Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for March, 2006

Do you have ethics for photo editing?

Posted by larrylohrman on March 31, 2006

What are your professional ethics for modifying marketing photos? Are there limits for how much or what things you will modify in a marketing photograph?

My take on this question is as follows: Marketing photography is different than photojournalism or documentary photography where accurate photographic recording is assumed by the viewer. The purpose of marketing photography is to make a product (in this context a home) look good. So I feel it is ethical to replace skies, remove power lines or what ever you can do to make the home look good? Some of these “modifications” are done before the photo is taken like controlling the light, moving furniture, adding attractive furniture removing clutter and generally styling the space to look attractive. Other modifications are easier done after the photo is taken in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

You frequently see architectural drawings used to market new homes. Architectural drawings are very stylized, have dramatic skies and don’t show power lines or other ugly, realistic details so why not think of your interior/exterior photographs of a home as architectural drawings?

What are the limits to what you would change in a home marketing photo? Are there any limits?

Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »

Perspective Correction with Hugin

Posted by larrylohrman on March 30, 2006

Today I got a great comment on a January 26th post where I was ranting about images that had walls that are not vertical. I described how to make sure walls are straight by using the Image>Transform>distort tool in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Marc Lacoste said…
I suggest you use real perspective correction, not stretching for better results. See this tutorial for Hugin: http://hugin.sourceforge.net/tutorials/perspective/en.shtml

I’d heard of Hugin but I didn’t know it could be used for perspective correction. Hugin is free and it runs on Mac’s and PCs. Marc’s comment suggests that the algorithm that Hugin uses for perspective correction is superior to using distort to stretching the image so the walls are straight. I’ve never noticed a quality difference with images I use Transform>Distort on but maybe there is a down side to using distort. I’m going to check out Hugin for correcting perspective.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »

Clone Away Distractions

Posted by larrylohrman on March 29, 2006


Do you ever have distracting items in your photos you wish you could remove? One of the classic distracting items is all the photos, kids’ drawings and grocery lists that sellers invariably have on their refrigerator door. We encourage sellers to have all this kind of clutter to put it away while their home is on the market. But of course when I arrive to take photos it’s not done or some sellers are just not good at cleaning up this kind of thing. I find it takes less time to remove refrigerator clutter in Photoshop Elements than it does to physically take it all down and then politely put it back the way it was.

Power lines are another visually distracting item I always take out of front exterior photos. I’ve also removed cars in front of homes and frequently remove exercise equipment from master bedrooms all with the magic of the clone tool.

The clone tool in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements copies an area from one location to another. Frequently you need to select the general area to be replaced with the polygonal lasso tool so you get nice clean edges. Then clone a surrounding area to the area to be removed. If you want step-by-step details for cloning I suggest either of Scott Kelly’s books, Photoshop CS2 for digital photographers or Photoshop Elements 4.0 for digital photographers. It takes a little practice to master cloning out unwanted parts of an image but you will find that after you get the hang of it the viewer can never tell the difference.

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Composing Your Photograph

Posted by larrylohrman on March 28, 2006


Composing a photograph is a process of finding, clarifying and framing a shot. Composing involves deciding what to include and what to leave out. To guide your decision of what include and leave out you need an idea of what is important or special about the space you are shooting. Ask yourself, “What is it that I want to communicate with this image?”

In going back and looking at some of the interior images I’ve shot over the last few years I’ve run across several that I am guilty of not thinking about what the important elements of the space are before I setup and shoot. It’s easy to be rushed by real or apparent time pressure and to just shooting first and think about the shot later.

The image above is an example of a shot I didn’t do much thinking about. This is a wonderfully designed and styled living room with a beautifully detailed marble fireplace flanked and stunning floor to ceiling windows and I’ve obstructed the view these important elements with an unimportant couch and table in the foreground. The couch and table in the foreground add little and are more of a distraction.

