How to get the Twilight Effect in your Real Estate Photos?

When trying to market a hot new listing, photography is definitely one of the most important factors to invest in. High quality photos have a direct impact on how high the sale price can get, how long it stays on the market for, and if it can make a lasting impression on your potential buyers.

Considering the weight it pulls on your listing, you would of course want to put your best foot forward and put your property under the best light – figuratively and literally.

We have all heard of the golden hour, which refers to either the last hour before the sunset or the first hour right after the sun rises. These two elude a “magical” atmosphere that can make even the most mundane of scenery garner a second look.

We have also encountered the advice that natural light during daytime is best, and while it may be true in a lot of cases, it does not always work with property listings.

Last but not the least, there is the twilight hour, a favorite among many if not most real estate photographers. Twilight hour is the moment right after the sun sets below the horizon and splashes of oranges and reds fade their way to blues and purples. This is the money shot, and we have prepared a comprehensive guide on what exactly is a twilight image and how you can get it below.

What Is Twilight Photography?

Twilight photography captures the exterior of homes, buildings, and other types of property at dusk. During this time period, the hues in the sky perfectly complement each other and this gives a beautiful shine on the property.

In order to perfectly capture this moment, real estate photographers will need the help of a sturdy tripod and a keen eye of observation. The moment orange and red hues mix into a cooler blue and purple gradient is exactly when the shutters should click, and you will need an exposure time of around 1 to 3 seconds to take all that light in. This time window will not last all night so it is important to plan it out and set your gear up ahead.

Equipment Needed To Shoot Twilight Real Estate Photography

Having a good understanding of photography equipment can greatly help in improving your real estate photos. There is no need to get too technical, as the basics should be enough to get your started. However, knowing how each gear can help maximize the scene, add value to your photo, and get the effect you are going after will save you time, energy, and money in the long run.

To shoot twilight real estate photos, you do not need a lot of fancy equipment. However, we do recommend carrying along these 4 essentials:


Tripods are one of the most important types of gear to keep in check. They ensure that your photos are crisp, at the perfect angle, and that you give your camera enough still time to really let the light seep in, resulting in beautifully lit photographs.

A lot of the time, your camera and a tripod could suffice. There will be some things you may need to fix in post, which could take you a little longer to accomplish the task. However, if the budget is tight, this dynamic duo can help make it work for you.

Speedlight Flashes.

Speedlight flashes are small, battery-operated lights that are highly portable and are mostly affordable, depending on the model you go for. They can range anywhere between $100 to $500, so doing your research for which specs to look out for can save you hundreds when done right.

Shutter Release Triggers.

Triggers are basically remote controls for your camera. Oftentimes, pressing the button to capture an image (even if it is on timer) can shake the camera or cause it to go a little off angle. Investing in a release trigger helps you get the best photos without the need to touch your set up.

These are quite possibly the most inexpensive tools you will need as they go for as little as $8 a piece, but it is important to guarantee that it is compatible with your camera.

Camera Lens.

Cameras come with kit lenses and while these do a good job in general, real estate photography can be best done with an upgrade. This will be one of the pricier investments but well worth it if you need to take a lot of photos in the long run. Ensure that your photographer has one fit for low-light photography, with a good aperture range, and can take high quality wide-angle shots.

Best Camera Settings For Twilight Real Estate Photography

Hiring a professional photographer to shoot your twilight real estate photography means that they already have their preferred settings to capture the look. However, it is still best to be in the know and some of the most useful tips to keep in mind when shooting at twilight are the following:

Use Your ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed Correctly

Shoot with a wide aperture and a low ISO.

There will not be much ambient light during twilight, so setting the aperture of your lens wide enough will allow what little light is present to seep into your camera’s sensor and light up the photo.

With this setting, try to keep your ISO low at around the 100 range in order to prevent noise appearing in the dark parts of the photo, allowing you to have solid shadows.

Shoot with a closed aperture and a medium ISO.

Similarly, you can do it the other way around by keeping your ISO higher and your aperture down to around f/8. Just ensure that your ISO is not too high that digital noise will start to appear in your shots.

Keep your exposure time long.

The shutter speed will heavily depend on the environment and if there is motion in your shot. The longer you keep your exposure time settings, the more time there is for light to come through. This results in a much sharper twilight image.

However, if there are elements moving your shot, a long exposure time will create some streaks.

In the end, it is all about getting to the site early to do some test shots and see what works best for the environment, time, and property itself.

Use HDR or Layers to Recover Details

Playing with the highlights and shadows of your image in order to reveal all the fine details can go a long way, and there are various techniques you can explore to get the winning shot.

Start off with a series of at least three photos:

  1. One with the correct exposure
  2. One that is underexposed to get the highlights
  3. One that is overexposed to get the shadows

You can utilize AEB, or Automatic Exposure Bracketing, in order to get all three in one quick shoot.

