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Real Estate Photography Lighting Tips

Published: 15/03/2021

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Lighting is an essential aspect of photography as it affects a picture's brightness, mood, texture, and color. To transform homes and commercial spaces, I'm giving you real estate photography lighting tips so that you can capture high-level interior and exterior photos to get potential clients to buy your clients' properties.

Real Estate Photography Lighting Tips

Choose the best time of the day to maximize natural lighting and set the correct camera settings. You can also use a property's lighting fixture, direct or bounce flash for a single exposure, modified flash for composite exposures or HDR, and continuous lights. If necessary, enhance the lighting in post-production.

Several factors impact lighting, like direction, quality, intensity, and color temperature. With such things to consider, it's vital that you understand the various lighting methods. Learn something new while still applying the appropriate one according to your style and property's needs.

Choose the Best Time of the Day

Professionally-photographed homes obtain 61% more page views than other properties at the same price levels. Mastering real estate photography lighting is one way to set your images apart from amateur shots.

Woman wearing red shirt taking a photo

Determining the best time of the day is among the most important things to consider when doing a real estate photo session because it significantly influences lighting.

While the best time depends on the style, mood, or tone your client prefers, make sure that you have constant light.

  • Determine the position of the house. If the sun would come up from behind the property, the structure might look dark, or you need to overexpose the background.
  • Take images of north-facing properties around 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
  • For houses facing the south, do the shoot early in the morning or late in the day.
  • An afternoon session is ideal for west-facing homes.
  • Schedule a morning shoot for structures facing the east. 
  • A sunny day is best for exterior photos.
  • Wait for the golden hour when you want a soft, diffused light coming from the sky. The golden hour may last for about an hour after sunrise or before sunset.

Set the Right Camera Settings

Most camera settings impact a real estate photo's quality in different lighting environments. In photography, camera settings determine the exposure, which is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor.

When you don't have external lights, like an ETTL, using the proper camera settings can help you manage lighting.

  • Aperture: Aperture focuses on how much light can pass through the sensor. It also influences the flash output because a bigger aperture enables more light to pass through, while a smaller aperture minimizes the amount of light.
  • Shutter Speed: The shutter speed indicates how long the shutter remains open to receive light. Fast shutter speeds open and close the shutter quickly, decreasing the amount of light. Meanwhile, a slow shutter speed means a longer shutter opening that lets more light enter.
  • ISO: ISO refers to the camera sensor's sensitivity to light. A high ISO value means the sensor becomes more sensitive to light, letting it capture more light without boosting the aperture or slowing down the shutter speed. Meanwhile, a low ISO value prevents you from getting overexposed shots.
  • White Balance: White balance allows you to control the capture of colors in various lighting scenarios. The correct white balance eliminates unwanted color casts while maintaining natural lighting.

Make Use of Natural Lighting

Depending on the time of the day, natural light can be beneficial to any kind of photography as it creates either cool or warm tones. 

Try to work with natural lighting first for interiors, as it's crucial that you give viewers an idea about how environmental lighting affects a property.

  • Consider the position of the windows since lights from the sides won't create a blinding light as opposed to a window in front of you.
  • Open all the curtains or blinds to let sunlight fill a room.
  • Turn off lighting fixtures inside a room when using natural lighting to avoid color casts.
  • Partially close windows if you need to decrease the contrast between the interior and exterior.
Living room with ceiling lights turned on

Maximize Interior and Exterior Lights

About 43% of buyers search the web for properties, while 18% contact real estate agents. Either way, they both need well-lit visuals to get a better idea of a property.

Fortunately, some properties place magnificent lighting fixtures in the right places to emphasize property features or details. 

  • Turn on the lights if they can add character and value to the room.
  • Check if switching all the lights in a room can provide enough illumination or there will be dark spots.
  • Consider tungsten bulbs will give you orange colors, whereas incandescent bulbs would produce white shades.

Do Single Exposure with Flash

It would be best to add external lights if the ambient light or fixtures produce harsh shadowed or blown-out photos. This enables you to control the intensity, quality, and direction of the light on the key subjects in your scene.

For instance, if a coffee table falls into deep shadow, you can put some light on that subject for a well-balanced exposure and emphasis. 

These are some of the ways you can use flash to mimic or enhance natural light.

  • Modify the flash power to control the maximum flash output. Experiment with different power levels or use a light meter to equalize the light.
  • If a direct flash creates harsh shadows or bright spots, pair it with a light modifier or diffuser to minimize shadows.
  • For spaces where there is no enough light coming from the windows, bounce the flash on the same wall to achieve soft yet ample diffused light.
  • The ceiling and walls are your biggest reflectors. Try different angles and positions to bounce flash. Tilt the flash toward or slightly backward, depending on where you need to bounce the light.
  • Use fill flash to show the view outside through the windows while still including a part of the interior. However, you need to match the interior light with the window light to avoid overexposing the window.
  • For exterior photos, direct the flash towards the structure if you prefer to focus on the structure's features than the landscaping.

Modify Flash for Composite Exposures and HDR

There are times when even bounce flash can produce blown-out white spots on the ceiling. Likewise, some complex compositions mean you need to illuminate different subjects at the same time. In this case, you can modify a direct flash using modifiers such as softbox, umbrella, and a sphere or dome.

High dynamic range or HDR is a photo-editing technique that combines multiple images with varying exposures. It requires you to take a base picture with ambient light, a brighter one with the scene lit up, and a darker shot for details.

For each photo, you would need to change the flash output or camera settings to modify exposure. After that, you can use post-processing software to stitch together all of the photos to get all the necessary exposures.

Use Continuous Lights

In photography, continuous lights mean keeping artificial lights always on during a photo session to create illumination or shadows. Whether you utilize lighting fixtures or a strobe, the goal is to turn on the light source continuously as you shoot.

Continuous lights typically produce an even stream of light onto subjects, enabling you to check the lighting situation in real-time. As a result, you can see if you need to add more lights.

Continuous lights are helpful when you need to take a few video clips as you shoot. Since you won't use a flash each time you click the shutter button, continuous lights can retain sufficient illumination without changing the exposure.

Man in black shirt fixing lighting gear

Be Cautious When Using Mixed Lighting

Real estate photography requires neutral, uniform lighting. However, using mixed lighting means you would have to work with different color temperatures. In effect, you would get overcast colors when these light sources don't match.

With that said, you can use gel filters to match color temperatures if your external lights don't match the temperature of window light or interior fixtures.

Post-Process in Lightroom

If you're shooting in RAW, you have more image details to recover for editing.

There are instances where it's better to adjust the lighting in Lightroom, especially when dealing with exposure. Remember, elements such as highlights, shadows, and contrast all influence illumination.

  • Clip shadows or highlights in low-light images.
  • Adjust exposure to increase brightness in underexposed shots.
  • Decrease the Blacks slider value if there are significantly dark portions to bring more attention to highlighted parts.
  • Use the Curves Tool panel to modify contrast, shadows, and highlights.
  • Boost the Clarity slider if you need to add depth or define edges while maintaining lighting glow.
  • If you used the incorrect white balance setting in your camera, use the Temp Slider and Eye Dropper to correct the white balance automatically.


A real estate photographer must enhance any space's natural beauty without too much altering. You can do that by combining correct camera settings, ambient light, lighting fixtures, and external lights to illuminate a scene. With these tips, you can capture enticing real estate photos that balance technicalities and creativity.


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