Thinking about this situation now I’d like to go back and move the foreground couch and table out of the way to shoot the same angle and to try shooting other angles as well. I went back and looked at all the shots of the room (only 3) and they were only slight variations of this shot. This is a case where moving around furniture could have produced a shot that better communicated the elegance of this room.

Posted in Photo Composition | Leave a Comment »

Scanned Images from Film

Posted by larrylohrman on March 27, 2006


Today I ran across more sky replacement images that I forgot I had. So I added seven of the best ones to my free sky replacement images at www.lohrman.com/skies/skies.htm. These skies are scanned from slides that I shot 7 years ago on a trip to Saint Marten in the Caribbean. So I can no longer call my sky collection “Seattle Skies”.

This is a good example of the fact that you can use all the techniques I talk about with a film camera. Just have the film scanned to a CD when you have the film processed. You don’t have to have prints made. Just load the images on the CD like you would from you camera memory. I did this for several years before purchasing a digital camera just so I could get the benefit of using Photoshop to fix images image problems.

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Video Photography for Real Estate

Posted by larrylohrman on March 25, 2006

There was an article today in the Seattle Times today about how new models of compact digital cameras are able to shoot fairly long video clips. This article got me thinking about the fact that we added a video camcorder to our real estate photography tools this last year. We purchased a Sony camcorder that writes to mini-DVD disks.

To me the key technology is the ability to create a DVD disk that one can quickly and easily give to a client. These cameras in the Seattle Times article can create video but to give it to a client in any form they can use is a more difficult process that can take hours and special software. We used the new camcorder on our first transaction this year where our buyers could not make it to a critical stucco inspection because of their busy schedules. I video taped the stucco inspector describing the problems with the stucco and gave the mini-DVD to the buyers right out of the camera later that day. Later I made copies for the listing agent and sellers and our transaction records with a DVD copy program.

We’ve also used the camcorder to record key features of a series of homes while showing homes and then gave the DVD to the buyer at the end of the showings. This was less effective because of all things I didn’t have a wide-angle converter for the camcorder so it was hard to shoot interiors. We are fixing that problem.

I believe that the ability to shoot video can be very useful for real estate agents but the only video cameras I can recommend to real estate agents are the ones that write the video straight to a mini-DVD.

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Get an External Flash

Posted by larrylohrman on March 24, 2006


I got a reader comment today on my May 15, 2005 post about the challenge of bright windows that I can't help commenting on. The reader said, “1) you could 'bracket' exposures in a couple of three shots for every scene… one exposure in the middle range, one exposure to capture the bright windows, and one to capture the darker interior. then… 2) use Photoshop to merge the three layers to achieve the overall exposure you desire… the technique is called "high Dynamic range"

Yes, taking multiple exposures is a workable way to deal with bright windows and I used to use this technique. But what I’ve found is that when I’m shooting from 15 to 30 shots of a home the time it takes to deal with the bright window problem by photo editing is excessive compared to using an external flash unit. It takes me from 15 to 30 minutes per image to blend multiple images in Photoshop with either of the two techniques I described in my Bright Windows and Bright Windows II post so you are talking several extra hours photo editing time if you assume in 30 shots from a shoot there are just 4 shots that have bright windows. On the other hand for around $200 one time cost you could purchase an external flash and never have to spend time photo editing bright windows again!

With an external flash you not only eliminate having to fool around photo editing bright windows but the colors in your shots look better. Whites look white instead of tan or grey and other colors look better. I know many photographers resist using flash because they think it is tricky or complicated. It’s not difficult! And it is well worth the investment. If you get an external flash that is designed to work with your camera it’s as easy as setting the flash on TTL mode and taking the shot. If you use a slave flash that is triggered by a built-in flash on a compact camera there is a little trial and error but it’s not difficult. Get an external flash unit. You'll be glad you did.

