Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Use the Magic Light at Twilight

Posted by larrylohrman on July 10, 2006

We have a listing client that asked for a twilight exterior shot so last night I shot a series of twilight shots of their home. Since we’d promised to put the home on the market the day before I’d already done a daytime shot of the home around 10 AM in the morning. This exercise gave me a chance to compare the results from different times of day… a chance I rarely get. First here is the shot I did at about 10 AM in the morning. At the time I thought it was OK… I didn’t like the fact there was no direct sun on the front of the home but I checked the light several times later in the day and because of the orientation of the home there was never direct sun light on the front of the home.

This home faces north and since the sun moves from photo-left to photo-right and is south of straight up in the sky, the front never gets good direct sunlight. There are always shadows on the front to some extent.

I use the US Naval Observatory site to find out when twilight will be on any day at any location. For this day it says sunset was 9:05PM and “end of civil twilight” (when it’s offically dark) is at 9:44PM. I took a series of shots in the same location and camera settings through out the 40 minute period between sunset and dark. Here’s the one I like the best. It was about half way between sunset and dark. In shots earlier than this the light from the windows was not bright enough and in shots towards dark the body of the house and trim were too dark.

If you use the criteria I talked about in the last post, that you should do everything you can to add to the focus on your subject and remove distractions, then this version works much better than the daylight version. In this version the lighted windows add focus on the home and the muted colors of the grass, trees and surrounding homes do not distract from the home (object of the photograph) as in the daylight version. Also the glow of the northern sky at the time of this shot kept the trim and body color amazingly bright.

Here is shot taken at the end of the twilight period. The trim and body color are more faded because the northern sky is now dark. The sitting porch however is better highlighted here because its so dark.

This exercise demonstrates the magic light during twilight. It also demonstrates that if you have the time to come back for a twilight shoot or if you can schedule the shoot so you’ll be shooting during that magical time between sunset and dark it is worth your while. This 40 minutes is the best time to shoot interiors and exteriors.

When you are shooting inside during this time the windows won’t burn out because the light outside is very near the level of the outside.

An interesting phenomena that I’ve run into is that some clients like twilight shots and will ask for them as this one did. On the other hand some times when I’ve done unrequested twilight shots when clients didn’t ask for them the client didn’t want me to use the twilight shot. So if you do twilight shots either talk to the client first or have a daylight shot to use if they don’t like the result.


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