July 16 2011 - Photo Jottings

July 16 2011


Take your flash outside!

A Realtor called a few days ago and wanted some shots of this home, but they weren’t sure about what subject would be used for the primary advertising photo.  The house was nice, but most of the rooms had little or no furniture, and due to the way the home was situated on the site, the view from the street or front was nothing more than a big concrete driveway and three car garage.  So what am I supposed to do?

The first shot below shows a plain entryway, with some pretty weak looking cacti as a result of severe freezing temps over the winter months, unusual conditions for Tucson, AZ.  I took the top shot shortly after arriving, but initially I wasn’t very impressed with the view, and hoped for something with a little more ‘pop’ inside, or in the backyard.  Unfortunately, clouds were rolling in, and the sun was mostly hidden, which wiped out the chance for decent outdoor shots; the inside was
definitely upscale, but lacked furniture to really set it off.  This is the problem with Real Estate photography, once you show up for the appointment, you sometimes have to make things happen, and can’t inconvenience the Realtor or yourself by trying to come back at a better time.

In both images below, the sun is low in the sky and behind the house, leaving the front in shade.  The top shot was taken using the in-camera Sony A580 three shot HDR.  I used a slight levels and colors adjustment, and rotated it properly.  This image is what most Real Estate photographers
would present to their client, not that it’s bad, it just doesn’t have any ‘pop’.  HDR (high dynamic range) photography is not good for scenes like this, because there isn’t a huge difference in lighting.  The problem here is the lighting is very flat, which makes the picture flat, HDR doesn’t improve flat boring pictures, it only makes them worse by reducing contrast and wrecking color tones.

The bottom image, (taken from a slightly different position than the top image) looks much better, and is a result of using four off-camera flashes.  I placed a flash (1/8 power, 50mm zoom) with stand behind the column, high up and pointed down at the bottom of the entry door to bring out the rust color and ironwork.  There’s a flash (1/4 power, 50mm zoom) on my front right, placed on a wall, about 8′ (2.5m) away pointed at the topped-off Desert spoon (Sotol) plant on the lower right.  Another flash with stand is on the far left, almost behind the leafy bush pointed across the sidewalk at the prickly pear cactus, (1/4 power, zoom?), see shadows.  The fourth flash is hand-held, over my head pointed in the area of the roof tiles, (1/2 power, 85mm zoom), providing some general fill light
to help match the second story with the entry area, it also caused the shadow below the roof beam, but I couldn’t get the flash any higher, same for the flash on the left causing the cactus wall shadows.

I spent about five minutes setting up the flashes for the shot, and took about ten shots to get the flash directions and levels correct.  I think I made the best of the situation by taking a few extra minutes to make the picture stand out a little more, which also gives the Realtor a good cover shot to help generate interest in the home.

Specs for the bottom picture are; Sony A580, 4 flashes, ISO 200, 1/160sec, F/8, 15mm (22mm equiv) with Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 lens.  I rotated the image, slightly adjusted the exposure, photoshopped a few messy areas, including the cactus to add missing pads and get rid of the
discolored spots, and dropped in some green leaves to the small bush on the middle right.

Four off-camera flashes, Sony A580.
Scroll to Top