Posted in Flash Technique | 3 Comments »

White Balance

Posted by larrylohrman on March 23, 2006


White balance in a digital image is a feature in digital cameras that determines how the color of a digital image looks. The image above is an image I shot several years ago with a CooPix-995 in a basement room with no windows lit only with incandescent bulbs. The shot I took immediately before this one was a room with plenty of windows and I didn’t remember to change the white balance setting on the camera as I moved into this room.

There are two ways to prevent this kind of image. If you are shooting with a camera that doesn’t record RAW images (this is the case for most but not all compact digital cameras) you have to change the white balance setting on the camera when you notice a room like this with no natural light. Or, if you are shooting with a camera that does record raw images you can ignore the white balance problem when shooting and just adjust the white balance that looks best when you open the image the first time in your photo editor.

I use the later method because my Canon DSLR records in RAW mode. I found this ability to set the white balance when you first open the file to be one of the greatest features of switching from a digital compact camera to a DSLR. Shooting in RAW mode frees you from worrying about white balance completely and allows you to a continuous range of white balance settings instead of just 3 or 4 like the typical compact digital camera.

Of course when you make a mistake in white balance like I did in the image above you can always adjust the white balance in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. But it can be a struggle to make after the fact major color shifts.

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Image Composition

Posted by larrylohrman on March 22, 2006


What’s wrong with this image? This is an image I shot this last week in a small living room with my wide-angle zoom cranked all the way out to 16mm.

While shooting, I completely missed the distracting angles that the lines in the ceiling make. This is a perfect example of how you have to be careful of all the vertical and horizontal lines when composing and framing a shot with a wide-angle lens because perspective is exaggerated. To me this shot gives the feeling there are too many angles. It feels like a room in a fun-house! The odd angle that the ceiling and ceiling tray make is a big distraction. That is, the strong angles in the ceiling draw your attention and detract from other more important features of the room. All the perspective lines converge to the corner to the right of the fireplace which is not the focal point of the room. Also, the vertical elements of the window are not completely parallel with the edge of the image. We live in a world in which all walls are perfectly vertical so when your eye picks up non-vertical wall it looks unusual and keeps traveling back to that part of the image.

The vertical lines in the window can easily be fixed in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements with the “Transform>Distort” feature. I always spend some time during photo editing making sure all verticals are in fact vertical. In the photo above it took a little more work to fix the angle problem in the ceiling. I think the photo below works better with all the crazy angles fixed. Notice where your eyes move in the photo below compared to the way the move in the photo above. I find when I look at the image above my eyes move around trying figure out what’s wrong where as in the one below my eyes easily settle on the fireplace and then move to the window.

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Ultra Wide-angle Lens Review

Posted by larrylohrman on March 20, 2006

For those interior photographers either have or are considering purchasing a Digital SLR such as the Canon 20D, 30D, 350D or Nikon D50 or D70 a ultra wide angle lens is an essential piece of gear because of the magnification factor of these bodies. Ken Rockwell over at kenrockwell.com has a wonderfully in depth review of the ultra wide angle lens alternatives for these bodies. That is, the lenses that come with these DSLR bodies are not appropriate for interior shooting. For interior shooting you need a ultra wide angle lens in the 10mm to 20mm range because of the 1.5 & 1.6 magnification factor of these bodies. Ken compares all the alternative ultra wide angle lenses.

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Free Sky Replacement Images

Posted by larrylohrman on March 19, 2006


While doing the sky replacement posts a few days ago I was looking some free replacement skies because I couldn’t get hold of Ed at http://www.1000skies.com to get permission to use one of his skies for my demo. I wasn’t able to find any so I decided to post my own free collection. They are at: www.lohrman.com/skies/skies.htm . Right now it only has five skies including the ones that I used for last weeks sky replacement demo but I’ll be building the collection up over the next few months. There is a place that I drive through several times a week that doesn’t have any buildings around that is a good place to get good sky photos.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »

Prices Drop to $9.95 Per Tour

Posted by larrylohrman on March 18, 2006

Brad from buildatour.com told me today that they’ve reduced their price per tour to $9.95! This is a big surprise to me. We recently switched to using buildatour.com on every listing and all our rentals and I thought that their tours were a great value at their previous price of $29.95 per tour.

