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POLL: What’s Your Preferred Way to Shoot and Process Photos?

Published: 07/11/2019
By: Brandon

Tim, from Costa Mesa, CA writes:

“Curious if you'd be willing to ask the community if they are using single exposure or is that technique antiquated?”

Like so many others in our community who've been around for awhile, when I started in real estate photography a number of years ago, I learned that the main way (and at that time, some would say the only way) to get the shot, was to light the space/room so that you essentially got the photo you wanted, “straight out of camera” (SOOC) with very little, if any, editing to be done in post.

That said, over the years, we’ve seen a number of different styles come up in our world. So, in order to get Tim some data regarding his question--and since it’s been quite a while since we discussed this topic--I thought it would be great to do a quick poll.

I hope you’ll take a moment to participate in the poll and please feel free to leave a comment too. Thanks!

[polldaddy poll=10451193]

16 comments on “POLL: What’s Your Preferred Way to Shoot and Process Photos?”

  1. My preferred approach is to get the image done in camera to the extent possible. My next choices are mostly based on time to finish the image. If I have time on site, I'll set up flashes in other rooms. If I'm pressed for time (it's lunch already, get me out of here), I might use one handheld speedlight to put a pop in different rooms that I'll combine in PS later in lighten mode. My least favorite thing is to have to sit in front of the computer endlessly blending images if there just wasn't another way, but I'll do it if I have to. If it looks good on my tablet, I know it will look great when it's ready to deliver. There always seems to be a hero shot that needs all the stops pulled out to get it looking good. Window pull, ambient bracket, flash and a couple of clean up frames for different things.

    I can spot HDR images 20 feet back from my monitor in thumbnail. Relying on software to make a compelling image, for me, is a losing proposition. Some agents like super bright, blue-white, flatly exposed images, but that might be because all they are comparing them with is cell phone images.

  2. Gasp, I shoot single frame, hand held, with a few continuous daylight toned soft boxes.

    I shoot for interior designers, not realtors. And my particular clients prefer this method and have told me so as it looks more “natural” to how they designed the space. I am not really creating light that isn’t there.

    I’m realizing quickly how rare it is how I shoot, looking forward to the conference to learn more!

  3. Ambient bracket + LR enfuse + flash frames + layer blending in Photoshop.

    For real estate, I'll shoot a quick bracket of ambient and a couple of flash frames (depending on the size of the room) plus a gentle window pull if there's a worthwhile view. Then in post, I run the ambient brackets through LR enfuse and do a quick white balance and tonal adjustment on the results. I'll run a similar white balance and tonal adjustment on the flash frames and then open each set as layers in PS. I do a little manual blending and save as jpg. It's more work than just hdr or fusion alone but the results help back up the reputation I'm trying to build.

    I used to just do ambient brackets and LR enfuse (which saved me a little time overall) but I like the results better when I use flash. More professional. And since my goal is to move toward commercial work, luxury listings and architecture/interiors, I'll spend the extra time doing it this way so I can iron out all the bugs and become as fast and proficient as I can. Gotta stay sharp.

    For high end and commercial work, a lot more goes into it... blocking windows, shooting multiple frames, multiple exposures, several flash frames, lights off, lights on, tilt-shift stitching, etc. Not to mention the staging and cleaning. But that's why they pay more. The finished product has to be as perfect as possible and that takes a lot of creativity and attention to detail both on site and in post.

    The method has already helped me gain some architecture and development firms as clients. Now I'm shooting as much high-end (read "well paying") commercial property as I am real estate. And the commercial work is a lot more fun and much more lucrative. 🙂 I make more money shooting fewer properties. It's a lot less stress and gives me more free time to work on my business or enjoy our 40 acres and six dogs.

    Some folks like to shoot 1000 homes a year and drive all over the region for whatever they can get paid. I've seen people post about shooting a dozen houses a week for $65 a house... I don't have that kind of energy. 😉
    I don't leave my house for less than $250 and most of my clients that pay me well above that mark. I'm an artist, as opposed to a businessman, so I spend extra time to create imagery that I'm proud of (and it helps open the doors to market my fine art.) But that's just the way I do it. It's not better or worse than anyone else. It just different... and it works for me.

    (By the way, if you want to see my work, don't click on my name at the top of my post like you would for anyone else here. These pages don't recognize websites that aren't .com, .net, .org, etc. and my website is one of the newer options that doesn't use those suffixes. If you like checking out other folks' work like I do, use my real website and not the facebook link it makes me use when posting. Use this one

    I'm glad this site exists and I'm glad people are getting help from it. Keep reading, keep learning and keep improving. Life is boring when it's stagnant. 🙂

  4. 5 brackets raw only using 1 hand held flash if no ambient lighting is available outsourced to for 3 years now. Prior to that 5 brackets raw processed in Photomatix Pro then layer 1 flash in Photoshop. ,

  5. Usually one ambient and one flash frame, blended in PS in normal mode. Sometimes I’ll need more than one flash pop or some other repair layer. Editing always takes me about twice what my time on site was, and I’m always looking for ways to cut that back.

