Join Scott Hargis for an in-depth discussion in this video Editing a twilight front exterior image, part of Real Estate Photography: Exterior at Twilight.
- Well, we've captured our Twilight images, and because I was shooting tethered out front, I have a pretty good idea of what I got. The images from the back I've only ever seen on the back of the camera, so, you know, we don't know for sure what's there, but pulling them up on the laptop here, I can see that, in fact, we did pretty good. So we're gonna look at the front exterior and then the fire pit photo that we did in the back, which was kinda the, we're hoping for a picture. The backup photo. I think we probably got something usable, but I doubt if it's really ready out of camera.
Our front exterior shot here. At first glance, it does look pretty good to me. The white balance is way off. Obviously, it's very, very cool. So the first thing we're gonna do is we're gonna crank that up... until it's something pleasing. Now, first of all, there's no such thing as an accurate color match anywhere in photography, right? And particular at twilight. Really what we're going for is pleasing color. This is a time of day when true color fidelity really goes out the window.
I suppose if you had a truly white stucco house you'd wanna keep it pretty close to white, but even then, naturally, our brains expect things to be warmer or potentially cooler at twilight. Typically, though, a sunset, you know, you're seeing the lighting conditions on the screen, your brain immediately goes, sunset, and we think warm, red tones at sunset. So just as in my interior photos, I often warm them up just a few degrees Kelvin above what would technically be neutral. Our twilight exteriors tend to go the same way.
And that's in contrast to what's gonna happen in the sky where we really want that rich, rich, rich blue color because again, that's what we expect, that's what we love to see. And so as you can see, I've cranked the temperature up here to about 12,000, and that's where I think the house and the landscaping looks right. The sky has lost it's blue altogether. I'm gonna go back to where we started, which is around 5500. The sky had a good, blue color, but the house was all too cool. Before I even start moving this around, there's an interesting thing I wanna point out.
If you look at the histogram here, you can see that we could have pushed this exposure quite a bit further. I wrapped on it pretty early because I really wanted to get to the backyard and see that shot back there, and I think that was ultimately the right decision in terms of trying to get two pictures. So I let this one go just ahead of when it was really optimal, and in doing so, I think we probably got the last possible chance at a shot out back. So it was a good strategy as far as it goes, but had we just hung in there longer in the front, we could have done a better job in camera.
Nothing is clipped, we're okay, we didn't clip any shadows. I can see by the histogram on the left edge that it ends just before the left side of the graph. Same thing on the right side, but even more so. There's this, if you look at the blue channel, you can see there's this huge spike up here at the top, and that's this light area of sky over here. And even here, I'm getting readings in the mid 80s. So we have plenty of density, but this was absolutely the brightest thing, and the windows, which are registering in the red and yellow channels, are way back here.
So here's what would have happened if we would have stayed another... It wouldn't have been very long, five minutes at the most. This area, the sky, would have gotten significantly darker, and the windows, I would have had to drag the shutter yet again another few seconds. The windows would have brightened up even more, but they had room to go before they clipped, and at that point, all of this foliage over here, which is pretty dark, and we're gonna have to correct for that, would have come out much closer to the values of the sky. Again, we're looking for a time of day.
This is why we shoot twilight, when the dynamic range is very, very low. When the shadows and the highlights are not so far apart, then things really look fantastic. So we called this one a little early, right before primetime. And you know, we had some reasons for doing it, but we could have pushed it to come even closer to the perfect shot in camera. All right, actually, let's remember first that we shot this slightly wide with a plan for cropping it. So I'm gonna bring the crop tool up, and we'll play around with possible crops for this.
I'm gonna bring it in on the left, but I'm gonna keep this tall tree right here as a tool for framing the photo, for keeping the eye in. We don't want people going up and out of this thing. So we're gonna keep some dark stuff, right, in the corners to help guide our viewer and not allow them to leave the photograph. And again, let's play with the right side, because we had this light pole over here, and just as, you remember on the basics course, we were goofing around with cropping way in close to the house and cutting that light pole out completely because we felt it was ugly, but...
I just think it makes it a little crowded on the right side. It makes me wonder, well, what's over there that they're not showing me. So I'm gonna go ahead and just give it some breathing room on the right-hand side. Again, this is just an aesthetic compositional decision I'm making, and you could do something different and defend it very well, but here's where I'm gonna end up. And I think this'll be a pretty good crop. I'm not in love with the light pole. Sometimes, they are really nice.
They lend an element, a compositional element that gives the photo some interest. I am not really feeling it, and I'm gonna show you how easy it is to take it out. I'm not gonna do the entire thing, but check this out. Just the spot removal tool in Lightroom. One click, and the worst of it's gone, I mean, like that. So we have tremendously powerful tools for doing what we want with this pictures. That light pole is not technically on the property that we're shooting, so for a real estate ethics standpoint, we're fine to take it out...
because it is not part of what's for sale. The rest of this would not be that hard to take out, quite frankly. You would be replacing some dark fuzzy foliage back here, a little bit of a sky, a regularly shaped board fence. Those are not too tough to tackle. I'm not gonna do it right now, but you could do this without too much difficulty. The hardest part would be the peaked roof of the shed right there, which, again, would not be too difficult to rebuild in Photoshop, or even easier, and maybe better, take it out completely.
Luckily, we just don't have to do too much work to this in terms of cloning things out though. So having found a crop that I like, let's get the white balance where it belongs for the house, which I'm gonna end up somewhere... I'm gonna put that at about 11,000 Kelvin. 11,000, that's a lot. You'll never be there on an interior photo, but that's where the grass and the trees and stuff look just right, but my sky is all washed out at that point. So we are going to go ahead and pull a gradient from the top just like this.
