As I shoot more interiors, I keep looking for ways to balance the interior and exterior lighting. More often than not, the brightness outside is many times greater than the lighting of any room and either results in blown out windows or very dark looking rooms. Advanced planning is usually required to address the differences with artificial lighting like flashes or neutral density window covers, but what about the situations involving either a single flash unit or no flash at all? In an effort to refine my HDR processing to appear as natural as possible (when that’s the look I’m going for) I decided to shoot a few bracketed interiors and discover for myself how natural real estate photos can look when created using a style that is typically known for being anything but.
This room had a single overhead light, green walls and a dark carpet with daylight coming in through the window. A 5-shot bracket tamed the light and I processed it through HDR Expose after merging the exposures through Photomatix Pro. I find HDR Expose to be best for natural looks despite Photomatix having a new Natural process in the Fusion function.
All of the lights in the kitchen couldn’t match the brightness outdoors and when shooting wide angles, it becomes tricky to place a flash that would appear like normal lighting. To make matters worse, there were two color temperatures – the blue of daylight and the red of the overhead lighting. I had to process the image twice with different white balances and merge the different areas back into a single image before proceeding. Again, I created the HDR through Photomatix Pro and tone mapped it through HDR Expose.
Although this is the featured image above, I included it here again so that it could be seen larger. This was a 7-shot bracket of a hotel room in Jamaica. Being able to see anything out the window was important, as was making the room appear bright. Brighter rooms are more appealing in general.
I wanted to show the view through the door and the light outside was overpowering. Without the use of HDR I wouldn’t have captured any detail or color in the doorway or tile floor. The trick was avoiding the normal halos and color shifts associated with the HDR look.
In the case of a cramped bathroom, it can be difficult enough at times to avoid being seen in the mirror. There may not be a place to tuck a flash, the walls may be colored and rule out bouncing light anywhere, and it is still the photographers job to present the room as appealing. While happy with the image, a 7-shot bracket, I think the crooked mirror creates something of a funhouse effect. The lines in the room are straight but something seems off. This also speaks to properly preparing a room to be photographed. Soap, toothbrushes, and various tubes of goo shouldn’t ever be seen.
A simple kitchen windowsill. Although this isn’t HDR in the common sense of the term because I didn’t shoot brackets, I could argue that it is of a higher dynamic range. By opening up the shadows and pulling back the blown hightlights in Adobe Lightroom, I took a natural light image and expanded its range.