How to Shoot the Flambient Method for Real Estate Photography

Flambient real estate photo editing is a special technique that offers a unique exposure blend of both flash and ambient shots within the scene. The flambient method is rapidly becoming more popular among real estate photographers and real estate agents alike because of the high quality images and vivid output it can result in.

There are multiple ways to shoot and edit the flambient method. As you progress in the real estate photography industry, you will soon understand which ways work best for you and which are not as viable.

However, for this particular guide, we will be focusing on the basics of the flambient method to get you started off on the right foot.

What is Flambient?

The flambient real estate photography method is basically a combination of flash photography and ambient lighting photography.

This allows the entire surface area of the property to be properly exposed and visible within the image.

It is somewhat similar to the HDR (high dynamic range) method wherein you need to capture multiple shots of the exact same angle and scenery, and then bracket them all together to produce a balanced exposure. The difference between the HDR method and the flambient method, however, is that the latter produces much more natural looking real estate photos.

Flambient photography also has less risk of acquiring color cast thanks to the flash exposure shot, which brings out the natural color of the environment and the objects within it. To be able to achieve this efficiently, it is best to use a bounced flash off of a white ceiling or wall.

Pros Of Shooting Flambient Style

  • Your final image comes out looking more natural.
  • It can save you time in post production once you have grown accustomed to the process
  • Produces high quality images, which in turn garners more quality leads and sales
  • Makes difficult lighting conditions and extreme dynamic range easier to manage and remedy
  • Little to no risk of color casting due to the flash lighting layer

Cons of Shooting Flambient Style

  • There is a learning curve compared to sticking to the basic adjustment settings
  • It requires you to possess additional equipment such as a multi-flash unit, strobes, light stand, and a speed light with a shoot through umbrella.

How Do You Shoot and Edit A Flambient?

When shooting a flambient, the entire process can be broken down into three main parts, namely the ambient light shot, the flash exposure, and the window pull. Once these three have been captured, you may proceed to editing the image in either Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, or your preferred editing software.

Before capturing the images, ensure that your camera settings are in RAW image format as this is the best way to preserve all of the details and color information within your image.

Moreover, remember to keep your aperture stable and your ISO range between 100 to 400 only to reduce the amount of noise in your images. The only variable you should be switching to achieve different exposures is the shutter speed.

Part 1: The Ambient Shot

The ambient shot is considered to be your base shot, and it utilizes the natural light found within your scene. However, depending on the lighting conditions in the room, and the camera settings you utilize, there is a chance you will need to capture more than one image and merge these together in one ambient layer.

A lot of professional real estate photographers use a bracketed ambient blend, also known as HDR, which is essentially made up of multiple exposures taken without flash that ensure you cover all the bases. This is made up of a base exposure, one photo with EV -2, and another with EV +2.

This method should only be applied if you find that your dynamic range is too complex within a single space.

Part 2: The Flash Exposure

Utilizing an external flash helps in making the darkest shadows within your image more visible. It also helps in lighting up a relatively large room without adding any noise or grain.

Like we have briefly mentioned above, the best way to take a flash image is by bouncing the light off the ceiling or wall with neutral colors, this way it can reach the surfaces of all the objects within the area and preserve the natural colors of your objects.

Part 3: The Window Pull

Last but not the least, the flash window pull layer. This part is meant to capture an image that prioritizes the scenery outside of the windows as those add a lot of value to your property listing. Being able to display the garden, lawn, pool, or other elements within your backyard can help your potential buyers in better visualizing what it would be like living in the space and be all the more convinced to invest in it.

To get a great looking flash window pull layer, always set your settings to expose for the exterior, do not try to get the entire frame properly exposed as that is not the main purpose of this process.

There are two different ways to get the window pull layer, namely:

  • Using the ambient exposure with EV – 2 or lower taken above
  • Overexpose the interiors by pointing your flash directly at the windows.

Whichever method you utilize, it is important to have the view of the outside as clear as day.

One common issue with this step is the reflection that may occur if you are utilizing flash. Use the EV -2 from the ambient step or take an image without the flash but with the same settings in order to repair the reflection on the window.

Editing The Image

Now that you have your 3-part process covered, it is time to bring them all together to form one properly exposed image. Start with opening them up in Lightroom to make necessary adjustments before exporting them to Photoshop where we will then align them together.

If you apply lens correction and similar changes, you need to apply it to all layers or else they will not align properly in Photoshop. Also remember not to sync color adjustments.

 Step 1: Ambient Shot. Apply the auto basic setting to the ambient shot to ensure the lighting is well balanced. Adjust the exposure, highlight, and shadows as needed.

Step 2: Window Pull. Adjust the colors and brightness of the scene outside the window, ensure the exposure is good and the hues are realistic. Do not touch any other part of the image.

Step 3: Flash Exposure. The only goal with this step is to bring out the colors, do not fix the lighting because the image is supposed to be a little overexposed. Apply color temperature corrections, vibrance, saturation, and other settings to suit your preferences.

Step 4: Export To Photoshop. Export all 3 images as layers and then auto-align them once the program opens up.  Reorder your layers in the following order, and with the respective layer properties:

Window Repair Photo (if applicable) – Inverted mask

Window Pull Photo – Inverted mask and apply Darken Mode

Ambient Photo – Apply luminosity mode and set it to 50% opacity

Flash Photo – Leave as is

Step 5: Paint Your Window Pull. Once you apply the Darken Mode on your window pull layer, this automatically fades out all the overexposed areas within your interiors. However, you will most likely still have harsh shadows as a result of angling your flash directly at the room.

To counter these, apply the inverted mask on your window pull layer and then use the brush tool set to a white color to paint over the windows. This is a much faster and simpler way than utilizing a clipping mask to cut out all the squares.

Step 6: Utilize the Repair Layer If Needed. If your flash reflected off your window, select the repair layer you took earlier and position it on top of your window pull image. Apply a layer mask on top of it and brush over the reflected spots with white to remove the reflections. Similarly, you can also trace the windows with a polygon lasso tool and delete the selection.

Step 7: Set Ambient to Luminosity Mode. Then set the opacity to about 50%, or however you prefer the image to turn out. The goal in this step is to make the shadows look more natural, which could result in different opacity percentages depending on the lighting conditions in your image.

Step 8: Flatter and Save. Once your window pull and ambient layers are set, merge them together with the flash shot and save your image back to Lightroom. From there, you can apply any final corrections and minor adjustments that you feel your image needs.

Challenges of Using The Flambient Method For Beginners

Learning Flash. One of the main parts on flambient photography is utilizing an external flash, which can be quite a challenge for those who have little to no experience with it.

Acustom yourself with the different flashes available and how to best utilize them. For instance, a speed light and a monolight are the two most popular kinds of light. They function well both with or without an umbrella.

Dealing With Color Cast. If the room has colored walls , ceilings, or other prominent objects, there is a change of color cast in your image.

Flash Shadows. Apart from color cast, flash can also cause harsh shadows. This can be remedied in post production while merging with the ambient image.

You’re All Set!

Now you have the basic guidelines on what the flambient method is, how to shoot it yourself, and how to edit the three brackets all together.

If utilized well, this method of real estate photography can leverage your real estate listings, awaken the potential in each photograph, and effectively attract not only quality leads but interested buyers as well.

Flambient lighting is just one of the many ways you can maximize in order to make your property listings stand out among the rest. What you need to ensure with this method is that proper lighting is achieved. By combining natural light, flash exposure, and the window shot, you stand a chance to produce a naturally colored, impressively vivid, and attention grabbing image.

Try your hand at the flambient method today!