Brad says that their research indicated that many agents were only doing tours for their upper-end listings instead of all of their listings. This is what I’ve noticed by just looking at our local MLS. With this new lower price there is really no reason left for not using virtual tours on all listings. I think this new price point has the potential to significantly changes the way virtual tours are used.

For those non-agent, professional photographers out there, that I know read this blog, at $9.95 per tour you can afford to include these tours in the photographic product you deliver to agents. I’ve always thought that real estate photographers should deliver more than a bunch of JPG files. I think the photographs should be delivered as finished media in the form of home flyers, virtual tours in addition to JPGs to load on the MLS. Many agents I know would rather have someone do the whole thing.

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Sky Replacement

Posted by larrylohrman on March 16, 2006


Last Monday when I talked about improving skies in exterior photos I mentioned that once you delete the boring sky you can replace it with a more exciting sky. The photo above is essentially the same exterior photo I used to demonstrate the “perfect sky” technique. Here I’ve replaced the sky with one I took a couple of years ago at the Oregon beach at sunset.

To add the new sky size it to the same pixel width as the sky you are replacing and put the new sky on a Photoshop or Photoshop Elements layer below the exterior with the sky deleted. Recall that to delete the boring sky use the magic wand with the tolerance set to around 30 or 40 pixels to select the sky. This way all the pixels in a range of colors are selected. Then backspace to delete the sky.

The trees around the roof of the house present a problem. Its sometimes difficult to delete the parts of the sky that are showing through the trees. One could manually erase all the parts of the sky that are showing through the trees but that’s quite tedious so I just removed the troublesome trees around the roof line.

Of coarse you need to be careful when replacing the sky with a sunset. If you show a sunset occurring in the wrong direction you could be seriously misrepresenting the orientation of the property. In this case I used this sunset as a demonstration only. In actual practice replacement skies should not be this direction specific.

Also, If you look at the lighting in this photo you will notice the lighting on the house is inconsistent with the direction and color of the sunlight from the sunset. This is because the house photo was taken in the morning to get good exposure on the house. This kind of inconsistency is frequently unavoidable when you monkey with Mother Nature!

Below is a less direction specific sky replacement.

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What is a Wide-angle Lens?

Posted by larrylohrman on March 15, 2006


What is a wide-angle lens? This is a concept that is critical for real estate photographers to understand. The angle of view or how wide an angle a camera can “see” is related to the focal length of the lens. That’s the number that you always see quoted in millimeters (mm). The angle of view is also related to the size of the camera’s sensor but that factor is taken care of by the convention that the focal lengths for compact cameras with small sensors are adjusted for the sensor size. Digital cameras with removable lenses that have small sensors have a multiplier (like 1.5 or 1.6) that must be multipled by the focal length to get the effective focal length.

So all you have to think about is effective focal length. The diagram above shows that a 24mm lens can ‘see” 73.7 degrees and a 35mm lens can see 54.4 degrees. Lenses with smaller focal lengths can see even wider angles of view. My 8mm fisheye can “see” 179 degrees.

For the purposes of shooting interiors you need lens that is 24mm or shorter. Why 24mm? Because 24mm lenses have a wide angle of view but are not so wide that the perspective starts to look exaggerated. Whether you go wider than 24 to 20mm or 16mm or 14mm is a matter of taste. I work with a 16-35mm zoom and find my self having the lens zoomed to 16mm or 18mm all the time.

The main message I want to get across is don’t be sold a camera for interior shooting that won’t zoom down to at least 24mm. This happens all the time. Last week I was at a real estate convention where the speaker was recommending camera whose widest angle was 35mm. With a 35mm lens your interior photos will look like you are looking through a keyhole!

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Interior Photography by Eric Roth

Posted by larrylohrman on March 14, 2006

As you can see I changed the template for this blog today. I think this format with its white background is more readable than the black background I was using.

