What is HDR?

HDR or “High Dynamic Range” is a term given to the process of combining multiple exposures of the same scene into a single photo that preserves detail in the deepest shadows and the brightest highlights. There is however no one single method of doing this. There are multiple techniques within Photoshop and a number of third party software tools that can be used alone or in various combinations to achieve each photographer’s desired effect. Just like different photographers will shoot the same scene differently, so will they each process their photo files (HDR or not) differently.

Personally, I prefer to render each interior photo so that it resembles, as close as possible, what it looks like when you are actually in the space. Let me show you generally how this works.


First of all, I normally have my camera tethered directly to my laptop so that you can see each view full screen. This not only helps with composition decisions, it also makes it much easier to see and judge the placement of staging props. As you can clearly see, no one exposure is good for the entire view. But, when all of the exposures are properly combined, the resulting file now has good exposure throughout the room.


Notice the ugly reflections in the stainless fridge doors. Another exposure is taken with a controlled reflection and the new clean fridge is then inserted into the photo.  This generally works with most stainless appliances but isn’t always necessary and is up to your preference for each photo.













Another consideration are the natural color variations that occur in most rooms, especially those with mixed indoor and outdoor light. Notice that the window light is leaving strong blue reflections in the floor, table top and red wall on the left. Further, the incandescent light in the foreground is turning the white trim and ceiling a bit yellow. We don’t normally notice these color shifts when we are in a room but they are there if we focus on looking for them. How much these variations are corrected is entirely up to you of course but my default is to remove them to the point that they are not obvious distractions while at the same time avoiding totally sterilizing the space as some of this is normal even if the average viewer doesn’t realize it.


The next step is essential. Architectural Photography 101 says that vertical lines in a room must be rendered vertical in the photo. No keystoning of the vertical lines is allowed at normal viewing angles. Failure to correct this makes the photo look like an amateur snapshot and at least subliminally makes the room look like it’s not square. The final step is to crop the photo however you’d like it and then e-mail it to you for approval.