Best Flash for Real Estate Photography 2022
Maintaining a successful real estate photography business entails getting the right set of equipment fit for the job. When new to the industry, it is understandable to have a limited budget and you may be considering starting off small with amateur-level gear.
While this is perfectly fine and may be even more practical in some ways, we highly recommend investing in high quality tools from the get-go. This way, you will be well-equipped from the beginning, have more time to get accustomed with your photography gear, and also have a set of arsenal that could very well last you a long while.
This does not mean to say you need to complete your set and purchase the most expensive options in the market. Prioritizing the most important and frequently used tools, and then figuring out a great price to performance balance within its options, is key.
One of the frequently used tools is a flash. Because of how crucial getting proper lighting is for each of your listings, this piece of equipment could make or break your real estate images. For an in depth look at the best flash for real estate photography, and how you can properly use it in your images, check our comprehensive guide below.
Real Estate Photography Challenge: Difficult Lighting
Any professional real estate photographer could tell you that while you can prepare all you want for the upcoming photo shoot, there is still one variable you do not have full control over and that is lighting.
Whether you are shooting exterior or interior real estate photography, you are bound to find yourself in challenging lighting conditions from time to time. Creating the perfect balance between what natural light you have to work with, artificial lighting to use, and camera settings to choose can be difficult and heavily varies on the scene.
Every so often, there are spaces that offer more dynamic range and stronger contrasting exposures within a given frame. Situations like this may be daunting in the beginning but you will sooner or later learn to master them like the back of your hand.
More often than not, when posed with extreme lighting conditions, the best thing you can do is HDR imagery. This is the process of bracketing your images, creating multiple exposures, and recovering as much detail as you can when combining it into one shot.
Still other times, utilizing a strobe or flash may be all you need to remedy the situation. So which method should you use and when?
HDR vs Flash Real Estate Photography
Both HDR and flash can be utilized to balance out poor lighting when shooting real estate images. It is important to understand what benefits and disadvantages each method offers so you can better gauge which is best for a given situation.
What Is HDR?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is the process of capturing three or more images of the exact same subject, at the exact same angle, but at different exposure levels. It is also known as bracketing images, and it allows you to get the most detail out of your highlights, shadows, and everything in between.
Once you have captured the multiple layers, combine them in one final image that is equally illuminated all throughout. There are software that can help in achieving the HDR application such as Photomatix Pro, Adobe Lightroom, and so on.
How To Shoot and Edit HDR Images For Real Estate Photography
HDR photography does not require as many steps as you may think. There are four main things to check off, which we will guide you through below:
Step 1: Set the correct ISO and Aperture for your photo
In order to successfully bracket your images to form one HDR photo, you want both your ISO and Aperture to remain constant throughout all the photo layers; only your shutter speed should change.
The very first step then is determining the right ISO and aperture settings for the scene you are shooting. This can be done by setting up your camera on a tripod and positioning it in the frame you intend to shoot.
Then, you need to switch to Manual mode, put your aperture to f/8, and play around with your ISO till you get a naturally illuminated image. The ISO should be around 100 to 400, but the lower the number, the better since this is an important factor in bringing out the details within a photo.
Step 2: Determine the shutter speed settings needed per layer
HDR photography requires you to bracket at least three exposures of the same angle. This is the minimum amount of layers required to produce a well-balanced image in terms of lighting.
You will first have a base photo, which serves as the middle tone of the shot and brings out the details within the image in general. Next, you will have an image that is an exposure level lower, which should bring out the details within your highlights. Lastly, you will have an image that is an exposure level higher, which should bring out the details in your shadows.
In order to determine the right shutter speed needed for each layer, first establish the longest and shortest speeds within the image so you have an idea what range to work with. You can do this by going to Aperture Priority mode and then selecting Spot Metering Mode afterwards. By having these settings in place, you are keeping your aperture fixed at f/8 while the camera processes your shutter speed needs.
Once that is done, aim your camera at the darkest area of the image and note down the exposure level displayed on the camera’s LCD screen. Do the same with the brightest area of the image, ensuring that this is not directly angled at the sun or its reflection, rather just an illuminated spot.
Step 3: Time to take your photos
With your aperture consistent, your ISO set, your angle adjusted, and the exposure levels noted down, it is finally time to capture your image layers. There are two main ways to accomplish this, namely:
The Semi-Automated Method
With the semi-automated method, you need to use the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode built into your camera settings, which also features an HDR Exposure Calculator. Most of the DSLR cameras on the market today have this feature, which makes most of the process automated. The HDR Exposure Calculator is the tool that provides you with the shutter speeds needed and the number of bracketed images to be taken for a well –balanced shot.
