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Are 360 photographers missing an essential skill? (UPDATE: video now added – Immersive Talks Episode 3)

Are 360 photographers missing an essential skill?
Are 360 photographers missing an essential skill?

Are 360 photographers missing an essential skill that could transform their 360 photos?  I’m referring to flash photography, which is used extensively not just in fields such as product photography, portraiture, or event photography, but also widely used in real estate interior photography.  However, flash is not used by the vast majority of 360 photographers.   Are 360 photographers missing out on this skill, or is flash photography irrelevant to 360 photos?

As part of the Immersive Talks interview series, Vineet Devaiah and I had a discussion entitled “An Essential Skill that 360 Photographers are Missing.”  Here is the replay.

360 photographers are outliers

Recent poll shows that most 360 photographers do not use flash
Recent poll shows that most 360 photographers do not use flash

If you ask 360 photographers whether they use flash, they might perceive the question to be odd.  That’s because the vast majority of 360 photographers do not use flash, as shown in a recent poll I conducted in a group for 360 photographers, many of whom are experienced professional 360 photographers.  But the truth is that the majority of real estate photographers — almost 3 out of 4 — use flash photography, as shown in a second poll I conducted among non-360 real estate photographers.

Approximately 3 out of 4 real estate photographers use flash
Approximately 3 out of 4 real estate photographers use flash

Given the significant overlap between real estate photography and 360 photography, one would expect that a similar proportion of 360 photographers would be using flash.  Here are some reasons to use flash for real estate photography and yes, 360 photography as well.

HDR is not a substitute for flash

One way to use flash is to illuminate dark areas.  But what about HDR?  360 photographers do use exposure bracketing to increase dynamic range.  Wouldn’t HDR provide enough shadow detail?  Whereas HDR bracketing does improve the shadow detail, the detail and colors are nowhere as good as when flash is used.  Here is a sample 360 photo comparing HDR versus flash (you can rotate the image or use the slider in the middle).  In case you’re wondering, all interior lights were turned on in the HDR shot.  However, because it was a sunny day, the interior lights had almost no effect.

Add drama with accent lights

Another way to use flash is to add drama to a 360 photo by adding accent lights.  While there are ways of simulating such lighting effects in Photoshop and other photo editors, the results from flash are more believable and usable for discerning clients.

 

Fixing color casts efficiently

360 photos shot only with ambient light can have many color casts from different sources, such as different lights used in the same room, reflections off the walls, furniture, or floor.  Even a room with a relatively neutral palette can have significant color casts.  Flash can be used to reduce most of these color casts.

Flash can fix color casts efficiently
Flash can fix color casts efficiently

Summary

These are just some of the ways that photographers can use flash for their 360 photography.  Not all photos will benefit from flash, but there are many circumstances where flash will indeed enhance the photo.  Given the usefulness of flash, 360 photographers stand to benefit from learning how to use flash for their photos.  Flash is just one of the topics covered in Virtual Tour Edge 2.0, which has about 7 hours of videos with more to be added.  And if you sign up during the launch period, you can get HQ Method included at no additional cost.  And to celebrate Lunar New Year, you can get 25% off with the code happynewyear888.

Meanwhile, if you want to see the other interviews in the Immersive Talks series, see here.