Yesterday I got a copy of Interior Photography by Eric Roth. I think it’s the best book I’ve seen on interior photography. All the books on interior photography I’ve found (including this one) are by professional photographers that make their living shooting for magazines. This is, in a way very different than shooting for real estate marketing. Yet most of the photographic problems are the same.

I find the advice on lighting and use of photo editing very applicable to real estate photography. Eric Roth gives an example of burned-out windows that he solves with multiple exposures and Photoshop. In a section called “The Precepts of Good Lighting” he says, “As with and artistic endeavor, there are many styles of lighting. The only rule is: Don’t look for rules to follow because there are none! In fact, someone who thinks there are steadfast rules is probably too limited in his or her approach…

Another interesting aspect of interior photography that this book goes into is that professional photographers may times work with what Roth calls a “stylist”. I’d heard this term use by other professional interior photographers but never understood exactly what was meant. “Styling” is what real estate people call “staging”. Most professional interior shoots involve having a “stylist” bring in props and furniture to make a photo look good. Of coarse the difference is that in real estate the “styling” stays in place until the home sells. I always enjoy shooting a home that has been will staged either by a savvy homeowner or a professional stager.

Posted in Books | 2 Comments »

Perfect Skies

Posted by larrylohrman on March 13, 2006


A reader from Utah told me recently that one of the problems he was having was that since it’s always so sunny and bright the skies on his home photos would frequently “burn-out” to pure white since he set the exposure so the home was well exposed. I get white skies here in the Seattle but it’s more because the sky usually grey and uninteresting.


An interesting or dramatic sky can add a lot to the image of the front of a home. With a little photo editing there is no reason you have to put up with boring skies. You can either make the skies blue or you can replace them with a sky from some other time and place. The lower photo that has a mostly white sky is a listing from several years ago that had a great view but every time I came to photograph it was not visible. At the time my solution was to combine two photos taken on a different day’s one exposed for the house and one exposed for the sky. I was never really pleased with the result because it still wasn’t very dramatic.

In the March 2004 issue of Photoshop User there was an article called The Real Estate Photographer’s “Perfect Sky” by Scott Kelby and Felix Nelson. The photo at the top of this post is a rework of the lower photo using Kelby and Nelson’s technique. Basically in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop you select the sky with the magic wand and then delete the selection and then make a layer below that has the color of sky you want. You then create a third layer above the sky blue with a darker blue that has a ellipse selection whole with a 50 to 100 pixel feather. The result is seen above; a blue sky with an oval shaped lighter section near the horizon.

Another option than may architectural photographers use is to use a stock sky instead of the pure blue sky. Stock skies are available from sources such as http://www.1000skies.com/ .

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Bright Windows Part IV

Posted by larrylohrman on March 10, 2006

The last way you can deal with bright windows is to use an external flash unit to increase the internal brightness level to the same level as outside so the same exposure will work for the inside as the outside. In actual practice this is not difficult. Just use the TTL or E-TTL automatic feature of your flash. The above photo is done automatic flash. If you shoot without flash the photo will need photo editing so the interior is properly exposed. This means using one of the first two photo editing alternatives or letting the windows “blow-out” (go over exposed).

It’s all a matter of trading photo editing time for the extra money that an external flash costs. As a reader recently told me after he got his flash “… it’s much less stressful using an external flash” because he was putting in a lot of time using photo editing to fix bright windows and he couldn’t always be sure he could fix every photo.

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Bright Windows Part III

Posted by larrylohrman on March 9, 2006

A third alternative for shooting bright windows is to make use of those magical twilight times of day when the light levels inside are very near the light levels outside. At this time of day the windows are not bright so you can make one exposure that renders both the inside and the outside with correct exposure. The example above is an example of a master bedroom that I shot during twilight (1/4sec at f8 16mm on a tripod in early Sept at 7:30PM) with all natural light except ceiling spots. The colors are more dramatic at this time of day.

