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Archive 2013 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash
  
 
Tim Feeney
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


A friend of mine has recently started farming out some of his Real Estate Photography work to me, and I'm not happy with my results so far. The jobs he gets are nothing fancy, just lower end paid jobs, sufficient to be photographed with a single, on camera flash. All the realtors need is to basically show the rooms, nothing methodically lit, as if for Architectural Digest or the like.

On the other hand, there is the occasional very high end home, with large, dark rooms and high ceilings, and my 480 EX flash isn't cutting it in some of these rooms. It feels a waste to not light these places as well as possible, but the realtors settle for the quicker and simpler approach because the price is right. Still, I obviously want the best shots possible via a single flash (with gary fong diffuser, btw), and to get things as bright as I can, with the minimum of post-processing possible.

I'm working on a tripod, and wish to use an ISO of 100 or 200, so that I have less grain to deal with when I need to lighten up the images. Even ISO 400 is too grainy when I sometimes have to lighten things 1-2 stops. Btw, my camera is a Canon T1i, but I'll soon be upgrading to the T4i.

My real question: is there a way to set the camera to a low ISO on aperture priority mode, let the camera choose the exposure time it wants, and then have it fire off a fill flash at the end of the exposure to slightly correct for any incidental color shift, or just add a little more light? Would this even work? One of my headaches is dealing with image hotspots because of the flash, so I'm trying to minimize this problem as well. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!



May 24, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Post some examples. I know you are pushed for time but really with flash you want you camera in manual to have some control.

I don't understand real estate people dealing in high end homes with zero photography budget. Not what you asked for but interesting just what can be accomplished with one flash and some time: http://strobist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/one-light-real-estate-photography.html and http://www.strobist.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/mike-kelley-two-speedlight.html



May 24, 2013 at 08:35 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Tim Feeney wrote:
...My real question: is there a way to set the camera to a low ISO on aperture priority mode, let the camera choose the exposure time it wants, and then have it fire off a fill flash at the end of the exposure to slightly correct for any incidental color shift, or just add a little more light?


Firing the flash at the end of a long exposure is called rear-curtain sync or second-curtain sync. In the case of real estate photography, where nothing in the image is in motion, first-curtain sync would work just as well.

Tim Feeney wrote:
...One of my headaches is dealing with image hotspots because of the flash, so I'm trying to minimize this problem as well. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Get rid of the Fong Dome and use ceiling bounce instead, with your flash head aimed at the ceiling well into the room.

You can also take multiple shots without moving the camera, but changing where the flash is aimed, and combine them in post processing. That's often the best way to get rid of hot spots; you select only the best-lit section of each frame for inclusion in the final image.



May 25, 2013 at 02:59 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


+1 @ Brian ...

Skip the Fong (from on-camera position), you are putting light into areas that are not being photographed.

Multiple shot/light paint/post-composite can be a strategy with the static room. I tend to avoid direct lighting (harsh shadows), bouncing off a ceiling, side or back wall (noting potential for color cast),

Part of the problem with large rooms is the amount of falloff that occurs from the flash @ camera position to the far side of the room. You often times are shooting from one end of the room so that you can get max FOV.

For a (arbitrary number) 20 foot long room, you have some objects that are (arbitray numbers) 2 feet away and the far wall @ 20 feet away. If you bounce off the ceiling, side or back wall, the distance of light travel is now farther, say adding (arbitrary) 8 feet to the distance and now the light is traveling 10 feet and 28 feet to the same corresponding locations. The falloff variance between 10 vs. 28 feet is different from the falloff variance between 2 vs. 20 feet.

Of course, bouncing and extending the distance of the light travel has a reducing effect on the illumination levels. BUT, here is where Brian's point @ multiple/compost can come into play. If you can get your flash off camera, you can position your flash @ flash-subject distance to so that you are trying to illuminate portions of the room that are only (arbitrary) 10 feet away.

Understanding the difference between camera-subject distance vs. flash-subject distance is key here. Working with multiple lights for a single frame, I position to contend with falloff and "hide" the lights. Sometimes I don't have a good place to "hide" the lights. Even when working with only one light and a globe (think large Fong), I can shoot multiple frames while placing the light in different portions of the room, but I don't have to "hide" them as I can shoot the left side and the right side (or front and rear) and put together only the portions without the light & stand (or me as the stand) in the frame. Or it will allow me to place the light more "mid-room", repositioning light slightly differently in two frames so I can "paint it out" in layers @ post.

