Daily Archives: August 28, 2009

HDR in Real Estate Photography – Part I

Local, ex Dutch Harbour (yes, of the Deadliest Catch Alaskan Crab kind) Nelson photographer, Glen Bisdee says “Make First Impressions Count.”

Glen also tells me that after a few weeks on the boats (a 3mth on / 3 mth off type of arrangement) that a 3-4 hr sleep feels just as satisfying as a 10-12hr one on land in normal circumstances, and that by the time the 2 ½ month timeframe comes around the body starts to ache in places you didn’t even know could ……signaling a break would be good “real soon.”

Personally I’ve always remember being told once “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Both quite similar and in reality allude to the same intention.

And that intention should be uppermost in anyone’s mind when it comes to the photography of Real Estate. In Real Estate it’s so important to get this right before the marketing commences.

HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range.

A quick primer here.

The human eye is generally known to see at first glance a range around 10 EV, but with adaption up to 20 EV. By adaption I’m talking about a human eye’s ability to cope with a wide range of luminance’s. Look……others explain it a bit better than me here, here & here.

Or put another way by a photographer, in what I’d call plain english terms very well here…

The -entire- range of the human eye is quite large, as you say. In a pitch black room, you can see the tiniest light. Likewise, you can adapt to very bright light. But you cannot see that entire range all at once. At any given average lightlevel, you can only see about 3 or 4 stops on either side of the average. Think of it like this: lay a one foot ruler next to a yard-stick. You can move that rulers anywhere along the yard stick, but at any given time, you’re still only at 12 inches, whether is 1-12 or 24-36.

As a quick example, I’ll use my latest listing this week to illustrate.

From a series of 9 bracketed photos taken with my Nikon D200, here are the brightest and darkest shots taken.

From the bracketed photos I take what I feel is the best three slanted/biased to continue with, these three.

After HDR and some post processing, we have…..this

The large amount of blue sky, well its Nelson isn’t it? Actually it also helps for a new listing because their is ample space in advertising parlance to place the “NEW LISTING” tag without it getting in the way of any features of the property. Ans secondly even once that NEW LISTING tag goes up, there is still heaps of “experience” in the remaining detail. In other words it doesn’t detract from the photo.

On the day in question speed was of the essence to get the listing up onto the web, and as the weather was forecast to be inclement later in the day, I decided that even though the light wasn’t perfect that morning, “nows good.”

Your thoughts?

Now it’s not exactly cheating, the sun was out and it was a beautiful typical Nelson “near spring” day. Other than what I have seen some “retouchers” do, those are the REAL clouds you see too.

Cheating is when a photographer tries to remove power lines, TV aerials, etc and rightly so, this is not tolerated by the authorities for Real Estate photography in NZ.

It’s just that, courtesy of the suns angle, and with many homes having eaves, the range of shadows to highlights can be extreme, and often doesn’t show a property “as you remembered it” when taking the photo. In Part II I explain more about what you can do to experiment with this technique.

NB – due to the complexities of colour shifting when resaving / optimizing HDR JPEG images some photos may look very different than your finished image once loaded up on to Real Estate portal. Often the portal has its own software that will resize / reframe / rejig your photo, and so its sometimes a case of experimenting here. Even the expense a full blown colour calibrator probably wouldn’t assist in this.

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