The Best Technique in Real Estate Photography, by Rich Baum

In this video, Rich Baum, a professional photographer based in Sacramento, California, revisits and expands upon his most popular video tutorial, focusing on the “single best technique in real estate photography.” The essence of the technique is to “let the ambient do the heavy lifting,” which Baum elaborates on using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to demonstrate how this approach simplifies the process, enhances image quality, and saves time, especially for beginners.

The video begins with Baum explaining the importance of using both ambient and flash photography to achieve optimal real estate images. He demonstrates using Lightroom Classic to prepare and edit images. The tutorial covers how to use a combination of ambient shots (natural lighting) and flash shots (artificial lighting) to create well-lit, balanced images. Baum illustrates this by working through various examples, including bedrooms and living areas, showing how to manage lighting, shadows, and color casts.

Baum emphasizes the significance of layer masking in Photoshop, where he blends ambient and flash images to achieve the desired lighting and texture. He gives step-by-step instructions on how to align and blend these layers effectively, using the ‘lighten mode’ to merge the best elements of each image. This technique helps correct issues like flash shadows, uneven lighting, and color imbalances.

Moreover, Baum provides practical tips on camera settings and positioning, advising on ISO levels, shutter speeds, and the strategic placement of flashes. He also addresses common post-processing challenges, like removing unnatural orange tints or compensating for missing light bulbs in a room, demonstrating how to use adjustment brushes in Lightroom for fine-tuning.

The tutorial is packed with practical advice, aimed at helping photographers, especially those new to real estate photography, to work efficiently while producing high-quality images. Baum concludes by thanking his sponsor, Adorama, and inviting viewers to explore more resources like his podcast and photography courses. He also mentions his upcoming workshop in Las Vegas, underscoring his commitment to educating and supporting photographers in the real estate niche.


Hi, this is Rich with Rich Baum Photography, Sacramento, California. Welcome to my YouTube channel, a place where we talk about all things real estate photography related. Today, we’re going to be doing a remake of my most-watched video, which is called “The Single Best Technique in Real Estate Photography.” It’s really all about letting the ambient do the heavy lifting, so I’m going to go into that today and add a couple of little techniques which are going to help make your day faster, easier, and especially for beginners out there, it’s just going to really help you understand how shooting this way can save your time, get you a better product, and so on.

Before I go into this, I just want to say thank you to Adorama for sponsoring my YouTube Channel. Please use that affiliate link in the show notes; it helps me make these free videos. Imagine that, free videos! So sit back, let’s go into Lightroom and get right to it.

Okay, so now we’re in Lightroom Classic, and for this tutorial, we’re going to use Lightroom and Photoshop. You’ve got to use Photoshop if you want to do layer masking of layers and do all that kind of stuff, but it’s well worth learning. So, if you’re not using Photoshop, I would suggest you start. Let’s start here. This is a finished image. I have pretty good windows, I have shadows, it’s a beautiful image, I think, for a simple bedroom. But this should be really fast and really easy. So let’s just go into the pieces of the puzzle.

First, we’re going to need our ambient image, which is lit using ambient, so no lighting. It is trying to get overall luminosity or exposure for the room, which I’ve got. It’s got nice shadows here, and we want these shadows because look at the flash image of the bedroom shot. Okay, so I’ve got one flash pointing straight up. I don’t know the power of the flash, but I’m shooting at 1/160th at ISO 250. So you can use ISO 250 because I’m at my max sync speed, which is 160th, and to get this window view, I had to lower my ISO from 500 down to 250 to get that.

Okay, so I’ve got my flash image for the bedroom. My next image is going to be the flash. I’m going to bring a flash into the bathroom and put it behind this wall. I’m just standing in the bathroom with one single flash, and what I’m doing is tethering so I can trigger my camera from my iPad in the bathroom and see the results. You could do this if you don’t tether by putting on your timer and walking around to the corner, and you are going to illuminate the bathroom with a flash. Okay, but you can see that I need both of these shots, this one and this one, in one shot.

