HDR vs Shutter Avenue Photography

Since I photograph lots of real estate one questions that pops up from time to time is “What about HDR?”. Now, the question does vary in different forms when it’s asked. For example, a new agent will ask me “Do you do HDR Photography?” or an agent with whom I have work before will ask “Why don’t you do HDR, isn’t much quicker?”. Those are both good question and in this post I will show you why HDR photography just doesn’t work for me and my studio.

Before I get into why with comparison examples I what to throw this out there since lots of people don’t really know what HDR is. The term HDR stands for High-Dynamic-Range, which in itself tells you that this image can have light/dark areas with more details comparing to a regular image. Now this is very brief history of HDR: it was first used in way back in late 1800’s with multiple photos combined in darkroom and ever since you can see this style of photography used by everyone who knew what they were doing. But HDR photography didn’t pick up popularity until digital photography boomed. After that, well every person who didn’t know who to set setting in camera or just for the fun of it used it and abuse it. Yet most people don’t know that HDR photography was used for landscape photography only. With that said I have no problem with HDR photography if it’s used correctly and when it needs to be use (such as in landscapes).

But now let me show you why I don’t believe in HDR and how a beautiful home can be ruined if just using HDR style. In the images below I have used multiple exposures which requires for HDR to combine for the final image. Also I will explain why HDR doesn’t work for real estate. Feel free to click on the images to see them in much bigger size.

9750 Gilpin St-Final 5346 S Elmwood St - Final

The two images above is a good comparison between HDR and the style of photography which I use. You can clearly see how the software is trying to keep the details in the window but the rooms becomes dark. If we go the opposite way the room will be bright but the details in the window will be lost.  Also the corners of the rooms are very dark and around the window (sometimes we photographers call this the dirty corners). Comparing to the style which I use everything is much lighter and with more precise of how our eyes see the room.

2960 Inca St #513

Here’s an example of when much more light comes through the window which creates light glow around window trim. Also since the software is trying to create proper white balance in the room the details outside are now very blue. Comparing to the image on the left, even though there is still same amount of light coming through the window but the light glow is more contained with properly exposed white balance.

10079 Longview Dr-Final

Example above of a dining room and kitchen is a good way to show what happens when there is lots of light in dining room and almost none in the kitchen. Yet even though our eyes can adjust to this but neither camera or software can’t understand that. The HDR software created dark shadows not only on the counters of the kitchen but also on the chairs, which now makes the chairs look very dirty with deep shadows. The white balance is off because the software is trying to adjust to the dark floor and because the kitchen was very dark to start off it did the best it can. After I have photographed it, everything is bright and has welcoming look for potential buyer when they will be looking at the images online.

360 St Paul St

The image on the right is where the HDR software is trying to balance the colors for the final image. Since there were lots of yellow/brown colors in the room especially thanks to tungsten lighting the final image is all yellow. Even though we know that outside is not as blue as an image on the right but because the software is just trying to average everything out, the end result is very intense blue light through the windows.  Also if we look closer at the corners of the windows we will see that there is this white line and this is because the software doesn’t really know how to handle the transition from light to dark.

I can go on and on of why just HDR photography doesn’t work for real estate, how it can’t transition from bright light to dark which creates dark shadow glow, how in reality when just photographing multi exposure photos create less detailed photos and not as sharp as what I can do (even though you can add sharpness in software), or how white balance and the transition is most of the time off with HDR software. But I will end it there since now you can see why Shutter Avenue Photography is much better than HDR.

Last but important note to mention is that I do from time to time use HDR but only when I am photographing landscapes for my personal use. Because for the outside HDR does work sometimes.

I hope this give you a better understanding of why I don’t really use multi exposure software to create the final images and the style of photography which I have created over time is much better representation of the home. With that said, when photographing for interior designers and/or architecture I use completely different style of photography from real estate.

Photos Provided By: Denver Architectural Photographer

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