Let the zero, whatever was already on there, and we're gonna cool that right back down to where it should be, check that out, just like that. Very often, the twilight skies will benefit from some extra magenta, don't go too far with it. You can make it purple. Purple doesn't really happen. I'm gonna urge you to resist putting in really garish, crazy skies. They don't tend to work so good. They look kinda cheesy to my eye.
We'll darken it up a little bit because we can, and there we go, that's a much better looking sky. I'm gonna do one other thing here, which is I wanna zoom in and really double-check that I got my verticals vertical. We leveled the camera carefully, but where this can go sideways is that I was standing in the bed of that pickup truck while I was leveling the camera. Then I hopped out in order to take the picture. So at that point, the truck could have moved a little bit because I weigh about 180 pounds, and that's enough to tilt the bed of that truck.
So let's go ahead and get our chromatic aberration corrected. I'm gonna click constrain crop. I'm not doing the profile corrections because I was shooting with a shift lens, and there are no profile corrections for shift lenses. This is because shift lenses have an infinite number of points in the glass that you could be using. There's just no way that you can profile those. And zooming in, I get a grid on the screen as soon as I mouse over this, and...
I think we did pretty good. Let's look at the edge of the house. It looks straight up and down to me, I think we're fine. Obviously, that truck has a pretty good suspension system. So no need to go anywhere there. While we're down here in the develop panel... throw a little vignette in. You know, again, don't go overboard like that. I'm gonna end up at about 15. A vignette of 15 is looking real good to me.
Okay, now back up to the top. I've got my composition subtled in, I've vignetted it, and I do that relatively early because the vignette really changes your perception of what's going on in the middle of the picture. That's something I've learned over the years is to get the edges where they're gonna be and then work on the middle where the eye ends up. If you do the middle first and then you vignette, inevitably, I always ended up going back and brightening the middle of the photo. So I kinda reverse that now. I'm not really gonna mess with the exposure at all, but I'm gonna go ahead and just pull highlights down slightly, again, just to help emphasize the sky.
I'm gonna boost the shadows a little more than I would want to, and I'm up, well, let's not go that far. I'm up in the 30s, that's a lot for me, and again, that's because we called that shot just a little too early. Things were still just a little contrasty out there. Again, I feel like that was worth it. And then again, because we're shooting real estate, we're gonna boost a little bit of clarity, we're gonna boost some saturation. So this is getting a little bit exciting for my taste, but real estate agents will eat that up.
They're gonna like that. So this picture's come a long way, and there's a terrible thing that's jumping out at me right now that I just cannot abide, and that is the windows. Look at how insanely orange those windows have become. This is because we've moved the white balance of the shot up to 11,000 Kelvin. Those lights are all at 2900 Kelvin. So that's an enormous discrepency. It's causing them to appear outrageously orange. Can't have that, there's a really quick, simple fix that we're gonna do right here in camera raw.
These raw files are extremely malleable. We can do almost anything with them. This is why I was saying earlier that HDR and Photomatix and Exposure Fusion blending, all their cousins, as far as I'm concerned, they're kinda obsolete. I can do more with a single well thought out raw file than I could do with three brackets. And you don't get any of the ghosting and the halos and the muddy midtones and the weirdness that comes along with all of those things.
I really feel like we have come a ways from that. I'm gonna come down here to the color panel. I'm in the hue saturation luminance panel, and I'm gonna choose saturation and the target tool here, and I'm gonna desaturate that orange. So it's targeting just those tones. You can see where there's a slight effect in the grass, barely noticeable, a little more over here on the shrubs on the left side, which could be because they're receiving light from that street lamp, it's hard to tell, but look how much better the windows look when I desaturate them.
If I go all the way, they look pretty weird. They should have some color, we want that house to be warm and inviting, and we want people to sort of want to walk inside for sure, but we just don't want them to be like this because it looks like the house is on fire inside. That's not good, so I'm gonna find a place that, again, I find pleasing. Sometimes, if the interior lights have a fluorescent component or even an LED component, the color will not be that pleasing and so we'll change the hue as well as the saturation, but it can all be done right here in camera raw.
As a last step on this picture, I'm gonna do something that I could have done in the field, and I didn't. Now we had a graduated neutral density pulled down for the sky... but I could also have had a second one placed for the pavement. Most photographs will benefit from a darkened foreground and a brighter background. This is how we help establish a sense of depth. We want people to go past the foreground, focus on the house, and then realize that everything behind it is farther away.
As we can see, there's a horizon back there. The sky gets brighter and brighter and brighter the farther away you get towards the horizon. All of these are little cues that help establish the sense of three dimensionality. So by darkening the foreground, and this is a good thing to do on almost any exterior photo unless it just naturally happened that way, and it'll improve your shots. So I think this is looking pretty good. You know, we can certainly zoom in, find some blemishes, who knows. I may even have some sensor dust in there somewhere.
If this was going into my portfolio, I would probably take out this little standpipe here on the left, but for real estate purposes, that's a no-no. Once we get to my website though, we can do anything we want to make the photo appear perfect. The vents on the roof, the same way. And again with this light pole here on the right-hand side. That would see some work, but otherwise, I think this picture's done. We have some backyard photos to take a look at so that's what we'll do next.
- Why twilight?
- Setting up front and back shots
- Waiting for the moment
- Turning on interior lights
- Editing images