So what I’m going to do is bring all these three images, the ambient shot, the flash shot, and the bathroom flash shot, and I’m going to right-click here and go “edit in,” then “open as layers in Photoshop.” Okay, so it’s just going to take a second to open, and please remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel and use that affiliate link again; it helps me make these free videos. So now that we’re going to open up three layers into Photoshop, here we go. As you can see, my computer is actually running a little slow.

I’m now going to highlight all three images and go up in the edit. I want to auto-align, and I’m only going to do this one time for this tutorial. Auto-align and go okay for auto, and it auto-aligns all three layers, which is important. You want to have everything lined up for doing masking. So now, let’s just select the ambient image and turn off the ambient first because I want to deal with the two flash images. I’m turning off the ambient image there, and now I’m going to highlight the flash image, which is the flash of the bedroom, and all I’m going to do is go here and go up into where it says “normal mode.” I’m going to mask in normal mode, and I want to now do a dropdown and go to lighten mode.

And you can see, let’s do that again, one, two… Oops, I’m going to normal mode, and I’m going to show you so you can really see it happen. I’m just going to bring it down to lighten mode, and if you hit light mode, it turns on the light. So it brings these two flash images, the light mode because it’s lighter. It will only bring in what’s lighter, and it works great, and it’s so fast and easy. So now I’ve got both lights on, and I could actually deliver this photo the way it is, but I’m going to add in. I’m going to turn on the eyeball on my ambient image, select my ambient image, and hit “add.” I want to add a layer mask, okay. So I’m going to hold down option. There we go, and it makes a black layer mask, okay. That’s what we want. Now I’m going to make sure all my settings are correct. I have my white selected here, which is reveal. I’m going to use my paintbrush, which I also want on zero hardness. I want my opacity at 100 percent, I want my flow at 20 percent. You can start at 10; it might be easier for you. Now I’m just going to start painting in with my brush, and I’m going to make my brush about this big. I’m going to mask in a little bit of ambient to take out that shadow on the wall, bring in a little bit of ambient here to get rid of the flashiness of the flash in the bathroom, and here.

And I mainly want to get rid of the flashiness on camera flashiness from the on-camera flash. So there we go. Okay, let’s just look at this a second and see where we are. You can see that masking in the ambient really helped. It’s very subtle, but I think it’s worthwhile to do. Okay, so now let’s bring this back into Lightroom, and I’m going to show you a little trick here. So I’m going to hold command S-W, and it’s going to save the image. It’s flattening the image, which is okay because I’m done with it, and I want to bring it back into Lightroom as a final image. And the main thing is I just want to show you how quick and easy this is. And the next image I’m going to do is just going to be letting the ambient do the heavy lifting.

Now let’s open back the final image. It’s a TIFF here in Lightroom, and I just now want to get rid of some of this orange. So basically, I’m going to hit my adjustment brush and take out some saturation and a little bit of blue, negative blue, which is going to take out some of this blue. So now I’m going to raise this up, and I’m just going to paint out the orange here, and this is something you can do on

a lot of your images, as long as you don’t want that orange. If you like the warmth, it’s okay. A little bit there, a little bit there, and a little bit there. There you go. I’m now all I have to do is crop out this wall, and I think it’s pretty good. I’m happy with the final product, and if I did this real time, it would take about one to two minutes.

Okay, now let’s go into this image. Here’s a final image; it’s a pretty big room. What I’m going to do now is I’m going to use two lights. I’m going to put a light; let’s show you the flash image. The flash image is going to be a light in this room, behind this wall, and a light in this room, the main room, right to the left of the camera, as you can see. These chairs are really hot, but I need to have light in this room here, the kitchen. I didn’t want to use three lights, so let’s now just highlight the ambient shot. I’m going to do a little bit of touch-up on the ambient shot. I’m going to use my eyedropper tool, white balance eyedropper, and I bet I did it on the ceiling, and it got rid of… Let’s look at that again. It’s going to my eyedropper tool. I’m going to go up to the ceiling, and it takes out some of the orange, and it looks a lot better.

