Learning Photography: Light Sources

by Sarah Cooper on August 8, 2008

Real estate agents are in a multi-faceted profession. It’s hard to be naturally fabulous at each of the roles you need to take on in order to do your job well. This career takes a lot of on the job training and a desire to keep learning and growing.

I am currently trying to relearn photography skills I’m sure I once had. In high school I used a manual 35mm Nikon and knew the basics. Then digital photography came along and for years I only had to point a camera in the right direction, push a button and *poof!* — there would be a picture of what I was seeing.

That’s not enough for me anymore. I hope it’s not enough for you either.

I’m guessing part of what you appreciate about Real Estate Shows is the emotional connection you can create between the viewer and the home. The moving images combined with the music and your text … it’s nearly magical. People feel an attraction and want to learn more. Your pictures are the most vital ingredient. Make them count.

I’d like to share what I’m learning with you. If you have a camera that will allow you to manually select options, I hope you’ll find this helpful. If not, I hope it will still help you to think about how you’re setting up each shot to make it the best it can be. And don’t worry, I believe in keeping things super simple. Really.

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Our first lesson will be light settings. Digital cameras normally come preset for daylight conditions. If you really are outside on a sunny day, this will be perfect. If not, your pictures may be less than ideal.

Your camera will probably let you select from light sources such as sunlight, tungsten, overcast outdoor, fluorescent and flash. Peek in your camera’s manual so that you know how to find this and choose the setting you want. (It’s OK, manuals aren’t all that scary — just a peek!)

Here are a couple pictures I took to illustrate how my camera (Canon Powershot SX100 IS) sees light. Both pictures are of a glass paperweight lit from below with a night light bulb. When I use the Auto setting (remember, preset for daylight) the light is very yellow:

Learning Light Settings

When I adjust my light settings to tell my camera the light source is a tungsten bulb, it will automatically correct the light to be truer to what my own eyes see in real life and expect from the photograph:

Learning Light Settings

Remember that you do NOT have to use the setting that corresponds to the light source just because your camera says it’s right. Taking a photograph of a cozy family room using the sunlight setting will add yellow and give the light a warm glow. This incorrect setting might present exactly the feeling you’re trying to share with your viewer. But in the same home, you may want a photograph of the kitchen’s gleaming stainless steel appliances and glossy granite counters in very crisp, true to life lighting. In that case you may want to use the tungsten setting to add a little blue and provide balance. I am giving you permission to experiment with the settings and find what works for you — it is really OK to play here!

One of the most fabulous features of your digital camera is that you can take and delete pictures over and over again. Don’t be afraid to try it and see what works. Take MANY pictures of your listings — you can upload all you like to the Additional Photos section of your Real Estate Show!

Next lesson, shutter speed. It’s more interesting than it sounds. Trust me.

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