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What is Flambient? Why Use it?

Is flambient a TikTok dance trend?

Maybe...? No 🤪. In fact, flambient is a photography technique made famous by popular demand. It puts the "premium" in real estate photography. By contrast, HDR (what your smartphone does) is reviled near universally by professional photographers due to it's uncanny ability to create color casting and unnatural shadows.

Explain the flambient technique to a 5 year old

Easy. Take a photo with the natural room light, bounce a second flash shot in the nearest corner (exposing the windows), then layer the two images in photoshop and use a soft brush to reduce opacity. Since no room will have perfect lighting at every angle, and because our ultra bright external flashes create an unnatural light, we can port a triple bracket shot in our editing software to find the perfect balance for every perspective. Here's an example so you can easily see the difference.

Step 1. We need a photo with only the natural, ambient light. This establishes the shadow base so we can remove them later.

Ambient light photo. Image by Studio Vos
Ambient light photo. Image by Studio Vos

Step 2. Now we use a super bright external flash to eliminate the previous shadows. Although new silhouettes will be created by doing this, we can tone them down in step 3 now that we have an outline of both luminosity and dimness.

External flash photo. Image by Studio Vos
External flash photo. Image by Studio Vos

Step 3. Now the previous images have been combined for lighting, polished to perfection, and our finished flambient photo is below.

Combined, finished, flambient photo. Image by Studio Vos
Combined, finished, flambient photo. Image by Studio Vos

Does Studio Vos really do this for every listing photo?

90% of the time this flambient method is how we produce your high quality premium MLS-ready real estate photos. There are only a few exceptions where we'll use a 50-50 HDR / flambient mix. Situations such as picturing a cluttered garage, an exterior photo in clear daylight, or if we plan to significantly digitally alter the photo.

Isn't HDR faster and thus cheaper?

Yes, definitely! HDR (high dynamic range) also known colloquially as run-and-gun photography, allows you to click a single button to reach near completion for your client's job. This is certainly tempting if you're a one person company. The real question becomes, is it better? Now the answer is a clear "nope." That is, if you want to deliver the most accurate, vibrant colors; realistic shadows; and bright, sharp, clean lines. Look at this side-by-side comparison by Tennessee based Brad Capone.

Why work harder?

Studio Vos knows there's a quantifiable difference between our finished products and that $49.99 special being advertised online. Furthermore, we truly believe that your clients deserve the highest level of RE photography. Some other benefits of using flambient include:

  • Photographs can be scaled to fit a print magazine cover, bus bench, or billboard

  • Addition of focused lighting allows us to create a window pull (so you can see clearly outside)

  • HDR washes out colors that don't fit the rest of your image, such as glossy floors, a shiny microwave or lit bulbs

Why shouldn't I use flambient?

There are moments when skimping on the extra steps results in a faster approach. This could save you edits, thus valuable lost market time (and money) returned to your clients. What are other good reasons to not use the flambient technique?

  • Flambient requires an accessory flash and extra equipment costs dough

  • Higher resolution may not be important for your scenario

  • The light room editing software needed can take years to master

  • Additional layering shots means longer photoshoots

  • It's difficult to obtain consistency across interior and exterior shots

  • Shadows created by your flash, specifically above ceiling fans, burnished objects, and across the room are a challenge to manage

  • When shooting outside of point-and-click it's easy to make mistakes but difficult to correct them

For images like this...

When you're able to see each grain of leather, clear contrast within shades of brown, and the difference between interior/exterior/lamp lighting, then you're working at a premium level. It's easy to find real estate photographers using the flambient technique if you simply ask for their portfolio. Another hint is that they're investing in equipment for supplemental services such as videography or software skills for virtual staging. Orrrrrrr, just call Studio Vos 😎.

Thanks for making it to the end

If you enjoyed this week's post then you'd probably appreciate our last one about using Instagram as a sales funnel. Or if pictures with single sentence captions are more your style then head over to our our Instagram. Alternatively, the Facebook page is stuffed with behind-the-scenes bonus content from our team.

Pro tips, props, problems?

Found a typo? Want to make this post more helpful? Add your pro tips and props to the comments 🙏

PS it truly makes a difference to local businesses when you share the link or engage via comment. We value your voice!


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