Next, you will want to merge all 3 shots in a single photo using your preferred software.

When using Lightroom, you can combine them in a single HDR shot, while slowly adjusting the highlights and shadows to complement each other, until you soften that exaggerated look of most HDR photos.

Similarly, you can use Photoshop, which often provides a more realistic and down to earth tone. You can stack the images on top of one another using layers and make them to either reveal or recover your preferred details. Achieve a more seamless transition between layers by utilizing the blur and transparency units.

Use A Tripod

We cannot stress enough how essential a tripod is. Especially when it comes to capturing minute details in good lighting, your camera should be as still as possible. When shooting twilight, or in a low-light settings atmosphere, it is a slow and gentle process that needs the right precautions to avoid getting micro shakes.

A tripod can also secure the exact same angle for different exposures, which are then used to merge into one perfect shot in post-production.

Turn on the Lights

With twilight photography, the bulk of the impact comes from how the lights dance around the property and make the scene come to life. The rich and vivid colors are what gives the property character in each photo, and you can definitely enhance these through maximizing the lights you have.

Turn on every light there is in the property – both interior lights and exterior lights. The internal illumination helps make the doors and windows pop, and you can opt to close the curtains to subdue the glowing lights when necessary. The exterior glow is what lights up the walls, plants, passageways, and other necessary elements to highlight.

If there is a pool, the lights within the pool will also add a sense of calmness to the photos.

Color Correct Lights

Speaking of your light fixtures, they should be able to perfectly complement the natural look of the sky. Ideally blue hues would pair well with a yellow glow, but in reality, these can all be of different temperatures and would need to be fixed in post.

With some minor editing, you can ensure that all windows and light fixtures shine with the same temperature, and that the hues balance well with the low-lit sky. Some areas will also look better without the color cast such as plants and other exteriors.

Tips for Twilight Real Estate Photography

Apart from the settings of your camera and equipment, getting the perfect twilight shot also has other tricks to it. Below we explore more useful tips to help you make the most out of your photo shoot and sell your properties like pancakes.

Plan and Prepare for Twilight Photos

Ideally, this is the very first step you should take. Since the time is limited and the lighting needs to be just right, being well prepared for the shoot can go a long way.

For one, a lot of twilight shoots are done during the summer since days tend to be longer and you can have a little more wiggle room to get your shot.

Secondly, always be there at least an hour before sunset so you can properly frame the details you need to get in the shot. This will also give you a better idea as to what weather you are in for and if it is ideal to proceed.

Wait Patiently For The Perfect Moment

Shooting twilight shots is different from shooting during the day in the sense that you can only get a few good photos out of your session at dusk. The key to maximizing this is being patient with the climate and yourself, enough that you do not get too excited and take too many substandard shots.

Instead of moving around too much and clicking at random when you feel it is fit, wait until time is on your side. You will know when it is time as soon as the lights in the sky perfectly balance that of your property, it is up to you to ensure you get the best point of view to capture it. Only then can you get the perfect shot each time.

Capture One Hero Shot and a Couple of Secondary Shots

If you carefully followed our advice on the above tip, you most likely already have your hero shot. Once you have secured this, you have a few more minutes to get a few more useful images that may not be “the” winning shot, but are most definitely still valuable enough to use.

For your secondary shots, you want to move as quickly as possible. While you will not have much time for accuracy here, being familiar with the area and the climate you are working with will surely help boost your chances. Some of the best secondary shots to take are extra exterior photos, exciting views from one of the entry points, or even a drone shot if you have the time.

Keep in mind that while these are not the main photographs, they should still be a part of your preparation and planning to ensure to maximize every minute you have during the photo shoot.

Do Not Over Process

Twilight images are known to look a little majestic, which can make it easy to get carried away when processing photos. Ensure that when editing, your images will still look as close to reality as possible but with a richer, more eye-catching depth to it.

Having your photos too processed can create a sense of insincerity, which can have a negative impact on how the market perceives your listing.

Add Drama to Real Estate Twilight Shoots

Instead of over processing, there are other ways to add a touch of drama to your shots. For instance, one of the favorite methods of most photographers is replacing the sky. In order to do so efficiently, you need:

  • Ample experience with Photoshop and sky replacement. The image needs to look as natural as possible.
  • A good collection of skies to make every session unique. If you are replacing the sky in multiple photos from one session, be sure to use the same exact sky but tweak it in angle to create variation.
  • Sunset shots to add even more of a dramatic look to your plain blue skies. The key here is to place it naturally meaning either from the side, behind, or front of the viewer.

Wrap Up

There you have it! Now you are well equipped with the knowledge needed in capturing your first twilight photo like any other real estate photographer. With the right camera settings and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can surely achieve an impressive collection of photos for your listing and sell your property in no time!