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Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources

How to Shoot Twilight Real Estate Photography

by Elizabeth Kosowesky on Oct 12, 2019

As a real estate photographer, you’ll need to master different techniques in order to be successful in the field. These skills include learning to photograph real estate at twilight, or dusk. Without understanding this process, life as a professional real estate photographer will be challenging. And, you’ll be limited in the types of jobs you’re competitive for.

In this tutorial, we’ll cover: 

  • Tips For Twilight Real Estate Photography
  • Adding Drama To Real Estate Twilight Shoots
  • Equipment Needed To Shoot Twilight Real Estate Photography
  • Best Camera Settings For ShootingTwilight Real Estate Photography

To learn how to perfect the real estate shots you take at dusk, you’ll need to have downloaded Photoshop. If you don’t already have it, you can get it through Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan. This bundle also includes Lightroom for a total of $9.99/month.

Tips for Twilight Real Estate Photography

There are thousands of real estate photographers in the world, and maybe even in your own backyard. How can you make yourself stand out professionally so that you can get more jobs? Understanding how to take quality real estate photographs at twilight in low lighting will certainly set you apart.

Why Should You Shoot Real Estate at Dusk?

Photography, in general, is all about settings, timing, and lighting. Understanding how these components work with one another is key to your success in real estate photography. 

Think of photographing real estate at dusk like choosing the time of day for an outdoor portrait. If you capture your image during the day, ambient light will produce both over and underexposed areas.

You can avoid these errors simply by photographing at dusk. Twilight balances shadows and light so that you can achieve a more equally-lit shot. You can also use additional lights to manipulate the lighting more if you have to. Working with a balanced “base” photo is better than losing detail in highlights and shadows.

How Do You Take Real Estate Photos at Dusk?

Of course, you can either choose to take photos at dusk using a tripod or a hand-held method. Using a tripod allows your long exposure shots to be sharp in a low light environment. In dusk, tripod shooting should be favored over hand-held since the hand-held method is better suited for a well-lit environment. 

Hand-held use produced camera shake and blurred details in low light environments. So, if you can, it’s best to save hand-held techniques for bright daylight scenes.

How Do You Make Twilight Real Estate Photos Better?

There are many different ways to enhance twilight photos, but which techniques are the best? Real estate photography tends to rely on dramatic lighting and striking colors to entice potential buyers. 

You’ll often see real estate photos with prominent and brightly-colored skies and well-lit, warm home interiors. Applying a more eye-catching sky to twilight photos in post-production will make a building more appealing.

Another method to make your real estate photographs more visually appealing is to selectively darken portions of the home when photographing. In this way, you can selectively highlight important features, which will appear brighter in contrast.

Beyond the technical aspects of improving architectural photography, there are simple decisions you can make on-set that will improve your photos and save time. For instance, ask the homeowners to turn all of the interior lights on.

The exterior lights can be turned on as well, but they might make the image too bright in some situations. A well-lit interior will add more drama to the image and give potential buyers a sample of the home’s general lighting.

Backyard shot of home with lighted porch and in-ground pool
Photo by Vita Vilcina via Unsplash

Adding Drama to Real Estate Twilight Shoots

It is important to understand different real estate photography tips and tricks so that you know how to enhance and sell your photos. Without them, your career as a real estate photographer may be difficult, especially if you must compete with other real estate photographers in your area.

How Can You Make Twilight Real Estate Shots More Dramatic?

One of the most popular ways to make a twilight shot more dramatic is by capturing or adding a dramatic sky to the skyline. Adding a pop of color will draw people to the image and will attract potential buyers.

You can also use another popular technique and selectively use strobe lighting to highlight key aspects of any home’s exterior. Depending on the property, these areas might include the front porch, backyard or any other light areas.

A simpler route to take is by adding more contrast by dodging and burning either with a layer mask or with the tools. This does mean that more time editing will be involved.

What Should You Look for to Increase the Visual Impact of Twilight Real Estate Photos?

As mentioned before, the sky in twilight real estate photography can act as the most eye-catching aspect that draws people to look at the property in the photo. In general, the first colors people notice in images are the brightest colors. So, if the house is a darker color, then a bright sky might make the property look more appealing at dusk. 

