High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) is a method of taking and processing a photograph that incorporates a range of exposures from under exposed (dark) to over exposed (light). Several images are taken at various exposures and then merged into one image using specialized software in order to capture the scene more like the human eye would see it with varying degrees of light and dark areas. For real estate photography the HDR process can be very beneficial since most homes and buildings do not have even light throughout and the expense of bringing in lighting can be avoided.
The image above compares a standard (non-HDR) photo of a home's exterior on the left to an HDR photograph of the same home on the right. These photos were taken at the same time from the same vantage point. Notice the colors are more vibrant and true to life in the photo on the right, this is the result of the HDR processing.
The image below does a similar comparison of a home's interior. The photo on the left is the standard (non-HDR) version while the one on the right is the same photo using HDR processing. In addition to the more vibrant and true to life colors of this kitchen notice the lights on the range hood and the window over the dining table. One of the biggest benefits of HDR photography for interior real estate photography is the ability to balance varying light and avoid overly bright or dark spots.
1. What is HDR Photography?
High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) is a method of taking and processing a photograph that incorporates a range of exposures from under exposed (dark) to over exposed (light). Several images are taken at various exposures and then merged into one image using specialized software in order to capture the scene more like the human eye would see it with varying degrees of light and dark areas.
2. What will HDR photographs give me that regular photos will not?
Because the HDR process allows the photographer to expose for the varying lighting conditions within one room it can produce an image that is closer to how the human eye sees it.
So your rooms will be more vibrant, windows will not be blown out (unrealistically bright), and dark corners will be lit so that the details can be seen.
3. Is HDR photography ideal for all properties?
No, if you have an empty house or building with neutral interiors, HDR may not be of much benefit over traditional photography.
HDR has the greatest impact when a space has some color and lighting to enhance it. Or when you want to draw attention to the view outside. HDR photography works best to accentuate color and light and show off the outdoor views.
Otherwise, you are may be better off saving your money and going with high quality traditional photography.
4. When might HDR photography not be the best option for my project?
You may want to consider traditional photography over HDR if the spaces you need photographed have a neutral color palette, for unfurnished spaces, or the views out windows are not very noteworthy (such as of an alley, a neighboring wall, or other uninteresting views).
5. Why does HDR photography cost more than traditional photography?
HDR photography has additional cost associated with it due to the additional time and software required for processing the images.
To produce quality HDR images it is not unreasonable to spend an additional 10-15 minutes per image in post processing. Multiply that across 20-25 images per shoot and that can be a significant amount of time to process your HDR images. But for the right home or building it can be well worth it.
6. Most of the HDR photographs I have seen have a cartoon-like look to them. Is that standard for all HDR photography?
No, different photographers have different styles and aesthetics. I feel that the "extreme HDR" look becomes too unrealistic and does not show a space in it's best light. So my HDR processing is kept more toned down. For a more artistic look "extreme HDR" can be very appropriate. But when showing a home or commercial space you want to represent it as realistically as possible.
7. Can HDR real estate photography make a boring, dirty, cluttered or even ugly space look better?
HDR can make a space look great. But it is not a miracle worker. It won't cover up dirt and clutter. And an empty, boring room will still pretty much be empty and boring. But it will have great lighting. Check back at questions 3 and 4 above for ideas of when HDR will work best. Or if you're just not sure feel free to ask. I strive to produce images that will show your house or building at its best and will make honest recommendations on what type of photo will work best for your situation.