In part one and two.
We discussed in our first two methods on How to Photograph a Room with a Large Window, how using the Select, and Re-Compose, and Flash method we were able to quickly capture the interior of a room and the view outside a window.
We discussed that there are times that a window should be washed out. Still in many cases we would like to be able to show at least some detail out the window of most rooms.
In this post we will venture in to using HDR photography to balance your exposures for both the interior lighting and the available light outside a window.
High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDR or HDRI)
Of our three methods HDR photography is going to be one of your most time consuming methods to capture an exposure that closely matches the perception of the human eye. If you remember from part one, the dynamic range of the human eye is capable of seeing many shades from light to dark. Yet the our digital camera is only able to capture 9 to 14 stops difference. Once you have properly captured a HDR photograph there will be some post processing required to complete the image. (unless you have a camera capable of in Camera HDR) Anyone can capture a HDR photo with just a little patience and practice. You may be thinking right now, sure anyone but me. However, once you know the process and technique you can do this.
Most likely your camera is like many on the market today, that do not have the capability of some of the newer high end cameras, that are available with built in HDR capabilities like the Nikon™ D5100 DSLR street price at about $700.00 add a Wide Angle lens an additional $500.00 to $1000.00 + to your cost
Other options are your camera phone with software to mimic HDR photography, however at this point we should all be aware that Real Estate photography with a camera phone is a big no no. It's unprofessional and incapable of producing results that will make your listing stand out in the crowd of listings online today.
Dynamic range is the measure of EV (exposure value) or stops between the brightest and darkest parts of a photo. Remember that one EV or stop is doubling the amount of light. To achieve a photo that looks similar to what we see as we stand in a room we need to capture a photo with about 24 EV within one image. Knowing that our best digital cameras are able to capture only about 14 stops and many camera's are capturing much less.
Overcoming the Limitations of Your Camera
As we have discussed there are many ways in the first part we discussed, Select and Re Compose. Although this method will not create a high dynamic range photo, it will give you an exposure that is within the mid point of your scene. Knowing that there very well may be areas of the photo that are washed out and other areas of a photo that are totally black that may show little to no detail.
Another method we discussed was Flash photography. Again this will not produce a High dynamic range photo, but will fill in dark areas of a photo with light to bring your scene closer to a dynamic range that the camera is able to capture completely. Flatten the images range if you will.
The Tripod is Key.
This is the first time that you must tripod your camera. We will be taking several different photos at different exposures in order to end up with one HDR photograph. Tripods as cameras and most things in life vary in quality and suitability for this. Be sure to purchase a tripod that will be stable with your camera on it. If the tripod moves when taking a photo, it will be of no use for HDR photography. Each image must be taken from exactly the same same spot as the last photo. Forget about that dollar store tripod it will not work. The more stable your tripod is the better your results will be and the less post processing you will need to do. Don't be afraid to spend some money here. Get some good advice from a reputable camera store. The guy at Wal-Mart may not be your best resource.
The Camera Setup.
You should be able to change the aperture or stops and shutter speed on your camera, so now is a good time to get to understand how to. Sorry, that may mean breaking out the manual that came with your camera. If you no longer have the manual and don't know how to change the settings on your camera a quick search on the web with your camera model followed by manual should bring you many results.
Setting the aperture will give you a much cleaner and crisp image. Each time you change the aperture you are also changing the size of your final image by just a little bit. This will result in some blur in the final HDR image although sometimes not noticeable to the untrained eye. It's there nevertheless.
In the image to the left 1. Is a lense with a large aperture, the flower on the top to the right could be a resulting photo. 2. Is a lense with a small aperture and the flower on the bottom right could be the resulting photo. The smaller the aperture or larger the F stop. The larger the area that is in focus. So f/32 will produce a large area of your photo in focus and f/5.6 will produce a smaller area in focus. The area in focus will be relative to the distance from your lense.
Time is also important.
Shutter speed to be exact, shutter speed is relative to the aperture of your lense. Once you have set your aperture, you'll need to set the shutter speed to get a proper exposure. This will be your starting point. Once you have this, you will then take a good properly exposed photo. Then add to it by changing the shutter speed by one stop slower and taking another photo. You should repeat this by changing the exposure speed by one more stop lower. Again with two photos that are each one and two stops higher than the proper exposure. This should give you one properly exposed photo and two photos that are progressively darker and two photos that are progressively brighter for a total of 5 photos in all. See above for an example. All of the photos are to be taken while the camera is on a tripod and there can be no movement between each of the 5 photos or you will have to start all over.
Something to remember since we are capturing multiple images on a tripod we also don't want anything moving in the photo. Homes and furniture are great for staying still. However ceiling fans, cats, dogs, people and moving cars aren't quite as good. Remove all pets from the room, (should do this for a real estate photo anyway) and turn off ceiling fans. If there is a street with moving cars, you may have to time your photos when there are no moving cars in it. Moving water, small stream or waterfalls can sometimes create a nice effect. Something you can try yourself when you have a chance. You may come up with a nice result or not, depending on how fast the water is moving and your shutter speeds used.
Time to put them all together.
Now that we have 5 photos at different exposures, what are we going to do with them all? Merge them together with software. HDR software will take the 5 photos and merge them into one HDR photo taking the best exposure from the dark/ midtone/ and highlight and create one HDR photo.
Here is a 2014 review of 20 different HDR software products. There are many to chose from. Each one is fairly easy to use. Normally by selecting the photos or dragging and dropping the images in to the software, it will start the process. Depending on your computer and size of the photos, the process can take anywhere from instantly to several minutes.
Some Paid options are:
Points to ponder:
HDR photography will take some time to learn.
- Will require a quality tripod.
- Will require additional time setting up.
- Can not have any moving object in the photo.
- Will require post processing.