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Combining a Flash Layer(s) With a Ambient Layer For a Real Estate Interior Photo

Published: 27/08/2015

AmbientPlusFlashYou may have noticed that more and more real estate photographers who post in the PFRE photo forum describe the technique they used as blending a flash layer with an ambient layer (like anjie b). Also, you will frequently see this technique used in winning photos in the PFRE monthly photo contest (like Anders Carlson). There is much more of this going on than there was just a few years ago. That is, because if you shoot a flash image and an ambient image, you can quickly combine these two in Photoshop to get the best of both.

What's The Motivation For This Technique?

  • Flash lighting and ambient only lighting each have their own distinctive look. Sometimes it can take more time on site to get a good flash image with no shadows.
  • You can get the best of both ambient only look and flash only look in a way you can control directly.
  • You can easily remove shadows from flash shots with an ambient layer in Photoshop.

How Do You Use This Technique?

  • As with anything you can get as carried away with this technique as you want. You can combine just a couple of layers or 100 layers or more.
  • Kevin Vitali has this fairly good example of combining one flash layer and one ambient layer.
  • You can use the "open as photoshop layers" feature of Lightroom by selecting the images you want to open as each image on a layer in Photoshop.

If you are not practiced in using Photoshop layers, this may seem complex but once you get familiar with using Photoshop layers it can be quite fast.

Larry Lohrman

10 comments on “Combining a Flash Layer(s) With a Ambient Layer For a Real Estate Interior Photo”

  1. I do use this method once and a while. Mostly I use bounce flash along with ambient light and raw file on my Sony A6000. This camera has a wider tonal range than many of the DSLRs used RE photography.

  2. Great technique for bringing in lamps and fashion lighting. Shoot the lights separately, turn them off, and shoot the room. All the beauty of the fixture without the funky color balance issues.

  3. I love the look of an ambient lights-off look in a well lit room. But the great thing about combining flash with the ambient is the flash will add a subtle sharpness/shine/cleanliness to the image. Take an ambient without flash, take a shot with flash and then mask-in the portions where the flash looks clean without looking too flashy.

  4. I'd like to hear more opinions, likes, dislikes regarding lights on or lights off in a different post, or here. I personally combine ambient and flash and like some orange glow from tungsten lights for warmth.

  5. That's how I do it, but with one extra layer.

    1st Exposure: Flash, for a nice bright interior, but the windows can be too light
    2nd: Ambient: To repair flash, add natual ambience like interior lighting and window light

    For very bright sunny days:
    3rd: Another flashed frame, but exposed darker for the outdoors. If you pull your LR shadow/highlight sliders on this frame to the extreme ends (highlights to the darkest setting, shadows to the lightest setting) you can paint in the windows without having to mask anything. The reason for this is that the flash has helped out the window frames so they don't go black - after you adjust the sliders, they just about match the combination in the first 2 frames. You just adjust this frame to taste. This frame also can be used to correct blown out interior lights.

    Keep in mind too, that PS CC will align all three frames or you now, since regardless of how stable your tripod is, just adusting one thing, like turning off a radio, can misalign the image stack.

  6. @brooke
    I gel my flashes if it looks too cold without the gel, and that depends on how much influence daylight has on the space and how strong the tungsten lights are.

  7. This is the way I've been working for almost seven years now. For my market it is the most efficient combination to get the required quality and also get through a property in enough time to allow doing about 800 properties per year.

    It does however require some knowledge of Photoshop layers and masks which for some reason seems to stump a large number of photographers.

    Not knowing how to use layers and masks effectively in this day and age would be like a photographer not knowing how to dodge and burn their prints in the darkroom back when photographers used film.

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