  6. With today's camera bodies, getting it in a single shot is usually pretty easy. Especially here in the pacific NW where overcast days are prevalent. I always try to get even lighting, and use a single handheld light to make things pop a bit.

    On sunny days, I'll shoot a second image for the windows if the view is important. For the neighbors house, I can usually bring most windows back in using the 'highlights' slider in camera raw.

    My post production is a mixture of Lightroom and CS6.

  7. I'm surprised that "single exposure flash + some post production" wouldn't be among the top responses. Is it really a choice between 'SOOC' and 'blending'? No one takes a single frame and then tweaks it in post?

  8. @ Scott Hargis ... now that you mention it, a lot of my smaller rooms and many of my exteriors only require one RAW exposure with the interiors getting an additional single flash exposure blended in PS. And I'm finding more and more that I don't even use that ambient exposure on many of those interiors... For those little box bedrooms and economy bathrooms it only takes one frame. I turn the lights on, hit it with flash and move to the next room. Now, if there is a hot window with something to see outside, that will require more frames.

    @ Jesse L Young... I'm right there with ya. I've learned a lot of what I do from you guys. 🙂

  9. @Scott Hargis - Hi Scott, when I set-up the poll and listed "Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC), either with or without off-camera flash", I'd presumed that this would include a little post-production but now that I've read your comment, it's clear that I should've been more specific and not made that assumption. Thanks for pointing that out.

  10. Brian Roberts ~ "Editing always takes me about twice what my time on site was, and I’m always looking for ways to cut that back."

    I spent some time tracking time on-site tweaking vs. Post and I'm closer to even most of the time. More complex images may go either way, but my preference is to get it as good as possible in camera for less time risk in post. The psychological aspect is to remember that the customer is going to see you making the photos on site and not see how much time you spend in front of the computer. If you are only on site for 20-30 minutes to deliver 25 images and another 90-100 minutes getting them acceptable on the computer, your customer might not be seeing your value.

    "And he's up there, what's that? Hawaiian noises?
    Bangin' on the bongos like a chimpanzee
    That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
    Get your money for nothin' get your chicks for free" ~ "Money for Nothing" Dire Straits

    RIP Ginger Baker who made it look simple to play drums.

    Time is a huge factor. I'm running a business that sells time. I spend half of my development effort finding ways to bring an average job in with less time spent. The other half of development is improving quality. As Holt points out, photographing commercial properties is much more lucrative but also more demanding of quality. The images need to last years rather than just a couple of months. Mediocre work isn't going to attract very many clients unless I were willing to work very cheap. I'm also not going to gain any RE agents that represent high value estates with so-so computer processed images. The artist in me wants those properties as they are more interesting to photograph and spending an entire day or more isn't out of the question. Lots of time to really craft each image. The money can be very nice as well. I cap bookings at 3 per day so even if I were going to charge somebody a fee that's a little less than all three of those time slots, I'm way ahead since I only have one trip, one billing, one load in/out, etc.

  11. Preferred method - single exposure with no flash. Lightroom processing only. It happens often enough, although mostly for externals and bathrooms with no windows.

  12. I cannot imagine trying to create an image with one flash-enhanced frame.

    Flash is always reflecting off of every glass surface. Windows. China cabinets. Bathroom glass. Everything.

    Then there is overspill. You stash a flash in a room in the background and it puts a flash dagger onto the ceiling in your main foreground space as it leaks through the doorway. And it lifts the inside of the door frame too.

    Flash bounce off ceilings? They no longer look natural.

    Use flash with ANY hanging anything? (Ceiling fans, pendant lights, chandeliers or any hanging dining room fixture). You’re screwed. That flash shadow is going to be on the opposite wall.

    Bedroom nightstands end up with shadows off the light fixtures opposite where they should be per the position of the window. Or better yet...shadows going in BOTH directions!

    And this deep deep spaces? How you gonna single flash exposure those? You need at least two flash frames and mask out your light stands stationed through the depth of the scene on the right and then left sides. You could use direct flash...but that’s to do color-blend mode over an all-ambient frame. So that’s two frames again.

    Nope nope nope. I can’t see myself doing that. Three brackets and a flash frame pretty much enables you to have all the resources you need to tacked any problem you’ll come across in post.

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