The two primary things that make this a viable strategy are 1) a rock solid tripod, and 2) the ability to use "off-camera" flash.

I'd strongly recommend either getting another flash (more power & ability to trigger "off-camera" flash), or at least the ability to have "off-camera" flash capability through a remote trigger or long cord.

Flash-Subject distance vs. Camera-Subject distance ... key to strategy for dealing with large rooms/high ceilings, etc. More power helps, but falloff over distance is still an issue when trying to light from camera position only.

HTH, GL



May 25, 2013 at 02:35 PM
aborr
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Tim Feeney wrote:
...
I'm working on a tripod, and wish to use an ISO of 100 or 200, so that I have less grain to deal with when I need to lighten up the images. Even ISO 400 is too grainy when I sometimes have to lighten things 1-2 stops.


You shouldn't see noticeable "grain" at ISO 400. It sounds like you are having problems getting the exposure right. Use the histogram and FEC when shooting to get the exposure correct in the camera rather than trying to fix underexposure errors in post.

Use the ambient light to your advantage. Especially in high end houses, the size and placement of windows, and the type and location of chandeliers, accent lights in the kitchen, etc., aren't random. They give the rooms shape and character. Even if you're using ETTL for the flash exposure, it's usually better to use manual aperture and shutter settings to control how much ambient light you include. (There's lots of discussion on FM and on the strobist site that gives the why and how for this.)

Al

PS: I agree with the other posters who suggest leaving the 'fong dong' at home.



May 27, 2013 at 12:23 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Tim Feeney wrote:
I'm working on a tripod, and wish to use an ISO of 100 or 200, so that I have less grain to deal with when I need to lighten up the images. Even ISO 400 is too grainy when I sometimes have to lighten things 1-2 stops.


I just re-read this part, and have to wonder: if you need to lighten an ISO 400 image by one or two stops, wouldn't you need to lighten an ISO 100 image of the same scene by two to four stops? If not, then you're underexposing your shots at all ISO settings by a couple of stops.

I agree with Al's comment that you need to use your histogram and "expose to the right" so that you don't need to lighten images after capture. If anything, you can darken a slight overexposure or use various techniques to increase the contrast and dynamic range in post processing. Those methods don't objectionably increase visible noise.



May 27, 2013 at 12:37 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Tim Feeney wrote:
Even ISO 400 is too grainy when I sometimes have to lighten things 1-2 stops.


Following the others ... are you referring to a need for a global increase of 1-2 stops (i.e. underexposed shot), or are you talking about the need for pp to selectively increase exposure in areas that are a product of falloff, since you are shooting from a single, on-camera flash?



May 27, 2013 at 11:42 PM
 

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markd61
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Rusty Bug has a very good point about your base exposure.

I would also suggest setting your ISO at 640 for interiors. This will let your flash have a greater effect. Do not worry about IQ. It will still be far more than anything needed from the file in its expected applications.

A single small flash for a large room, even if it is bounced, will have a minimal effect.
It will be useful for slightly opening the shadows but the main exposure needs to be ambient light.
Depending on the time of day you can have no light in the windows, incident light through the windows or light streaming through the windows.
This last is the least desirable as it creates way too much contrast and pools of blasted highlights..
With incident light you get some overall base exposure. Expose for the far wall and examine your image. The room should be decently exposed. If not, increase your exposure time. Leave your aperture at f8 (You will want the DOF). Repeat til you get something you like. Check your histogram. In low light, the LCD screen will give a misleading level of brightness causing underexposure if you rely on the screen.
The windows may be blown out. If you want to do one exposure to minimize post processing that is what will happen. You can fire your flash into the ceiling or slightly behind you to open shadows but don't expect too much with a small flash and a large room. If you want to blend exposures using something like Enfuse you can take a series of bracketed exposures and this will help open shadows and hold highlights. The trade-off is more post processing.


For night photos you will need to gel your flash to match the ambient artificial light. This will be less of an issue for you as realtors are unlikely to make the effort to let you take evening photos even if they are the most effective.

I am assuming you want to shoot JPG and download with as little fuss as possible. I understand. That is what you need to do to get the job done for the price paid. However, I urge you to start using RAWs as well to develop your skills that will enable you to deliver dramatically better images and market to clients who will pay more.



May 28, 2013 at 01:19 AM
workerdrone
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


I'd shoot RAW at a higher iso like others have said to help out your flash power. Take a little more time post processing with the extra latitude of the RAW files if needed to get results that you're happier with and the workflow speed will come later.