You can activate the AEB function within the menu settings, while operating under Manual mode. After which, set your shutter speed to the first value given by the HDR Exposure Calculator, followed by the number of images needed. Once those are in place, click the shutter button or your remote shutter release.
Full Manual Method
If your camera does not have an AEB feature built into it, or you would really just prefer setting things up manually, there is another process you can do to achieve quality HDR images.
Under the manual settings, select Single-Shot and then the faster shutter speed determined in Step 2. Once you have it, take the photo. This serves as your first layer.
Next, decrease the shutter speed by one stop or 1 EV and take a photo again. Repeat this process until you reach the slowest shutter speed established in Step 2.
Similarly, if you want to work with just the minimum 3 layers, capture images using the longest shutter speed, then the shortest shutter speed, and then one more with the exposure level set in between the two variables.
Step 4: Merge Your HDR Images
Now that you have your bracketed images, you can import these to your preferred editing software and merge them into a singular HDR photo.
Some of the best programs that support HDR photography and can help you easily merge the layers together are:
- Adobe Photoshop.
- Adobe Lightroom
- Photomatix Pro
- Aurora HDR
- Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
- Luminance HDR
- Affinity Photo Tone Mapping Persona
- and more!
Advantages Of Using HDR For Real Estate Photography
Utilizing the HDR technique above has definitely got its advantages. The top 3 benefits we enjoy from the method are:
You do not need extra equipment. When bracketing your real estate photos, you just need to set up your camera and tripod like you normally would with the only difference being switching the shutter speed after every shot. There is no need for any special or additional equipment, nor would you need to adjust your set up more than usual.
This allows you to get the shots faster with minimal labor and set up time in between.
The software is automated. When it comes to processing the images, the HDR software does all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is make subtle adjustments according to your preferences afterwards.
This is exceptionally beneficial since a lot of photographers spend so much time editing the images. This can literally cut your post production time in half.
You get to maximize all the details. HDR photography can bring out the details within the brightest light and the dimmest dark of your photos. This ensures that every inch of your image is of high quality, fully detailed, and perfectly exposed.
Disadvantages Of Using HDR For Real Estate Photography
The main disadvantage of using HDR is that you still have to rely on ambient light. This can be a combination of both natural and artificial lighting within the room, the latter you can somewhat control by switching it on or off.
There are some floor plans or room set-ups that fail to properly light up all areas. Sometimes, the natural light will be insufficient and artificial lighting will not accurately depict the room’s color. Because of this, you may need to bring in extra equipment such as strobe or hot shoe flashes.
How To Shoot and Edit Images For Real Estate Photography Using Flash
A lot of times, the natural light that shines through to the room is not enough to create a well-balanced exposure. This is when using a flash can help in producing more professional images.
The first few times of setting up your flash may feel like a little bit of a hassle, but it is much easier than it looks and set-up will be easier as you go along. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to get you started:
Step 1: Determine your target areas
When using a flash, first determine which areas of your space need more light – especially the main elements of the frame.
Step 2: Redirect your flash there
Once you know which objects need illumination, determine the angle they need to be lit from. If you happen to have natural light coming into the area, we suggest illuminating the objects in the same direction as the sunlight. This allows your image to still have a mix of highlights and shadows, creating a good balance that does not turn out flat.
Similarly, you may maximize the white ceiling above by bouncing the flash off of it (only if the ceiling is not part of your shot). This will help create a diffused yet even illumination throughout the room
Step 3: Editing the images
Chances are, you are dealing with one of two situations:
- You have a singular shot utilizing one flash angle or one exposure
- You have multiple shots using multiple flash angles or different exposures
If you are editing singular images, then all you need to do is adjust the highlights, shadows, color, and other things your image can use some tweaking on.
If you were editing multiple shots with varying flash angles, then the process would be similar to how you combine your HDR image. Take each shot as a different layer, and mask the areas you want to hide or reveal to achieve the perfect exposure balance all throughout the image.
Advantages Of Using Flash For Real Estate Photography
The main advantage of using a flash for real estate photography is being able to take control of the lighting within your space. You are able to illuminate areas, darken others, and practically change the lighting condition entirely.
Disadvantages Of Using Flash For Real Estate Photography
When it comes to disadvantages, there are three we want to point out, namely:
There is extra cost in acquiring the equipment needed. Some photographer can work with a handheld flash, which means all you have to shell out on is the one tool. However, for a more thorough setup, using flash could also entail light stands, brackets, carrying light modifiers, larger strobes, and more than one flash.
