HDR Images For Real Estate Photography
Posted by larrylohrman on November 27, 2007
Anyone that has shot 360 panoramas will immediately appreciate the importance of HDR as a technique to control brightness in a situation where you must lock your exposure for all shots yet in one of the shots you have to shoot into the sun and another you have to shoot away from the sun. HDR is an clearly and important technique for panographers. As shown by the recent addition of HDR processing into PTgui PRO, the grand old 360 stitching application.
There seem to be a number of photographers also using HDR to shoot interiors to eliminate carrying lighting equipment or to avoid having to learn to use lighting equipment. The thing that has bothered me in the past about HDR is it seems you can always instantly spot a HDR image. The HDR typical look is either “grungy” (the walls look like they need scrubbing) or “radioactive” (the space looks like it will be another 1,000 years before its safe to go in). I think either of these looks may be appropriate for creative photography where you are trying for an unusual look. But not for real estate photography.
There is a middle ground though. The image above, by Joe Noel, from the PFRE photo discussion group last week is a great example that shows it possible to use HDR that doesn’t have the typical HDR look. In the discussion of this photo people thought that Joel use flash until he pointed out that he didn’t. I’ve noticed that these “normal” looking images produced with HDR processing have a soft look to them with not an abundance of crisp whites or an abundance of deep blacks but plenty of mid-tones. Another way of characterizing the look is that they have a wide-full histogram. This is the histogram for the image above:
I guess this makes sense since that’s what HDR is about; taking a wide range of tones and mapping them into a smaller histogram. It’s not surprising then, that there are an abundance of mid-tones. This same “soft” look that comes from an abundance of mid-tones is present in Kevin’s HDR processed 360 images from eSiteTour that I showed a few posts ago.
So my main point of all this is that for real estate photography it is important to shoot for “normal” looking images that don’t have the “grunge” or the “radioactive” look because either of these “looks” will distract the viewer from the the main purpose of the photo: the property.
A secondary point is that if you don’t like the characteristic soft, full histogram, look of normal HDR image you can give them more punch by using Lightroom or Photoshop to move the tone curve of the final image to look the way you want.