How to Use HDR in Indoor Architecture Photos
Even as a beginner, photographing homes that are for sale can bring in hefty profits for very little set-up. The secret is following a few simple rules that will set your photos apart. Here’s a little trick that can help you turn snapshots that anyone could take into professional-looking images that bring in $500 a day. When you photograph a home for a realtor, outdoor images from curbside or garden and pool areas are relatively easy to produce. But when it comes to indoor photography, it’s a different set of rules. Here’s the conundrum: Do you set your camera for the light coming in the windows so you can see the details of the blue sky and trees, leaving the interior dark and underexposed? Or do you expose for the interior, leaving the details in the windows bright white and blown out? You have basically two options:
- You can spend thousands of dollars on strobe or continuous light systems, then spend hours setting them up and adjusting for reflections in windows and mirrors, and still come out with flat and sterile looking images totally lacking atmosphere and ambiance.
- Or you can read on and use my little trick.
Have you ever looked at a scene, taken a photo, and then noticed that the photo looks nothing like the scene does to your eye? That’s because the eye sees more variations in light than your camera can capture on its own. The idea behind HDR (High Dynamic Range) is to create images that cover the dynamic range of the human eye. Today’s digital cameras can only cover a fraction of that range, but if we take multiple shots with different settings and merge them into one image, we can get a lot closer to a result that mimics the capability of the dynamic range of the human eye. Let me show you. Starting from the top left and continuing to the bottom right we have eight bracketed images from a tripod mounted camera set at ISO 100, f/11. For each image, the shutter speed is slightly different, varying from 0.5 second to 1/250. This lets in more light in the beginning, and less and less light as we go, making the photo darker. Notice that in the first photo, we have detail in all of the darkest areas, and in the last photo, we have detail in all of the brightest areas. The advantage to doing this is that you can then merge all of the images together to get detail in ALL of the areas, like this: You won’t believe how easy this is to do. What you need: * A camera that lets you manually set the aperture and shutter speed * A tripod * HDR software (Photoshop works, or Lightroom paired with an HDR program) There are numerous software manufacturers that offer HDR programs besides Photoshop, but one in particular I recommend is Photomatix. You can find it at hdrsoft.com and for $29 you can get the Merge to 32-bit HDR Plug-in for Lightroom 4, which works very well. In the end, you get an impressive, professional-looking result… and it sure beats bringing in the big lighting crew. Besides, I really think ambient light makes for a much better photograph, one that will woo your client and justify your price. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]