There is extra time spent in setting up. Setting the flash up so your lighting is just right could take some time, especially if you are still getting the hang of controlling illumination. Depending on how quickly you can work with the gear and how straightforward the room’s setup is, it may take twice as long to accomplish the shoot.
There is extra time spent in editing the images. With HDR, there is software that can automate most of the editing process. With flash photography, you will have to go at it from scratch. Especially if you need to produce an image with multiple exposures or flash angles, combining them to have a perfectly lit scene will require longer screen time.
Adding Flash to an HDR Real Estate Photo
By now, you have a better grasp on just how tricky lighting can be tricky in real estate photography. You most probably also understand that bracketing images into an HDR photo or using an external flash are both common methods to help in balancing out the exposure levels. But did you know that you could also combine the two?
Oftentimes, some spaces may offer too much dynamic range, resulting in harsh shadows and highlights despite the efforts put into creating an HDR image. If the contrast in your frame is far too deep, you can lower this by adding extra light in the dimmest parts of the image via external flash and incorporating this layer into your HDR image.
Step 1: Take the flash exposed image
The first step is again to determine the areas that need more light and position your external flash accordingly. It is best to utilize a diffuser or reflect the flash in order to soften the output. Many professional photographers not only invest in quality diffusers, but they also like to bounce the light off the ceiling, which results in an even exposure across a wide surface area.
Step 2: Combine it with the HDR image
The next step is to manually combine the flash exposed photo with your HDR image. The role of the flash exposed layer is to bring out all the lost detail in the dim areas and contribute to getting a soft glow within your real estate photos.
Take both photos and open them as separate layers in Photoshop, putting the HDR image on top of the flash exposed one. Add a black mask layer over the HDR photo, which then reveals the flash layer underneath. Take a Brush tool, lower the flow to 20%, then select white as its color.
Start painting over the black mask layer in areas that the image is far too bright, this allows the HDR photo to fade through. Continue until the image is well blended.
Once you are through, you can further adjust its perspective, color, and other factors to make your listing image come out as vivid and stunning as possible.
Our Top 3 Recommended Flash For Real Estate Photography
We have gathered our top 3 recommended flash for real estate photography, one for each budget range!
Yongnuo YN560 IV
The best affordable flash for real estate photography
The Yongnuo YN560 IV is an affordable flash that is compatible with most of the leading cameras. It is highly powerful, flexible, and offers a variety of smart functions.
Its zoom range is 24 mm to 105 mm, which is beneficial when taking photos of wider properties. It also gives a recycling rate of 3 seconds, which is good considering its price point.
The flash comes with a guide number of 190′ for 105mm at ISO 100, which makes it one of the most ideal flash options when shooting from a distance.
- It is compatible with a wide range of cameras
- It includes a flash bounce card, which gives you more control over the lighting.
- The 11 custom functions makes this flash one of the most flexible camera flashes in the market
- It supports a wireless master function, making it a breeze to remotely control
- Highly affordable
- It operates on full manual mode
- It lacks auto zoom feature for sensor size
Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash
The best mid-range flash for real estate photography
The Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash is a great mid-range flash that is compatible with other CLS products under Nikon’s brand and also sports an advanced wireless lighting (AWL) system. It is highly compact in build and makes for a great portable flash.
Because it is manufactured by Nikon, its sensors and technology have been specifically designed to communicate with Nikon cameras and offer a seamless exposure on top of impressive program capabilities. With its built-in AWL system, you can control all your other Nikon Speedlights using the main flash connected in the camera, making your setup a breeze.
The downsides to this flash are its lack of depth of field and short battery life.
- Compact and highly portable size
- Affordable within mid-range budget
- Seamless exposure and program ability
- AWL provides control over other Nikon Speedlights
- Designed to work with other CLS products under the Nikon brand
- Lacks depth of field
- Short battery life
Godox AD200PRO TTL
The best advanced flash for real estate photography
The Godox AD200PRO TTL may be on the pricier side but it packs a lot of features and specs that make it well worth the investment.
It is an ultra powerful flash that boasts consistent, high quality results with every shot. It has the power of two to three speedlights built into one unit. The color temperature and flash output it delivers is unparalleled.
- Consistent flash output
- Accurate color temperature
- Provides better value compared to OEM flashes
- Great power
- Interchangeable flash heads (round head, speedlite, styled Fresnel head, and bare-bulb head)
- Large capacity Lithium battery
- 2.4G control with 330 ft range
- Supports a wide range of camera brands such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax TTL
- Multi flash modes
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Sometimes has a problematic power switch
You’re All Set!
Using flash in your real estate photography does not have to be a hassle or a tedious process. Especially when utilizing a quality flash that offers great lighting features, your real estate images will look perfectly exposed and impressively vivid each time.