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Author: Tony Colangelo While many photographers rely heavily on social media to market themselves, I believe there is still plenty of value in having a dedicated website with great photo galleries. There are far too many benefits of having a strong web ...

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Shoot and Edit a Room in Under 90 Seconds

This process is a slight oversimplification of my typical real estate photography workflow but for the most part, it's the approach I take 90% of the time. I've used this method to shoot thousands of homes in my own market and have been fortunate to test it on much larger homes around North America. In my experience, this technique has proven to be scalable and efficient. The only variables that change when shooting larger homes are the number of lights needed and the power of those lights.

For this example, I'm shooting a standard master bedroom in a typical 2000 sq ft, everyday home.

On-Site

  1. Pick your composition.
  2. Expose for the ceiling you want in the final image - Take a shot (ambient only).
  3. Expose for the brightest thing you want to retain detail in like a window or bright light (Scott Hargis style). Take a shot using as much flash as you need to light the scene; blast away color casts, and bring out textures in flooring, finishings, etc. Don't worry about the directionality of the light as this will be dealt with later in post.

In Post

  1. Import your images to Lightroom.
  2. Highlight the ambient and flash images.
  3. Right click > Edit > Open as layers in Photoshop.
  4. Drag the flash layer above the ambient layer.
  5. Adjust the global opacity to taste; 70-80% seems to be the sweet spot for me.
  6. Add a layer mask to the flash layer.
  7. Select a large, soft brush at 100% opacity and 10-15% flow.
  8. Make sure black is selected in the color field.
  9. Brush in additional ambient light to taste e.g. remove harsh shadows from flash, bring back shadows where needed to respect the directionality of light; blend out reflections in mirrors or pictures, etc.

At this point, the blending is done so you can finish by tweaking verticals, double checking for lens distortion; and bring the image back into Lightroom for final tweaks.

Conclusion:

This might seem like a lot of steps to execute, but once you get comfortable with the process and create keyboard/Lightroom short cuts, you'll be able to consistently shoot and edit a room in less than 90 seconds.

Note: There are situations where this technique won't work as well, including, but not limited to:

  • Rooms with dark paint on the ceiling 
  • Heavily wooded places like timber frame homes (unless they have nice white ceilings and you have powerful lights)
  • Rooms with no ambient light

The goal here is to be as efficient as possible in the spaces that are easily managed so that we have extra time to spend on the more challenging ones.

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