Gregg Krogstad has some stunning examples of twilight interior photos in the portfolio section of his site www.krogstadphoto.com/. My all time favorite is Gregg's photo Cover photo for Seattle Design Resources- Robert Egge Construction. It has a beautifully exposed interior with a dramatic twilight blue view of the Seattle skyline out the windows.

The only problem with this technique is that you must have total control over the shooting time. I it's possible to control the shooting time at most only part of the time. With high-end homes where sellers have very high expectations of the photos they are more willing to let you choose the shooting time. When I took the shot above the home owners were having a dinner party and were willing move the party from room to room while I was shooting. I'd explained that this was the best time of the day for shooting their home. Many sellers will try to get you to come shoot at 2:00 or 3:00PM.

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Bright Windows Part II

Posted by larrylohrman on March 8, 2006

Another variant of taking the best part of two differently exposed but perfectly registered interior shots is not blending the two images like I talked about yesterday but actually using only the two best parts of the two shots. That is use only the windows from the shot with correctly exposed windows and use only the interior from the shot with correctly expose interior.

This is done by placing the two shots in layers that are perfectly registered (shift-drag the interior shot on to the window shot in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements). Then selecting the windows on the top shot and erasing the windows from the top layer letting the correctly exposed windows show through from the lower layer. The result is shown above.

I like this result better than the blending result I showed yesterday. What determines when you can use this technique is how difficult it is to select the windows. This example works because selecting the windows is not difficult. However, you can imagine a window with a complicated plant sitting in front of the window that would make window selection much more difficult.

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Bright Windows

Posted by larrylohrman on March 7, 2006

Have you ever tried to photograph a room with very bright windows? If you are not using any lighting equipment (like flash) you will usually find it’s nearly impossible to get an exposure that gets detail in the bright windows and detail in the darkest corner of the room. This is because the brightness range is too wide for any camera to record. You can expose for the windows or you can expose for the dark corner, not both. What you’d like to do is combine two different photos. One that you’ve exposed for the windows with one you’ve exposed for the dark corner into one image that covers the whole brightness range.

You’re in luck; there is a way to combine two such photos into a single image. You use a Photoshop Elements plug-in called DRI Pro from www.fredmiranda.com/software . DRI stands for Dynamic Range Increase. This $20 plug-in makes blending to interior shots a breeze. You’ll need to use a tripod so the two images (one exposed for the windows and the other exposed for the darker interior) are exactly registered. Or if you are shooting with camera that records in RAW mode you can shoot one photo in Raw mode and open it twice setting the exposure on one for the windows and the other for the interior.

Every home seller with a view home wants you to create a photograph that shows their beautiful interior and the great view. Unless you have some tricks like DRI Pro up your sleeve you won’t be able to deliver the photo that your client expects.

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Photoshop Elements

Posted by larrylohrman on March 6, 2006

Photo editing is a skill essential for good interior photos. I recommend Photoshop Elements as a photo editor to real estate photographers because it has everything you need but is a fraction of the price of Photoshop CS2. I have realtor friends that have purchased the full blown version Photoshop but are having a difficult time making it over the steep learning curve that Photoshop has. Photoshop Elements is all you need but is easier to learn. I love Photoshop CS2 and would not give it up for anything but I’ve used Photoshop for 10+ years and gone to tons of classes and workshops on Photoshop. I’m continually amazed at how many Photoshop features are in Photoshop Elements. I have Photoshop Elements version 4.0 but I’ve had readers tell me that Photoshop Elements 3.0 is more powerful although I don’t think you can buy it any longer.

You need to do photo editing because no matter how good your shots are there are improvements that need to be done after the image comes out of the camera. Sizing, format conversion and sharpening are simple examples. With a photo editor like Photoshop Elements you can replace skies, combine several bracketed images to get window detail and clone out cars from driveways to name just a few photo editing functions.

