Obtaining consistent color relies on using a flash with your camera. Within a home there are two dominate forms of light that illuminate the space being photographed.
Most homes do not have matching light bulbs and the sun is always casting light into the room. These two sources of light will always give us different color casts. Getting consistent the color will rely on using one or many flashes to over power the existing light and provide a consistent light source. You will usually see inconsistent color with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. The HDR process takes several pictures at different exposures (brightness and darkness) and then automatically merges them into one final image that captures all the brightness and darkness in a room. Since no flash is used with HDR the colors can be inconsistent due to the mixture of light bulbs and sunlight. Adding flash will instantly increase the color accuracy of a real estate image. Adding multiple flashes throughout the room will provide even better color consistency.
Consistent color from flash. Inconsistent color casts caused by HDR and mixed lighting.
Capturing consistent color using a flash will create unnatural shadows in the space being photographed. Correcting shadows caused by the flash(s) is easy done by strategically placing off camera wireless flash(s) where natural sunlight comes into the room such as outside the window and at an angle where the camera cant see the flash device, only the light it produces.
This process of real estate photography is the easiest to correct yet most commonly overlooked. Look at the room you are sitting in right now. The walls are all straight up and down vertically right? Now look through the local MLS or Zillow photographs and notice how most of the walls are leaning within the photographs. This is caused by the camera slightly pointing up or down, making the walls tilt either in or out. The correction is simple, level your camera. Correcting verticals can also be done in post processing software such as Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop but it is easy and fast to level the camera before you take the picture. Some cameras have a built in digital level and you can also get a tripod with bubble levels built in. Once you know about the importance of straight verticals, you will never stop noticing them within real estate images.
Poor verticals. Straight verticals.
Within real estate photography, capturing the view outside of the window is just as important as the interior of the room, unless the view is a bad subject such as another house, train tracks, busy highway or anything that you do not want to show the prospective buyers of a home. HDR photography is a quick and easy to capture both the interior and exterior of a room but it does come at the cost of inconsistent color and most relevant, poor window views that have a lack of color and detail. It is naturally hard to shoot both the inside and outside of a room due to the sun, as the outside is brighter than the inside. Again, one or multiple flashes to the rescue. The flash will brighten up the room, evening out the light between inside and outside, thus making the outside view rich and in-depth.
Using flash allows for high clarity views
Natural color and consistent color go hand in hand and you guessed it, the flash(s) also provide us with natural color. Again, various light sources can alter colors in photography. Flashes are set to a daylight temperature (brightness) thus giving us natural color that matches the sun.
Natural colors when flash(s) are introduced
This aspect of real estate photography is reliant on the agent expressing to the homeowner the importance of cleaning and preparing their home for a photoshoot. Photographers will move items around within the shot for better composition and Mise-en-scene but it is not the photographer or real estate agents job to clean and de-clutter the home for a shoot. The agent will make their and the photographers job much easier by having the homeowner clean and de-clutter. At Design Sticky Media, we have a free check list to download for agents to give their clients here.
Now that we have determined that flash(s) will help with most common real estate photography problems, we will also have to avoid flash reflections. Kitchens, baths and big windows will be the major areas where flash reflections occur. Again, placing the flash outside will not only help with mimicking natural light, it will also help avoid getting flash reflections in windows, mirrors, wood and other reflective surfaces. When it is impossible to place your wireless flashes outside, such as when shooting the second floor, be mindful of the reflections and re-position the flash until the reflection is gone. When needed, take several images with the flash(s) moved throughout the room and composite them in Photoshop only using the part of each image without the reflection. Compositing is a technique unlike HDR. You must manually merge sections of the image together whereas HDR is an automatic process that the computer does for you. Below is a picture by picture process for lighting with flashes and removing flash reflections using Photoshop.
Flashes in image to light kitchen Flashes moved back & right of camera but reflection in window exists
Flashes moved again to light right side of the room Flashes moved left to remove window reflection
While there are many different ways to shoot real estate photography, these are the fundamentals that make up a professional architectural image. Real estate agents deserve the best marketing photos possible and sellers deserve the best representation of their home. After all, purchasing a home is the largest investment we will ever make and statistics have proven that professional photography sells homes for more money.