Complete Guide for Real Estate Photography Lighting

Photography Lighting

In this tutorial, we will teach you about real estate photography lighting and how to use it quickly and effectively to get beautiful real estate photos.

One of the scariest things many professional photographers face is real estate photography lighting

But in reality, adding a flash to a real estate photo is simple and easy, given the nature of the subject: it is frequently stills and rooms where you can work in your spare time.

In this tutorial, we will teach you how to quickly and efficiently work with a flash to achieve beautiful results!

Real Estate Photography Lighting | Overview of Shooting Techniques

Before starting, let’s look at all the ways you can use lighting for real estate photography:

  • Single exposure: Good when possible, but usually simply will not!
  • HDR bracketed exposure: A ubiquitous way to capture a wide variety of interiors and exteriors.
  • Single exposure with flash: A quick, fundamental, and easy way to add light to a room.
  • Multiple flash exposures: Suitable when you need to illuminate multiple subjects or place the flash in image composition.
  • HDR bracketed exposure with flash: The ultimate way to control all contrast and lighting in any environment.

Both HDR and flash play an essential role for you in being an expert at real estate photography lighting, so you should learn both! Sometimes HDR is necessary to capture your scene, while other times, using a flash is the perfect way to shoot real estate photos.

Choose Flash for Real Estate Photography Lighting

The fastest, most affordable, and least intimidating way to add light to a property or room is to buy a single flash and hold it wirelessly by hand or use a simple light stand.

You do not need the best speedlight for real estate photography. A hotshoe strobe may be enough for those who want to shoot at a slightly higher ISO or slightly wider/brighter aperture. 

However, you may want to add a bit more flash if you want to always shoot at the lowest ISO and a relatively small aperture. 

Having a stronger flash will also help to bounce off very high ceilings or illuminate much of the property exterior at sunset.

Method 1: Single Exposure with Flash

Single Exposure with Flash

Suppose the natural light real estate photography is not too good for some dark subjects, even when exposing brightly with the exposure mode. In that case, you may need to add some of your light to the scene and illuminate the subject. 

Adding lighting to the scene lets you control the light direction and quality of pivotal subjects in any view.

But before you start to forcefully light your flash on everything and get all kinds of images with harsh blowouts or shadows, consider possible methods:

Direct Flash

Direct flash can work, but it will often cause shadows and bright highlights that make images look worse than natural light.

Direct Flash

But you may not need to go out and buy the best lighting for real estate photography or any other lighting equipment for real estate photography! Just practice finding the best angle possible to minimize hard shadows, or better yet, try firing the flash on the ceiling.

Bare Flash Bounced off the Ceiling

Projecting the room’s ceiling flash is a great way to quickly fill a large portion of the room with soft and even light. 

Bare Flash Bounced off the Ceiling

That is, of course, just as long as the ceiling is not in your photo frame. If that is the case, you will end up with a white spot blowing out on the ceiling in your image.

Also, this method only works if the ceiling is a relatively neutral color. Bouncing will not work well if you have a dark wood ceiling or any paint other than a neutral gray/white. So always look for white or near-white ceilings or walls.

Flash Exposure Setting Guidelines

The brightness of the flash or strobe light is known as its power. This is measured in stops like your camera settings. These stops count down from “full power” or 1/1 power. 1/2 power is 1 EV darker, and 1/4 power is 2 EV darker. 

Flash output typically ranges from 1/1 at brightest to 1/128 at darkest for hotshoe strobes or 1/16 or 1/32 for larger studio ones.

The only confusing thing to remember is that 1/1 power is not the same across all flash units. Different flashes can be brighter at 1/1 power, which is why the best flash diffuser for real estate photography comes in handy when you need a lot of light.

On your camera

, start at a low ISO and aperture that lets you capture everything in a scene relatively sharp. And use any shutter speed that gives you balanced exposure.

If the ambient exposure is too bright or dark, change the shutter speed but avoid changing the aperture or ISO since they will also affect flash brightness.

If your flash is too bright or dark, you can easily adjust it up or down a stop. If it runs at full power and still not shining enough, try a higher ISO and faster shutter speed. 

Method 2: Multiple Flash Exposures

Like the previous method, start by testing your lights for real estate photography to have the lighting and shadows of your scene look good.

Sometimes your inner or outer composition is complicated enough that you need to stand in your photo to get the light right! When this happens, it can still be done relatively quickly once you get to the site but will require quite a bit of post-production work. 

We already wrote an article about how to get rid of an object in Photoshop for this case. You should definitely check it out!

Method 3: Incorporates both Flash and HDR Techniques

There are two ways to combine flash and HDR. Some photographers may want to keep it simple and just add a flash for each exposure in the HDR bracket.

Other photographers may prefer to create an HDR sequence, then shoot a few separately with flash, and selectively combine flash exposure with HDR in post-production if needed.

But if you are a beginner, just shoot an HDR sequence like you usually would and take a few flash-illuminated interior shots as you regularly do. 

Do not worry about incorporating them in post-production unless either two individual methods are unsuccessful. 

Post-production

Many photographers prefer to start in Lightroom with their RAW file images, then switch to Photoshop or an HDR app with TIF or JPG converted files if needed. About using HDR for this purpose, read this article to know-how.

Wrapping up

With this knowledge, and with only a small investment in equipment and practice, you will feel completely prepared and confident in your ability to add light to your real estate photography in any circumstances.

If you have any questions about real estate photography lighting or any tips or tricks of your own, please leave a comment below!