Last week Andi, a beginning photographer in Australia, asked me to identify what technique one of his competitors was using. It didn't look like an ambient shot, it looked a little like flash but not completely. It was clearly flash and ambient blend. Some call it exposure blending in Photoshop.
Beginning real estate photographers may wonder what people in the PFRE flickr forum are talking about when the talk about "Exposure Blending" or refer to blending an ambient image and one or more flash images together. Is this the same as "Exposure Fusion"? No, it's not. Exposure Fusion is where you combine a number of bracketed images with an automatic algorithm built into software such as Photomatix, Lightroom/Enfuse or other similar applications. Exposure blending is where you combine several bracketed images manually with layers in Photoshop. Since the images are on different Photoshop layers you have exacting control of how the layers are blended together.
As you can see from the tutorial above this is a very powerful technique. You can combine the best aspects of several images into one image.
The YouTube video above is by Simon Maxwell, an Architectural photographer working in the UK illustrates how to use exposure blending to carefully control the color balance in an interior shot. Simon now has 4 chapters in the newest version of Enfuse and Hand Blending in Photoshop For Real Estate Photography that go into detail on this powerful and popular manual blending technique. Controlling color balance is just one aspect of this technique.
You can also blend images with different exposures as well as different white balances. You may have noticed that Anders Carlson, last month's PFRE Photographer of the month for May said he created his winning image with Exposure blending of four different exposures.
Exposure blending is something you typically use for a project where you have plenty of time for post-processing. Since you could spend 30 minutes or more on a single image so this is not a technique I recommend for a typical real estate shoot where you are under tight time constraints. That said, I hear a surprising number of folks talk about blending images.