For example, I find that it is easier to make the walls vertical and horizontals horizontal while resizing a interior photo than it is to pay careful attention to leveling the camera front-to-back and left-to-right while taking the shot. Having vertical walls is essential to good interior photography- there is nothing I find more distracting than seeing interior images with walls that are not vertical. Another photo editing job is taking all the clutter off refrigerators. Every home I shoot has photos, kids drawings etc all over the refrigerator. We tell the sellers to take it down but somehow it’s always there when I arrive to shoot the photos. It’s much faster to take this clutter off with Photoshop Elements than it is to take it down before I shoot the photo and politely put it back where it was.

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Magical Light

Posted by larrylohrman on March 5, 2006

Recently I was looking through the residential architectural interiors and exteriors galleries of http://www.gregwilsonphoto.com/ and http://www.krogstadphoto.com/ . These are two of my favorite architectural photography sites. I think the interior and exterior images of these two photographers are stunning! Notice how many of these images are shot at twilight. Not all, but the majority are shot at that time of the day just before and just after sundown or sunrise when the light is a magical gold color and the sky is deep blue. Of course what is going on here is that professional photographers pay careful attention to the quality of light and know that at twilight (the times around sunrise and sunset) the light is at its highest quality.

If you want to shoot at this magical time of day you have to know when it occurs and be ready in the right place with your gear setup. Here’s the way to always know when twilight is going to be: Go to http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html
This site will tell you when twilight is on any given date and in any location. You can give it latitude and longitude or just the nearest city. For today in Seattle, WA it says:
Begin civil twilight 6:11 a.m.
Sunrise 6:42 a.m.
Sun transit 12:21 p.m.
Sunset 6:00 p.m.
End civil twilight 6:31 p.m.

What this means is that the best shooting time this evening is from about 5:30PM to 6:30 and in the morning from about 6:10AM to 7:10AM.

Posted in Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

Lighting for Interiors

Posted by larrylohrman on March 3, 2006

My recent discussion on direct flash got me thinking about lighting alternatives for interiors. I went back through my copy of John Freeman’s classic book “lighting for interiors”. This book is essentially an illustration of interior lighting setups that in addition the final photograph shows the camera and lighting equipment placement that was used to create each image. The feature I like the most is the little narrative with each setup and photo that talks about how the photographer analyzed the light situation and the considerations for choosing each lighting setup. The images in this book are the kind of images you would find in Architectural Digest (my benchmark of interior photography).

A lot can be learned from this book. However, one needs to remember that real estate photography is somewhat different than the photography in this book and Architectural Digest. As a real estate photographer you don’t have the time to spend on each image as these photographers do. And you probably will not want to carry as much equipment as they do. These photographers don’t use compact digital cameras! Other than that your mission is much the same.

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Direct Flash?

Posted by larrylohrman on March 2, 2006

I recently photographed a home of the fiancé of a professional photographer and teacher. While shooting we discussed the fact that I was shooting direct flash with a diffuser instead of bouncing the flash off the ceiling. He suggested that I use a wireless controller to trigger the flash unit off the camera. I would have tried some off camera flash but I’d foolishly left my Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter at home.

Several days later we discussed one of the resulting shoots above. He pointed out that the brightness of the white couch in the foreground was distracting and that bouncing the flash off the ceiling would get rid of this problem. I pointed out that when ever I use ceiling bounce flash with a wide-angle (16-35 zoom) I find it creates a very distracting “hot” ceiling. He then suggested that this many be a situation in which Flash was not essential since there was plenty of natural light and the two incandescent lamps would add warmth.

I was already aware that shooting with direct flash had downsides but I’ve kept coming back to that technique because when pressed for time, like I usually am when shooting, I tend to come way with the highest percentage of usable shoots in the shortest time when using on camera, direct, diffused flash.

What I took away from this learning experience is that in the future I’m going to take more time and shoot more varied shoots done with different lighting so I have more choices when I get the editing stage.

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