Real estate photography lighting tips to boost image quality

Devon Higgins

In a perfect world, your photos would look perfect straight out of the camera. But in the world of digital photography, where cameras have a much smaller dynamic range than our eyes, we need to take the right measures to achieve top-notch real estate photography.

In this post, we’ll share 5 real estate photography lighting tips to boost image quality and create stunning images. Our focus for this article is on helping you achieve the perfect lighting for interior photography.

Before we dig deeper into the actual lighting tips, let’s take a look at why lighting is important for real estate photography.

Why is lighting important for real estate photography?
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Nothing is more important in all forms of photography than light. Understanding how to use it in real estate photography is essential for high-quality interior photos.

Not only does lighting determine brightness and darkness, but it also sets the tone, mood, and atmosphere in a photo.

Real estate photographers need to control and manipulate light correctly in order to get the best texture, vibrancy of color, and luminosity on your subjects. This is one of the biggest challenges many new professional photographers face.

That said, let’s take a look at some interior lighting options next.

5 real estate photography lighting tips

Following these 5 real estate photography lighting tips, you’ll become a master in lighting for real estate photography in no time.

1. Use natural light for quality interior photos
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In real estate photography, the best lighting source is natural light. For instance, if you look through an interior design magazine, you’ll notice that most of the shots use natural light provided from windows or doors.

The best way to achieve natural light is to open the windows and curtains and let the sunshine in. Let the sunlight fill the entire room.

Try to choose the best time of the day, usually around midday. And make sure you have enough time to shoot with constant light. Shooting interiors at sunset can be tricky since the light quickly changes color.

To avoid color cast, you should turn off every light in the room, and you can use sheer curtains to limit contrast from the windows.

2. Shoot HDR to capture all details in the scene
HDR Photo Editing by PhotoUPImage source: PhotoUp

An indirect lighting tip is to use HDR (High-Dynamic-Range) and bracketing. This helps you to capture all detail in a scene.

Why use HDR? Most regular cameras struggle to balance photos where there is a high contrast between dark and light areas.

HDR photography is a technique that is used to blend multiple images, taken at different exposures, and later combine them in post-processing. That way, photographers can capture the full detail in the scene, both in the dark and light areas.

Here are some tips to consider when shooting HDR:

  • For starters, keeping the camera still is crucial in exposure bracketing. Remember that HDR is not meant for moving subjects.
  • Second, be watchful for subjects and scenes that have very noticeable contrasts between light and darkness. These images benefit most from post-processing, which is vital for shooting captivating real estate images.
  • Finally, you should shoot in RAW format to preserve the image quality, prevent loss of detail, and make editing easier. JPEG uses too many compressions to reduce your file size, which makes the photo lose detail.

3. Use a single flash to mimic natural light
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One of the downsides of natural light is that it can produce harsh shadows that can be difficult to edit if you don’t have advanced photo editing skills.

The easiest way to light a room or interior space that mimics natural light is to add a single flash to your kit. For best results, you can use a simple light stand or hand-hold it wirelessly.

However, be aware of the so-called “flash look” when using a single flash. Consider these tips:

  • First, the flash should never be pointed forward, or it will produce hard shadows.
  • Second, adjust the camera settings to get the correct exposure.
  • Third, you need to adjust the flash power so that only the shadows are affected.

4. A bounced flash will reveal the details in the shadows
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Using a bouncing flash is an excellent way to fill a room with soft, even light. And to best do this, try bouncing the flash off the ceiling.

However, you need to keep the ceiling itself outside the frame of your shot, so you don’t end up with a blown-out white spot on the ceiling or wall in your image.

Additionally, bounced flash works best if the ceiling is a relatively neutral color such as white, beige, or gray. So look for white or near-white ceilings and/or walls.

Here’s how to properly use a bounced flash:

  • To start, bounce your flash off the ceiling just above and off to one side of your camera position.
  • Then, brighten or darken the flash to get the illumination perfect.
  • Keep testing and moving the flash until you like how the light and shadows play on the subject area.

5. Leverage the client’s lights
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Sometimes it’s good to leverage the client’s lights, especially when the light fixtures are a good selling point of the property.

If this is the case, the challenge is to balance three sources of light: the light fixtures, the light coming from the windows, and the flash.

Consider these three ways to help you get the right exposure:

  • First option: use natural light and a bounced flash to fill the shadows in the room.
  • Second option: try closing the curtains if the light from the window is too strong.
  • Third option: shoot multiple exposures and merge them into a single HDR image.

Lastly, try adjusting the exposure by looking at the histogram on the camera. And remember that most lighting issues can be edited in the post-processing later.

Boost image quality with photo editing
Photo Editing by PhotoUpImage source: PhotoUp

To create stunning images with perfect lighting and exposure, you need to edit your photos using, for example, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

However, this requires familiarity with this type of editing software. If you lack editing skills or don’t have enough time to set aside to edit your photography, you can always outsource this task.

For instance, PhotoUp’s skilled real estate photo editors can help you save time and effort while improving you can be out doing what you love - shooting more properties.

Best of all, you’ll also impress your clients with incredible photos.

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I am a licensed real estate agent and real estate marketing professional. I've co-owned and managed PhotoUp, a company of 200+ people that designs and develops marketing tools and services for real estate professionals, all over the world.

Grand Rapids, MI

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