Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Alternatives for HDR and Contrast Blending

Posted by larrylohrman on April 21, 2006

Back in my March 7th post. I introduced the subject of blending two images together each exposed for different parts of the room as a technique for dealing with the problem of burned out windows. This technique is generally referred to as Contrast blending or HDR (High Dynamic Range). At the time I suggested the DRI plug-in for Photoshop Elements and Photoshop from www.fredmiranda.com/software. Mark in Seattle pointed out an alternative for this plug-in called Photomatrix from www.hdrsoft.com .

There are actually several alternatives for doing HDR/contrast blending. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a recap the methods I know of:

  1. Manual contrast blending using layers – see Michael Reichmann’s blending tutorial
  2. HDR processing in Photoshop CS2 – see Michael Reichmann’s HDR tutorial
  3. Eric Krause’s contrast blending actions and tutorial
  4. Fred Miranda’s plug-in
  5. Photomatrix from www.hdrsoft.com

When doing something that demands the highest quality and control using layer masks (method 1) is hard to beat but this method can be time consuming.

As Michael describes in his tutorial, the HDR function in CS2 (method 2) is the “holy grail” of HDR but for simply handling bright windows in real estate photography it’s like using a sledge hammer to crack eggs.

I’ve never used Eric Krause’s free actions (method 3) mostly because of their relative complexity.

I use Fred Miranda’s $20 plug-in (method 4) quite a lot for panoramas because they are so quick and easy.

I tried out Photomatrix (method 5) and it appears to give as good results as Fred Miranda’s plug-in but it is $99. It is far more adjustable but I haven’t decided if it’s worth the extra money yet. I need to try it out with more than two images and with some large panoramas. The examples shown on the Photomatrix website ( www.hdrsoft.com ) are quite impressive.

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