HDR Real Estate Photography Technique Explained

HDR real estate photography technique is about capturing multiple exposures to blend and create detailed, evenly exposed images. Learn how it works here.

What is HDR Real Estate Photography Technique?

High dynamic range (HDR) method is a popular photography technique used in real estate photography that involves capturing at least three different exposures, typically one under-exposed, one neutral exposure and one over-exposed and then merging the best elements of each ‘bracketed exposure’ to create a single photo with a high level of detail throughout. The dynamic range of an image is the difference between the darkest (underexposed) and lightest (overexposed) parts of the image. The purpose of the HDR real estate photography technique is to capture greater detail to generate an evenly exposed image across bright and dark areas so that the photograph reflects what the human eye sees in real life.

Note that a tripod needs to be used when manually shooting real estate using the HDR technique. The below is an example of the HDR real estate photography technique applied to a living room interior. To see more examples of the HDR real estate photography method for real estate, check out our case studies.

HDR Real Estate Photography Technique Explained
The three bracketed images captured for a living room photo.
HDR Real Estate Photography Technique
The final edit of the living room photo incorporating all three bracketed exposures.

HDR images were traditionally created by shooting bracketed exposures one f-stop apart to cover the ‘dynamic range’ between the lightest and darkest part of a composition, and then combining these exposures in a post-processing software on a computer. A ‘bracket’ is one image in a series of under-exposed and over-exposed images with each bracket being one f-stop apart. The number of brackets required to cover the dynamic range of a typical interior real estate photograph is dependent on the light levels inside the room and the brightness of the windows.

One ‘f-stop’ or ‘stop’ is the term for doubling an exposure (if you are increasing exposure) or halving an exposure (if you are decreasing exposure). For example, over-exposing an image by one ‘f-stop’ from a neutral exposure of 1/8 second would mean increasing the shutter speed to 1/4 second. You can adjust for one-stop by changing aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation, however adjusting exposure with shutter speed gives the best results. When executing the HDR real estate photography technique you do not want to affect the depth of field by adjusting the aperture.

HDR technique for real estate photography
An example of three bracketes captured for the HDR real estate photography method.

In most well-lit rooms, shooting five bracketed exposures (including one optimal exposure, two underexposed and two over-exposed brackets) is generally enough to capture the dynamic range of the room. The underexposed brackets should be dark enough to show the details of the view outside the window. If it is a poorly lit room and it has a small window, the ‘dynamic range’ between the interior and exterior is going to be much greater. 

If you are just starting out in real estate photography and are experimenting with a camera phone or compact digital camera, you may only have the option to adjust the exposure value instead of the shutter speed depending on whether your device allows semi-automatic or manual controls.

real estate hdr photography tutorials
If you are new to real estate photography, you can start developing an understanding of the HDR method by experimenting your phone and most ‘point and shoot’ digital cameras, not just an expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera.

If you plan on shooting real estate with a DSLR/mirrorless or a digital camera on manual mode, but you don’t have experience using the manual settings on your camera, I would recommend spending time experimenting with different ISO settings, apertures, and shutter speeds to gain an understanding of how these affect the exposure and depth of field in the images.

HDR Real Estate Photography: Automation & Editing

Please note that for the HDR real estate photography technique if you do not have photo editing software such as Photoshop, you will need to outsource your images to a freelance photo editor due to the complexity involved in blending the multiple exposures manually in the real estate photo editing software to produce a professional-looking HDR image. Outsourcing real estate photo editing is affordable and easy, as there are many professional editors available on platforms such as Fiverr.com, Freelancer.com and Upwork.com and a variety of real estate editing platforms.

HDR Method

The advanced technology in modern smart phones and digital cameras now makes it possible to easily take photographs using the Auto-HDR method. Depending on the camera model, the Auto-HDR mode will automictically take at least three photos at varying exposures and process them immediately using the cameras built-in software to generate a single JPEG file, meaning there is no technical post-processing required to combine these multiple exposures. Although these settings can be great time-savers, it it still a good idea to praticse shooting the HDR method in manual mode to gain an understanding of how the HDR method works.

To learn how to enable the HDR method for virtual tours using a Insta360 One X, click here.

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Looking for new clients?

Connect with real estate agents at HauzPhotographers.com (United States) or HauzPhotographers.com.au (Australia).

Do you need equipment for real estate photography?

Visit our Amazon storefront here.

Want more real estate photography resources?

Check out the books and online courses here.

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