What comes to mind when you see this image? No, not a glass of wine. When I see this image, I notice what isn’t there. There isn’t a bright white blown-out set of windows. Instead, there is a pleasing outdoor view exposed properly. There are not a lot of dark areas inside, much darker that the mellow shadows on the floor and walls. Instead, the shadows and highlights are more as my eyes would see them. There just isn’t a stark contrast because of the bright outdoors merging with the interior.
The fact is that real estate photography requires a lot of interior shooting. Surveys every year conducted by real estate associations and others tell us that people are using the Internet to shop for homes to buy or rent. They, at least 90%+ of them, tell surveyors that photos are the first thing they check out and they’re very important to them. If they like the pictures, they’ll check out the descriptive text and property information. If they don’t, they move on to another property.
Many real estate agents unfortunately would rather close the curtains and turn on interior lighting than have those blown-out bright windows like big white boxes. Others have embraced HDR, High Dynamic Range, photography. Real estate investment is about numbers, and the number here is 3. HDR photography uses three to five, usually three, photos at different exposure settings to merge and create a single image with all of the bright and dark areas adjusted for a result like the one in the photo above.
I can’t show you what this photo would look like if it was done as a single shot, but it definitely would have had the bright outdoors mostly very whitish to get the interior right. To get the outdoors right, the interior would be very dark, with harsh contrast between light and dark areas.
Most of today’s digital cameras have a feature called “exposure bracketing.” You set the camera to take your three photos with one underexposed, one properly exposed, and one overexposed. You should use a tripod, as you’re going to push the shutter button once and all three exposures will be created in rapid order. There will be:
• The underexposed photo with the outdoors looking OK, but the indoors dark.
• The properly exposed photo will be something in between, too bright out and too dark in most likely.
• The overexposed photo with the interior looking good but the windows blown out.
Now you just need software to do the HDR process for you. There is free software out there, such as Picturenaut. There are many good software packages under $50 too. The software merges the three photos to create the perfect blend of exposures that are more like what your eyes do for you. Some of the newer digital cameras even have in-camera HDR, and the processing is done for you automatically.
If you are going to market homes for sale or rental, you should look into HDR to get the attention of your Internet property viewers.