These Days

As a business owner, ignoring the present health crisis in the world would be self serving.  My wife works in healthcare, so the reality of what is of greatest importance reveals itself daily in a viceral, emotional way around here.  Any photography projects on the books having to do with people have been cancelled for me.  Product photography in my home studio as well as real estate photography is still happening and given that blessing, I thought I would relay in simple terms, how I photograph home interiors for realtors.

Tools of My Trade

For me, photographing a home’s interior requires a professional camera, a tripod, two speedlights on a single bracket and a strict set of procedures to follow from start to finish.

Upon arriving at the home to be photographed, I park in the street, away from any front windows where  my vehicle might be visible in the  window inside looking out.  Making contact with the realtor or seller with an introduction and business card is a good start before hauling in my equipment.  Everything I need for the shoot  can be carried in one trip.  I slip on a pair of rubber soled “interior shoes” and leave my street shoes out of sight on the porch.  The laundry room is my next destination to use as a staging area.  After attaching camera on tripod, connecting my speedlight bracket to the hotshoe via a coiled sync cord, I am ready to shoot my first room.   Shooting with a 19 mm Nikon perspective control architectural lens is my preferred choice.

The Process

Usually, deciding where to shoot first is dictated by where the realtor and seller are not.  In other words, if their working area is the kitchen, I will begin somewhere else until eventually I inform them that they will be in the frame unless they move!  Typically I start with the living room and circle around, spending most of my time in the kitchen and master bath.

Ambient Light

First, I choose an angle.  In this case, I am shooting into the windows of a four seasons room.  My camera settings in MANUAL mode are ISO 400 ,  F 9   , shutter  speed is 1/8th sec and I shoot in high dynamic range  (HDR) set in the camera.  My white balance is set to auto.

As you can see, the windows are blown out when photographed in HDR. That’s ok.   I want to capture the details in the room only – highlights/shadows.  The window views will be captured in the next frame when I “flash it”.   Also, color accuracy is not intrinsic when shooting in HDR, but when combined with the flashed image (consistency provided by  camera on tripod ) and adjusted in post production, the final image  will reflect color accuracy and the beautiful outdoor views.

The above image is the room photographed with the existing light in the room, again, not being concerned with the blown out windows.  I simply want to capture the natural light form the sunlight, lamps and any overhead lights as it falls on the furniture, floor and ceiling.


Next, from the exact same position ( camera on tripod) I tether my speed light bracket to the camera’s hot shoe.  These are 2 Nikon SB900’s set in manual mode. For this scene I have them set at full power  1/1 zoomed at 24mm.  My f stop has not changed, however, my shutter speed is upped to 1/200th of a sec in order to capture the view outside.

Post Production

The real magic happens in post production.  I use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop.  I open the 2 images (ambient and flashed).  Next while holding down the shift key, I drag  ( the  V key)  the ambient image OVER the flashed image.  (by holding down that shift key, both images will lock into each other.
The next edit I do is to “auto align” layers.  This assures me that both images are perfectly locked in.  This is accomplished by going to edit and scrolling down to auto align layers.

Final Retouches

With both layers in line, I click on layer 1.  From here, I click on the layer mask at the bottom of the page to add a layer mask to layer 1. With the layer mask selected, I choose a soft medium sized brush and begin to digitally “erase” or paint away sections of the ambient image where I think optimum visual unity between the natural world (ambient light) and the artificial world (flashed).  The ambient world will retain the natural shadows and light falling on objects.  The flashed world will give me the accurate color of furniture, walls, floor, etc).  It will also give me the view out the window. This is a subjective process. I stop “erasing” when I think the final image looks balanced and realistic retaining the  richness in detail.  I like to keep the window view about a stop over exposed.  I don’t want the window view to look like a huge poster of the the outside.  I want to retain realistic believability. Finally, I add a roaring fire in the fireplace, select and darken the outside view a bit and remove any distracting shadows from the flashed image.

    This process is played out in each room.  In small bathrooms, I only shoot flash with a slower shutter speed to keep some of the ambient light in the image. For those smaller windowless rooms,  that combination of ambient and flash is captured in one frame with little post production.



Be smart. Be safe. Thanks for reading.

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