I was also shooting at f8 and f11 and such for depth of field earlier but I realized it's generally not necessary and again, makes your flash(es) work a lot harder. Opening up to f5.6 or so on a wide angle still gives you quite a bit of DOF to work with.

If the clients don't mind the windows blown out a bit, or completely, that makes your job very easy with a tripod since you bring in a lot more ambient light for overall detail



Jun 03, 2013 at 09:20 PM
paparazzinick
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Throw it on a tripod and shoot at f11 or higher on a lower ISO like 100. Use the flash in manual and light paint by triggering and aiming at multiple points in the photos. You will most likely use a long exposure like 20 or 30 seconds.

I did this a while ago when doing something similar.



Jun 07, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Elan II
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


I'm a little surprised by some of the replies here. Architectural interior photography is driven by the need to balance ambient light with fill. Other than the most basic, photography rules are secondary to this. You're basically locked into exposing to the ambient light you can't control, adjusting the ambient light you can control and using fill to balance the exposure.

You already know a single flash will not work in some (many) settings. Having your flash on camera is also very limiting. Make yourself a very basic kit with two off camera flashes, lightweight stands, a couple of umbrellas and cheap triggers. You're looking at $300 if you stick to basic gear. For daytime shots, gel the flashes at 1/4 to 1/2 CTO, set your WB to 3700-4200k and shoot away. It will take you a couple of hours to do the 10-12 realtor shots with this setup, but your post time will go down to almost nothing.





Jun 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM
ScooberJake
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


1) Your T1i will be fine at ISO 400, probably even 800. Your final output is small size jpegs viewed on a monitor or mobile phone. The noise will be completely insignificant as long as you expose correctly.

2) You can get the image bright enough by just using a longer shutter speed. It is better to expose properly from the start than to boost in post-processing. This may be why you are seeing noise if you are underexposing and then fixing in post.

3) Always turn on all lights in the room. You are trying to balance the interior light with exterior. Exterior will be way brighter, so do as much as you can on the interior.

4) Ditch the Fong. Bounce your flash off the wall behind you. This is usually the best, but it will cause problems if the wall has a strong color. You can also point up, or up and in, but that may give you shadow problems with lamps, ceiling fans, etc, and/or a bright spot on the ceiling. Fixable in PS, but that adds a lot of work.

5) The flash should be in manual. If you are only using one light you, in large rooms you will often be in the 1/4 to full power range, especially when bouncing.

6) Use your tripod, start at an aperture of about f/5.6, ISO 400, and then either in M or Av (with exposure compensation) get a proper exposure, whatever shutter speed that is. (Note that this may be brighter than what the camera thinks is correct, since it will be thrown off by the bright windows.) Your windows will be very bright, possibly nuclear depending on time of day, size of room, etc.

7) How you like your windows is a bit of a style issue. I go for a more realistic look, which is also what you see in Architectural Digest, Pottery Barn catalog, etc. That means bright windows, but not nuclear. If you don't like the windows from your shot in step 6, shoot another one where the windows are exposed how you want them and the room is dark. May be down 3 stops, who knows. Then blend the two in PS.

8) If you want to do this well, and quickly, and get it right in camera to minimize post work, you need multiple flashes. You basically have two options. Option A is to go the pocket wizard route. This is expensive, but gives you lots of flexibility. Option B is to get off-camera flashes with built in slaves. Some old Nikon flashes have this (SB-26 or 28? SB-80dx? Promaster 7000M? Can't remember for sure.) Just use your Canon flash on camera in manual to trigger, put the off-camera flashes on stands and bounce them off walls which are not in the frame.

9) You can also do this with HDR or exposure fusion. Less time on site and less equipment cost, more time in post. Your on-camera flash will still be useful.

10) Visit the Photography For Real Estate group on Flickr to learn more about all this stuff I mentioned.



Jun 11, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Psychic1
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


I never use a flash.
I use a 1DsIII and TS-E24L on a tripod.
F11 - iso200 - live view - 2 second shutter
+1 - 0 - -1 and Photomatrix if necessary.
I prefer long exposure.

A recent shoot http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1189033/0



Jun 11, 2013 at 03:59 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Real Estate Photography With A Single Flash


Without flash vs. with flash
(single flash off camera).

Not sure I could pull off a 2 second exposure for these. OTOH, I don't think you could light Grand Central with just one light.





Without Flash






With Flash & PP crop




Jun 11, 2013 at 07:18 PM





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