The next thing I’m going to do is take out some of the highlights. I’m going to bring that down and actually bring down the exposure to about there. I’m making my ambient shot so I can use it in the overall image. So this ambient shot’s actually pretty good, but I need it to be a lot. Look at how it’s going to look in the end. I want it to be really crisp and sharp, and that’s why I use lights. Okay, so now let’s hit the two images right here, and all this is is two images. So I’m now going to hit “go into edit in,” then “open as layers in Photoshop.” And again, you just have to understand the pieces of the puzzle you need, and that comes from doing it over and over and over again. So once you start doing it, it’s going to be tricky, but hopefully, you’ll internalize and get the concepts and go, “Oh, I get it. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Okay, but in the bottom line, remember, it gets a lot faster and a lot easier. So now, once these both open up here, I’m not going to hit Auto-align, but I want you to do an online. So I’m just going to hit on the ambient shot, and I’m going to make a layer mask, and again, I’m going to hit down option and hit “add a layer mask.” And there is the flash image, and I want to bring in ambient because we need exposure here, but we didn’t want to bring in a light over here. So all I’m doing now, we have the same settings, a white mask, paintbrush, opacity 100 and flow 20. Okay, let’s just brush in some ambient light here, and look how fast and easy that is. Okay, and let’s just look at the difference right there. It is so easy. It’s like unbelievably fast and easy, and that really is “let the ambient do the heavy lifting.” It’s really the single best technique in all of real estate photography, in my opinion.

Now let’s address all the other problems. Look, I’ve got… my flash has caused up in the top; my flash has caused some shadows up by the beams. So let’s mask out the shadows because the ambient image doesn’t have the flash shadow. Okay, let’s go there and mask that again. See, it’s replacing it. Here’s a bad artificial flag shadow; it’s replacing it with a natural shadow. Let’s go back here and bring an ambient here. Okay, let’s make ambient here. Let’s get rid of the flashiness of these chairs in the foreground, add a little bit of ambient love here, and bring an ambient here to get rid of that ceiling fan shadow. And there we go. Let’s look at the difference by what ambient brings in. There’s no ambient, and there’s ambient. Okay, so let’s go one more time back into AT SW command SW to flatten and bring back, save and bring back the image right where it goes into in the Lightroom. Okay, so, again, this is really, really fast and easy once you get it, and it is so much… we’re basically doing flambient or flash ambient blend. And it’s the technique that I use, and I think it’s the best technique to use to get sharp, crisp, great images.

Now let’s take out… let’s zoom in here. Let’s go back to that adjustment brush, and let’s just brush out some of this warmth. All I did was take out a little bit of saturation. There we go. Okay, and let’s go out a little bit. Let’s see; we can take a little bit of the warmth there. Actually, a little bit of warmth on that up here. And boy, that’s about it. Oh, you know what? I want to take out a little bit of this blue. There we go. Okay, so I think that’s just dandy, and I can even add my… I have an adjustment brush for… I’m not an adjustment pressure preset, which is my final bump, and that is right here. Look what it does. You can see it on the right. It adds a little bit of crispness. You can see the preset right here. That’s all it is right there. Okay, so let’s go on to the next image, and I think you’re probably getting it by now.

Okay, and now here’s a really good example of “let the ambient do the heavy lifting.” Here’s my ambient shot, and I’m going to do my flash shot here, and I’m just lighting the bathroom. And this is again, this is 1/40th of a second at F8 and ISO 400. So I’m exposing for these lights up here, and I’m going to show you another trick because we’re out of light bulb is out, but we need light in this walk-in closet. Oh no, this is actually the master bedroom. So what I’m going to do is let the ambient do the heavy lifting. Okay, there we go. I actually did a flash pop for this, which I’m going to show you. I’m going to bring all three of these images into Photoshop, so you can either bring a flash… all I did was walk in this room, and I triggered my remotely triggered my camera, and it set off the image. So I did that in there, and this is the same, 1/40th of a second. But you know, your exposure might differ depending on your rooms.

So let’s highlight this image, this image, and this image, and I’m just gonna go and bring it into Photoshop as layers. And I’m going to show you, and I don’t even have…