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The Truth About HDR Real Estate Images

High-dynamic-range images (HDRI) are computer renderings created by an automation process combining several narrower range exposures of the same subject.

Let’s be clear, an HDR image is a computer-generated rendering, it’s an image, not a photograph. It’s a distinctive image style where all points of brightness are the same across the dynamic range. Dark areas are as bright as light areas in the image. Colors, because they are tone mapped don’t always look correct, furthermore significant detail and clarity is lost. Blacks are not truly black and white is not true white. It’s a flattened image where luminosity, not brightness present image details, color and depth. The rendering is tone mapped so it can be displayed on a computer monitor or printed. It tricks your brain in to seeing depth and color that is a fabrication of software, not a photograph.


One paragraph into this blog and I think you may have noticed I’m not a fan. There are two types of phtotgraphers, those who blend and those who do not. I’m not saying that HDR images cannot be beautiful well done artistic renderings. They can be artful, dramatic and masterfully blended by hand. I’m sure you are all familiar with the clown vomit where the image is an impossible over statement of color. There I said it: Clown Vomit.

HDR images revolutionized the real estate photography industry back in 2007. It was intended to simulate the use of studio lighting in a home. It offered a fast and inexpensive method to take and deliver digital images for the web without lugging around huge amounts of expensive lighting equipment.

Creating HDR images only requirements are a limited set of equipment and that the photographer follow the company process and procedures on site. The photographer composes and exposed to a predefined recipe consisting of a shot-list and camera settings. The images are normally sent overseas for automated post-processing and delivered with in 24 to 48 hours after your shoot.

The industry term for this technique is called running and gunning. Nothing more than a camera, tripod and the recipe is required. The photographer/operator is in and out in less than an hour. Your images look just like most of the other images on the web. HDR images can be well done, depicting natural occurring range of colors. It's still a computer rendering, not a photograph. Furthermore it's dated technology!

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Digital camera and artificial lighting technology advancements means that HDRi dated techniques no longer deliver images that stand out on the web. Frankly I don't think they ever delivered quality. I encourage you to visit this MLS-Photography for a side-by-side comparison of the various techniques of photography.

Don't even get me started on white ceilings. I'm pretty sure it will stop after a few sellers have to paint a celling white because someone processing the image decided it was a better look to have a trendy bright white celling. Real estate photographers: we have ethical duties to not materially misrepresent the property. This includes an accurate depiction of the colors naturally occurring in the home.

If you’re a photographer reading this by now your are either pretty upset with me or firing your flash in a joyous celebration of light.