THE FLAMBIENT technique
What is flambient photography? Flambient is a shooting method in photography that mostly used by real estate photographers. It involves combining both flash and ambient light exposures by using editing software. The one we know of is Adobe Photoshop.
There’s a lot of discussions about whether you should use a flash in real estate photography or just use natural light. It’s just a matter of preference. However, most of the time, the real estate agents prefer to see all the details in each room such as the exact wall color, floor textures, window view, and more. And that’s when you should use a flash.
Even when we’re using flash, we want to make sure that our photos still look natural and raw but how can we do that? If you are trying to produce this kind of look or a certain style, flash and ambient or flambient is the way to go. Try this guide into your shoot and you’ll see a big difference in your shoot and you might attract more clients. Here’s how you can achieve it:
DSLR Camera – any DSLR camera is fine to use.
Tripod – In shooting real estate, specifically, if you want to shoot flambient, it is a must to use a tripod to make your camera steady so it will align in the post process.
Camera Remote App (Optional) – We are also using a camera remote app installed on our smartphone so we can release the shutter remotely because pressing the shutter in the camera might also move it in the slightest.
Flash – Any flash is okay but we are using an outdoor flash for more light power.
Godox AD200 is the most commonly used by photographers.
Flash Trigger – This is the device that relays a signal from your digital SLR camera to the flash unit, telling it to fire.
Do you have all those pieces of equipment? It’s time to learn how it’s done.
1) Use Ambient Bracketed Shots
Ambient light means the light that is already present in a scene. It usually refers to natural light, either outdoors or coming through windows, etc. It can also mean artificial lights such as normal room lights or in our term, no flash.
Shooting one ambient exposure is a hit or miss. Sometimes it will work just fine but sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why we recommend shooting 3-5 exposures. By using multiple exposures or bracketed shots like EV -2, 0, +2 will help you to get rid of the noise in the dark spots and recover the details to the full-blown areas.
It also helps in balancing the lighting in a high contrast area by merging it in HDR software such as Enfuse, Photomatix, Photoshop.
2) Use Flash Exposure
A flash is used in photography to help illuminate a scene and to illuminate darker areas. Other uses are capturing quickly moving objects or changing the quality of light. In flambient photography, we recommend using an outdoor studio flash especially when you are shooting a large property. What we’re using is a 600w outdoor wireless flash.
To produce a good flash exposure you should bounce the flash into the ceiling. Bounced flash is the secret of using flash exposure (Well, not that secret, but it’s so basic that most of us forgot to apply it).
We don’t want to hit the room directly with flash because it will create horrible and harsh photos, it will also create hard shadows that are hard to get rid of.
There are two ways you could do, you could point the flash in the ceiling or use a studio umbrella to bounce off the flash. Note: using an umbrella might bring a little inconvenience because you always have to move it when shooting a property. The power of the flash depends on the window exposure. Adjust the power of flash until the whole area is perfectly balanced. See the pictures below.
This is done with the same camera settings. All of the lights coming through is from bounced flash.
3) Window Exposure
There are two types of window exposure: Ambient and Flash
Most of the time, -2 EV exposure is not enough to capture the right exposure of the view in the window that is why it is ideal to set aside a few seconds to adjust the exposure of your camera settings until the window is well-lit. See pictures for example.
What is the difference between Ambient Window Exposure and Flash Window Exposure? Not that much since the window will just be cropped in the post process, however, there will be a huge difference in the time of editing. The technique is to hide the flash to the window to avoid reflections.
4) Blending the Flambient
This is where it will get tricky. Blend all the exposures in Photoshop by combining the photos into photoshop layers. You can use HDR software to merge and balance all the ambient exposures before blending it with flash exposure. We will also release a blog post about how to blend ambient and flash photos.
For now, you can check out this video. Nathan Cool Photo did a very good job teaching on how to do this.
This process is the hardest part. It takes a lot of time and effort to master. We recommend hiring an expert in the real estate photo editing for this kind of procedure. You will save a lot of time and money. Most of them charge as cheap as $1.2/photo.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.