and crisp looking. In my little example above look at the difference in the white large window frame. In the no-flash frame, the window frame looks dark and dirty but in the flash frame it looks crisp and white. In some cases, the colors look better. In my example, the colors are pretty close. You can do this with one manual flash bounced off the ceiling or a wall. It’s worth it!

For this reason, I think the majority interior photographers use flash in some way in most shots, even if they shoot brackets and process them with Enfuse or HDR software. Another common technique is to shoot ambient and flash frames and hand-blend them in Photoshop. Just a kiss of flash solves a lot of problems for interior shooters.

So the answer to your question is: Shoots are going to look best if you use the same technique to shoot every room. Perhaps some viewers will not notice the difference between where you use a flash and when you don’t, but the more visually aware will spot the difference. Yes, it may be a little more work but the results are worth it!

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8 Responses to “In Real Estate Interior Photography, A Kiss Of Flash Makes A Big Difference”

  • I would like to add “a kiss of flash” to my HDR images. But I am not sure I completely understand the technique. Can I shoot in aperture priority and use the flash in all exposures? Then use Photomatix pro 5 to Enfuse them together. And on another note… I just bought a Sony a7r and have Aputure Trigmaster Plus II… anyone use this system for off camera flash.. I can not get it to fire off the when using the hotshoe.

  • I’ve just started really, on interior photography and as of last week I just finished Scott Hargis’ Lighting for Real Estate Photography. It has helped me immensely on figuring out those problem areas. How to dial in the the exterior light and getting rid of hard shadows and so fourth. I really understand the technique now, however it’s going to take some time to master it. But man has it shaved my learning curve way down! I’ve been practicing in my own home and last night after receiving my shoot through and directional umbrella’s, oh man! What a difference in brightness and sharpness! <—— That's me skipping happily by the way 🙂

  • Brad, Shoot everything in manual. Your camera and the flash. Set the shutter speed to a 1/60 or a second and your aperture to f8. Set the flash on manual to 1/1 (full power). Use that as a basic starting point and go from there. You can point the flash at a corner, ceiling or back wall. It certainly helps to have the flash off of the camera. But in smaller rooms you can leave it right on the camera. Experiment with the power of the flash until it looks natural. It will take some time to get the settings ‘spot on’, but when you get accustomed to it you won’t even have to think about it. Good luck, Dave.

  • Those Yongnuo wireless flash & trigger combos are the best. I have several sets of triggers and several flash units. I have worn out a few sets of triggers and a flash so far, but they are pretty cheap so it’s not a big thing. It has become important to have at least three YN560’s on hand. I use everything in manual except for autofocus. I have gotten so I know almost instinctively what power level will work in a particular space. It has taken quite a bit of practice, but it has been worth it. I prefer to use L/R Enfuse with flash, but sometimes I use just the flash bracket now. I like the feel I get from the enfuse with flash frames, as do my clients. Read both Scott Hargis’ book and the Enfuse book – together they will change the way you shoot real estate.

  • I’ve been photographing real estate as a business full time in Australia for just short of 2 years and whilst I read and understand Scott Hargis’ techniques, I’ve also learned that the business in Australia is about a balance between quality and price.
    As the listing agent (and therefore the vendor) pays for all marketing, I need to be selling at a reasonable price and be able to do 3-4 shoots a day 3-4 days a week.

    This means that in a lot (most cases) I use a single flash on a stand (the new YN EX600RT is great) with an RT trigger (YN-ET-R3). I shoot on full manual with most rooms at F5.0 with an ISO at 200, windows exposed at 1/80-1/125 and room internals at 1/20 – 1/6th

    Whilst I can’t fill the room with enough light to make the room bright enough to compendate for windows all the time, those I can’t be shot in 2-4 exposures asnd fininshed in Photoshop (faster than lighting set up time), or outsourced to professional image editors who can do a better job at much less than my desirted hourly $ rate

  • @David – Yes, what you describe is a perfect example of what I mean. Just a single flash frame with as series of ambient frames can do the the job many times.

  • Sorry

    Dont agree with this statement.

    Flash is a short cut.
    Please dont slay the messenger.

    Flash is introducing a light source that is not native to the environment.

    Imho best to work with natural light.

    Flash is great for expediency but at the expense of ambience.

  • Photographing Real Estate with all natural light? I don’t think so. Every room is different, time of day is different and aspect is different. Some rooms absorb light and some are white. Some are basements and some houses have no power. Flash is essential and I’d be dreaming if I thought I could photography my clients homes without flash…

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