Expanded Natural Lighting is the name we came up with for the approach and techniques we developed for photographing real estate listings and other architectural interiors. It’s a combination of shooting techniques and extensive post processing that enable us to deal with interior scenes that include bright light from windows and lamps, and the pools of darkness in between, and produce finished images that look totally natural and evenly lit.
When photographing a property, we shoot multiple exposures of each scene, using different camera settings, and adding flash to some of them. Then we blend those exposures together in post processing to produce a single finished image. We won’t go into all the details, not because it’s a super secret process, but because it’s far too complicated to explain briefly. All most clients want to know is that it works.
However, for those who are interested, here are a few of the highlights:
Yes, we use HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques, but with our own custom settings and refinements to control the garish colors and hyper-contrast that are the often unwanted hallmarks of the HDR look.
Yes, we use flash to add light to the room, fill in shadows, and help with color fidelity, but we don’t rely on flash as the primary lighting because it’s too harsh and unnatural (even when the flash is bounced off the ceiling for a softer effect).
Yes, we use something conceptually similar to the “Flambient” (flash plus ambient) technique, but again, with our own custom-developed refinements. In fact, we turn Flambient upside down, so maybe we should call our version “Ambilash”.
There’s more to the process, including luminosity masking, layer blending, custom camera and lens profiles, local adjustments, and a lot of other stuff.
It’s complicated, but we’ve perfected a set of presets, actions, and procedures that automate enough of the steps to enable us to deliver quality images relatively quickly. (It’s still a lot of work though.)