Along with enhancing the sky, many will enhance the grass or neighboring plants. Making the grass greener is not discouraged, but changing the type of plants around the house may make viewers disappointed when viewing the actual property.

Evenly balancing the amount of editing in your images is another important key. Oversaturated coloring can make your picture look fake. Oversaturation can also backfire and make potential buyers hesitant when the physical property doesn’t look like the photo. 

Well-lit home exterior with pink and blue sky background
Photo via Pixabay

In real estate photography, it is definitely possible to take editing too far. In modern day, some photographers edit their real estate photos to the point that the create false advertisements for those listings. 

But remember, you want to help realtors sell their properties. And, the best way to do that is to take accurate photos that enhance the property’s existing strengths. Keep retouching to a minimum as much as possible. 

Why Do Twilight Real Estate Photos Need to Be Dramatic?

Like any kind of product, the first step to promoting sale property is by making the product eye-catching. If a product does not have appealing features, then selling the product will be difficult. Lightly retouching the property images can make a difference.

Equipment Needed to Shoot Twilight Real Estate Photography

Understanding the equipment necessary for real estate photography and its technical components can go a long way to improving your real estate photos. Not all photographers are as technical as others, but it always helps to know the basics.

How Much Does the Equipment for Twilight Real Estate Photography Cost?

Twilight photos surprisingly don’t require a lot of specialized equipment. You may think that a photo shoot takes a lot of equipment to execute, but it doesn’t have to. The amount of equipment for a real estate shoot varies, and understanding what you actually need will help you decide what to bring.

As mentioned before, there are two different directions you can take when it comes to equipment. The first is relying on your photo editing to perfect your images, which will then require a tripod. The second and most popular approach to real estate photography involves using a tripod, trigger and speedlight flash.

Speedlight Flashes

Chances are, speedlight flashes aren’t actually as pricey, or as bulky as you may think when you hear their technical name. Speedlights are actually small, battery-operated lights that can easily fit into the palm of your hand and a small gear bag. 

If you’re thinking of purchasing a speedlight flash, make sure to do your research first. The brand of light and its original release date have a lot to do with its price. You can almost always find an older and cheaper version in good condition, like the Nikon SB-80 DX Autofocus Speedlight Flash. If you go this route, you can get your own flash for about $100 or less.

Nikon SB-80 DX Autofocus Speedlight Flash

More expensive speedlights can run a minimum of $200 or $300.  But higher end speedlights, like the Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT, go for about $500.

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Before purchasing a light, think of how much you’ll use it, how often you’ll need it, and what features you’d like it to have. The answers to these questions will help you decide which price point is best for your needs.

Photography Lenses

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have to purchase the right lenses for your real estate photography business. There are a lot of different brands and variations to choose from, but regardless, a good quality lens will be a bit pricey. 

For example, the Canon 24-70MM F2.8 USM is great for shooting in low light environments. If you frequently shoot low-light real estate photography, then the $1,749 price tag on this lens might be worth the expense.

Canon 24-70MM F2.8 USM

Of course, you can always find cheaper options. The Sigma 20MM F/1.4 ART DG HSM is another great lens that’s priced at $899. This lens has a generous aperture range and isn’t known to distort wide-angle shots. Overall, Sigma isn’t as popular a brand as Canon, but they still make quality equipment, especially given the discount in price.

Sigma 20MM F/1.4 ART DG HSM

Shutter Release Triggers

Lastly, the most inexpensive equipment you’ll need is a shutter release trigger. Think of triggers as remote controls for your camera. When you activate a trigger, the trigger captures the image on your camera. That way, you won’t need to touch the camera itself, which could add a shakiness to the image while the lens is open. 

Your camera body will likely determine what kind of trigger you need. The cheapest triggers run as cheap as $8, but triggers come in both wireless and corded, so they are compatible with different camera models. Check to see that a trigger is compatible with your camera first. 

For something with more features than a simple trigger, consider something like the Canon Wireless Remote Control BR-E1. At $39.95, it has additional capabilities that may assist you in your shoot. Again, make sure this device is compatible with your camera before you purchase.

Canon Wireless Remote Control BR-E1

What Kind of Editing Software Helps Improve Twilight Real Estate Photos?

