If you want to sell or rent out a house, you need good pictures. We’ve all seen those bland, unedited pictures taken from cell phone that someone threw up online to sell a house. Don’t be one of those people.
Flambient photography is a common technique used in real estate, where a photo taken with ambient lighting is combined with a photo taken with the flash on. “Flash” plus “ambient” equals “Flambient”.
In addition to this written tutorial, you can also watch our video tutorial on how to do flambient photography in Affinity Photo.
Step 0: Get the Images
To make a Flambient photo, you first need to take two pictures of the room, first with flash, then without. This is best done while using a tripod, to make sure the photos are in the same position. For this example, we’ll use this sample image with a flash, and this sample image without a flash.
Then you can open the RAW images in Affinity Photo, and edit them from the Develop Persona. We won’t be covering the Develop Persona here, but if you’re interested in learning more about it, we have an entire chapter dedicated to this persona in our beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo.
After you’re done editing the images in the Develop Persona, press Develop, and then export them as JPEGs.
If you want, you can skip all of this and get the JPEGs here.
Step 1: Stack the JPEGs
To begin editing our Flambient photo, we need to bring the two exported JPEGs into Affinity Photo, and make sure they’re lined up with each other. To do, we can use Affinity’s stack feature. Just come to File, and then down to New Stack.
Then press Add, and select the two images. Then press OK.
Now the two images are perfectly lined up with each other.
Even if you used a tripod, I still recommend you put both images into a stack, because a tripod can sometimes shake a little while you’re taking a photo.
After stacking photos, Affinity puts them inside of a group. To ungroup them, just right-click on the layer, and press Ungroup.
Then put the Ambient layer on top of the Flash layer.
Step 2: Mask the Ambient Layer
Next, come to the Channels Panel.
From here, we can see that our entire photo is made of red, green, and blue color channels. We’re going to use the red channel to make a selection. To do this, right click on the Composite Red channel, then press Load to Pixel Selection.
Now we have a selection of the brightest parts of the red channel.
We’re going to use this selection to mask our ambient layer. Just make sure you have the Ambient layer selected, and then press on the Mask icon.
Then press Command D (Mac) or Control D (PC) to de-select.
The mask we applied made it so only the parts we had selected remain visible. This is the exact opposite of what we want. We want hide the bright parts of the layer. To do this, select the Mask layer icon, and invert it by pressing Command I (Mac) or Control I (PC).
The bright parts of the ambient layer have now been hidden.
Now we’ll select the Ambient layer, and change its Blend Mode to Luminosity, so it’s only affecting the brightness of our image, not the colors.
We can continue to refine our mask, by painting black on any parts of the Ambient layer that we don’t want shown, thus making the Flash layer visible in those parts of the image.
But first, we need to decide which parts of the Flash layer we like better than the Ambient layer. To do this, turn the Ambient layer off and on, and compare it to the flash layer.
Which parts of the Flash layer do you like more? Personally, I prefer the way the floor by the door looks when the Ambient layer is off, and the Flash layer is on.
Let’s turn the Ambient layer back on, and select its Mask layer icon. Then we can paint in black to hide the Ambient layer’s floor.
Press B for the Paint Brush Tool, and make sure your color is set to black. Also, make sure the Hardness is set to 0%. Then you can begin painting.
You can quickly change the size of your paint brush while painting by using the bracket keys underneath the equal sign on your keyboard ( [ and ] ).
You can also paint in white if you ever mask out too much of the layer on accident. To switch your colors, just press X on your keyboard.
Our basic Flambient effect is now done! We’re still going to do make some more enhancements to the photo, but let’s stop here to see a before and after.
Step 3: Adjustments and Filters
As you can see, our image already looks a lot better. But with a little more editing, we can improve it even more. Press the Adjustment icon.
Let’s make the photo brighter by applying a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment.
Bring up the Brightness, as well as the Contrast.
The problem with this adjustment is that it’s making everything brighter, including the bright lights by the TV.
We want most of the photo brighter, but we don’t want to make the lights in the room too bright.
To fix this, have the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer selected, and then press on the Gear icon.
This brings up our Blend Ranges. We won’t dive deep into Blend Ranges right now, because all we need to do is bring the last circle all the way down.
Now our adjustment layer will no longer affect the brightest parts of the photo.
We could also add extra brightness to specific parts of the photo. To do this, make another Brightness and Contrast Adjustment layer.
Bring up the Brightness to around 30%.
Then invert the adjustment by pressing Command I (Mac) or Control I (PC). Now the adjustment is applied to nothing.
But we can use the paint brush to paint this adjustment onto any parts of the photo we want. Just paint with white paint, and make sure your Hardness is set to 0%, and your Flow is around 10%.
Having a low Flow allows you to slowly paint the adjustment layer onto the areas you want.
Then paint on the areas you want brighter.
To make your brush strokes less noticeable, press the Filters icon.
Apply a Gaussian Blur Filter to the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer.
As you increase the Radius, you will blur the edges of the areas you painted on.
Finally, let’s enhance the colors in our image. To do this, apply a Vibrance Adjustment layer.
Increase the Vibrance quite a bit.
Then paint in black on the parts of the photo that have become too saturated, like the pillows on the couch.
After all those adjustments, masks, and filters, this room is looking much better!
Nice work, and good luck with all that real estate photography fun!