Are you using twilight photography on your real estate listings?

January 11, 2011

Over the past months, we’ve been featuring real estate photographers and introducing quality work to you. We’ve advocated for professional real estate photography on numerous occasions and called upon Association Executives to evaluate their minimum standards for MLS photos… in other words, we’re highly interested in real estate photography as a success mechanism for listings.

What’s the number one rule of selling a listing? Price it correctly. Rule number two is to hire a quality photographer or be a really really good photographer yourself (and we’re not talking about getting a fancy camera and calling yourself a photographer).

Even when quality photographs are taken, it is rare that twilight (aka night or dusk) shots are usually reserved only for the $1M+ market which is a shame. We asked Obeo photographer Katie Mueller about twilight photography. Mueller noted that twilight shots have “a completely different mood than day shots. I always visit my location prior to the shoot, the window for perfect lighting is quite small so I want to go into it with a plan so I don’t miss my opportunity. The key is in long exposures, which allow the camera time to pick up light and details. Shutter speeds can be anywhere between half a second and 30 seconds, so a tripod is necessary.”

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Obeo sales manager Kiki Wanshura said, “I do think it is a great way for agents to set themselves apart from what all the other agents are doing. People are so visual and you literally have seconds to impress a potential buyer online or they will simply move on to the next listing.”

Night photography is one great way to make a visual impact that separates your listing from the flood of others on the market. Take a look at some of Mueller’s photos below:

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. Hi Lani,

    My sad attempts pale in comparison to these beautiful photos – but I’m trying to learn. I went nuts doing Christmas lights this holiday season to add some festive spirit. I have a blog category call “fotos on the fly” and found it was popular. But I really need to learn how to optimize my use of my camera. Sllllloooowly I’m getting better. So much to learn – so little time!

  2. A slow shutter speed is really the only secret – that and lying in wait for the perfect moment.

    Though it seems like a buyer would distrust a twilight photo – after all, most humans look way better in candlelight than they do in the clear light of day – there’s something so primal and so appealing about these pics. Like you’re walking through the dark and all of a sudden you’re “home”. I love these.

  3. Enjoyed this post especially. MLS “bad shots” are a real irritant for me. The skill level needed to balance light sources, add supplemental lighting outside, handle composition, proper use of the camera and exposure might suggest that professional photographers may be seeing higher demand for their services.

    These shots were well done and creat a homey mood… good advertising. For those wanting to provide a real world documentary shot…. just take a daylight shot too. Many MLS are now allowing so many shots that both could be included.

  4. There are several techniques to produce these types of shots. Generally there is a time, just after the sun sets, called the magic hour. In reality, it’s more like a few minutes. It requires using a tripod and a camera where the exposure can be set (not a point-and-shoot). The best results are obtained with more advanced techniques that produce stellar results – far better than those shown here. By taking multiple exposures you are able to combine them using a process called HDR Photography. Similar results can be achieved in Photoshop by overlaying the various images and adjusting the layers. An even more dramatic effect is created using “light painting”. While the shutter is open on the camera, you use a very bright light, typically a 500-watt work light, to “paint” in light, highlighting details in the architecture, landscaping, etc. After multiple exposures are taken using this technique, the photos are layered and adjusted for a truly beautiful photo.

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