photo by Vlajs via iStock
We have some more real estate photography tips for you! We’ll cover how to make interior photos brighter without flash, how to shoot a house with bright windows, and how to fix bright sunlight in listing photos.
Bracket and Merge HDR
photo by ismagilov via iStock
A method used by many real estate photographers for creating images that show interior rooms and the exteriors of homes with amazingly accurate detail is known as Bracket and Merge Technique, also called High Dynamic Range Photography or HDR.
Here’s how it works: all scenes have a range of light levels from the brightest tone in the image area to the darkest. The entire range from the dark to bright is called the dynamic exposure range of that scene.
Our eyes and brain compensate automatically for these differences, so quickly and effortlessly that we seldom notice it except for the most extreme of rapid changes, such as walking into a dark room from a bright outdoor patio at Noon.
Cameras are able record to most of the common ranges, whether using a digital sensor or film, but there is a limit to how wide the range and how much detail is rendered properly at the extremes of either bright or dark.
Because of that limitation, any image of a scene that has a wide range is going to suffer in one way or another. The highlights could bunch up and be almost invisible through the brightness, the shadows could be so dark that details are obscured, or changing the contrast or other variables in post processing could make the final pic look odd or unnatural.
Blended Exposure Level
photo by asbe via iStock
The technique of bracket and merge changes the rules in that we can blend multiple exposures into one image. It’s one of the best capabilities of digital photography technology and can be used for many types of images, not just how to photograph interiors for real estate.
The important part of the process is that it uses multiple exposures that are recorded at different exposure settings and then blends them together by means of a post processing program. An exposure that is optimized for shadow detail will blow out the highlights, and exposing for highlights obscures shadow detail.
Bracket and merge HDR allows you to combine the shadow detail with the highlight detail and everything in between. The program is doing the difficult job for us and also allows for user input to determine just how much of each exposure level is used in the blended final image. This YouTube video helps explain it as you see it happen in action.
Make Interior Photos Brighter Without Flash
photo by ismagilov via iStock
So now we’ll put bracket and merge to use with those three scenarios we mentioned at the beginning. First, how to make interior photos brighter without flash.
The problem we run into with real estate photography is that we need the entire room to be easily visible with proper exposure. What happens is that a flat wall with a neutral color may look fine, but the corners of the room are dark.
Adding lights isn’t always the best solution, either, because we need to spread the light around quite a bit and if we don’t use light modifiers such as bounce flash or a softbox, the lighting can look hard.
The bracket and merge technique works well for this purpose. Opening up the shadows by exposing for them on one end of the HDR sequence and then blending them in with the other frames results in an image that looks much brighter than a single shot exposure and doesn't have any hard light or directional shadow issues.
How to Shoot a House With Bright Windows
photo by Scovad via iStock
When you look at most listings today, you’re probably looking at an HDR image. One sure way to tell if you can see detail in the window lit by direct sunlight, perhaps even some of the exterior through the window, and detail in the unlit corners of a room.
If you expose for the windows, the room corners will be too dark. And if you expose for the dark parts of the room, the windows will be blown out with brightness, not showing any detail. Using the bracket and merge HDR technique, you get both extremes properly recorded.
In scenes with a lot of bright to dark variation, it may be better to shoot more frames than the minimum. So, if you have settled with a 3 frame bracket, try out a 5 frame bracket. Many newer cameras allow for 7 or 9 frames of auto bracketing, which gives the bracket and merge program a lot of useful exposure values to work with.
How to Fix Bright Sunlight in Listing Photos
photo by alabn via iStock
If the images of the exterior in a listing look too bright in some areas and not bright enough in others, then that means the dynamic range has been exceeded and you should try HDR. The outside walls and roof lit by direct sunlight have a much greater exposure value than the front door under an overhang or a covered patio.
So, the HDR bracket and merge technique could be used for exteriors, too. In fact, I don’t know of too many real estate photographers not using some form of this method. It really is a fantastic method for real estate photography.
One of the best sources for a beauty shot or cover image that really stands out and gets attention is a twilight shot. Either morning or evening twilight usually has a gorgeous red or violet glow, the color depending on far down the Sun is.
But you won’t see much detail at all in the home if you expose for capturing the sky colors. Exposing for the house will cause you to lose all the subtle sky colors due to them being overexposed.
So once again, we use HDR bracket and merge to give us a final image with all of it showing beautifully. It really is a great method for real estate photography and can be used for taming dynamic range issues in many photographic styles such as landscapes, cityscapes, environmental portraits, and small product photography.