Photo editing can elevate even the best real estate photos. But, in order to make your images perfect, you’ll need an editing software you can use and trust. There are many editing software on the market to choose from — so many, in fact, that picking between them can actually be kind of overwhelming. Check out our guide to photo editing softwares if you’re having trouble!

I prefer Photoshop and Lightroom for photo editing because they are reliable and familiar, and they both allow me to make both complicated and more basic edits. Photoshop provides a more extensive approach to editing, but it does take more time to learn and understand than some simpler programs. 

Lightroom is a cousin to Photoshop, but it is less “hands-on.” Lightroom involves using presets and adjusting sliders that are already present in the workspace. Because Lightroom has these editing options built-in, it may be an easier program for photo editing beginners to learn.

Best Camera Settings for Shooting Twilight Real Estate Photography

Every professional photographer will have different settings preferences for photographing real estate. But, there are some general things to keep in mind when it comes to camera settings for twilight real estate photography

Since there won’t be much ambient light present at dusk, you should shoot with the aperture of your lens wide open. That way, as much light as possible will reach your camera sensor. If you keep the ISO low — say, around 100 — then you’ll also prevent digital noise from appearing in the black areas of your photos. 

If you’d like, you can also bump up your ISO and close the aperture down to around f/8. The higher ISO number will compensate for the closed aperture, and your shot won’t look flat or blown out. But, be careful not to increase the ISO too much, or digital noise will creep into your shots.

The last setting to focus on is shutter speed. Every architectural photography situation is different, so plan on arriving on location early enough to test out your exposure times.

The longer your exposure time, the more light will reach your camera, and the sharper your twilight image will appear. However, things in motion in your shot will create streaks in your photos at long shutter speeds.

Test out how the image looks at a lower shutter speed, such as 1 second, and go from there. Every photo shoot will be different, so arriving early is key.

What Should You Know About Manual and Automatic Camera Settings When Shooting Twilight Real Estate Photos?

Understanding how to operate your camera in both Manual and Automatic Mode is the first step to learning how to take great photos. Some photographers will default to Automatic Mode because it’s quicker, but this isn’t the best route to take. In Automatic Mode, your camera does all of the work to expose and focus your image. But, like all technology, sometimes it can miss the mark.

Working in Manual Mode is essential if you’re a professional photographer. Manual Mode gives you full control over your camera’s settings, including ISO, shutter speed, aperture and more. So, Manual Mode gives you the most creativity in producing your shots. On the other hand, Automatic Mode gives all the creative power to your camera. 

How Do White Balance and Color Settings Affect Real Estate Photos Taken at Dusk?

Settings are the most important part of taking a photograph, because incorrect settings will produce an unusable image. If the white balance and color settings are not correctly set, then you’ll have to spend much more time color correcting in post-production. 

In order to correctly set your camera’s white balance, you’ll need to understand the type of lighting in your scene. Though white balance is a more technical side of photography, it’s easy to learn and super important for your photos.

First, you’ll need to decide if the lighting in your scene is fluorescent or tungsten. You can see the difference between these two types of lighting because fluorescent bulbs produce orange-toned light, while tungsten bulbs produce blue-toned light

If your scene has a mixture of fluorescent and tungsten lighting, you’ll have to color correct your images in a photo editor after you’ve shot them. 

Home exterior with fluorescent lighted door and beautiful sunset sky in the background
Photo by Brian Babb via Unsplash

The toning of a scene can make or break an image. If green, magenta, or blue tones affect your entire image, then you’ll need to color correct or adjust the white balance on your camera mid-shoot.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your images need color correction on a computer screen. Some photographers work from color-corrected screens specifically for retouching. Others simply view their images from multiple devices to see how their appearance changes.

If you find that your home computer’s color display isn’t exactly right, you can purchase screen color calibrators like this one to correct the issue:

Screen calibrator by Spyder X

Calibrating takes under 10 minutes and needs to be checked at least once a month. And, unless you get a newer computer, a calibrator won’t require constant updates.

Conclusion

From understanding how ambient light affects an image to having the right equipment, there are many facets to shooting real estate photography at dusk that you’ll need to consider. But, using the right equipment, practicing, and taking your time while editing will get you a long way to building your real estate photography career. 

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