A better HDR solution


TPF Noob!
Aug 12, 2014
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Houma, LA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
So I'm determined to make 2016 My year to really excel. Professionally I shoot a lot of architecture and real estate, given that the two are for two totally different clients I have two totally deferent techniques.

My question here is about HDR techniques and software, for real estate since I'm limited to about an hour time wise, I just don't have the time to set up lighting and get everything finished so I use HDR and Photomatix, however I am not 100% pleased with the results. I've seen photography from other companies who also use HDR and a lot of the photos are really phenomenal, and I've reached out to them with no luck (assuming because I am a local competitor).

Is there something I am missing? Some secret I don't know of?
My basic approach is to take bracketed photos in two stop increments starting with the darkest exposure (for the highlghts, making sure there is no clipping) and moving to the brightest exposure (making sure there is no shadow clipping) and running that through photomatix.
No matter what preset I use, the highlights tend to look super washed out and clipped. I just don't get it.
Throw up a few JPG examples of processed and unprocessed.
Try this method:
  • Use JPG
  • Open whatever graphics editor you use and create 6 copies of the image with various levels of brightness but with no contrast changes (in my experience its the contrast changes that create the issues with Photomatix)
  • import all 6 copies into Photomatix and reduce Noise / CA / Ghosting
  • Blend to taste
I dont photograph buildings much but I know my way around HDR. You probably have seen this but Hands-on Photo Tip: Photomatix Pro 5 'Fusion Real-Estate' Method - farbspiel photography
I haven't done too many, but I've been using the Lightroom HDR merge. Makes it quick and simple since most of my workflow is in LR anyway.
shoot Nikon/Sony RAW - increase shadow slider.
Here's an entire set from a $750k home yesterday. I don't hate the images, but I don't love them either. It's passable for me, but I'm not interested in passable.

To me this entire Image is hazy, and the windows are way too blown out for my taste

I've also included two photos from the other company who I know for a fact are using HDR for their images.


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those beat the horribly distorted, cartoonlike alternative reality pictures I'm used to seeing in house listings.
I guess I should also add some of the gear I'm using.

Nikon D600 w/ 17-35 on a tripod
Shooting raw, adjust color changes, export to Jpeg, merge in photomatix
If it was me, I would not bother shooting RAW for something like this. I would shoot Jpegs and would restrict myself to just three images. In your example above I would choose the first, third and fourth exposures only. The fifth exposure is not adding anything to the mix except very blown windows which is what you are complaining about.

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John, could you maybe put together an image using those brackets? I've tried using less, more, different exposure values, I'm not seeing much of a difference.

I tried running the set with the brackets you mentioned. 1AM_5353_5_6_fused.jpg was the result, and 1-1 was after processing with lightroom. It may be marginally better but still isn't the result I'm after


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You're exporting Jpegs and then using photomatix? I rarely, if ever do tone mapping HDR, if I need to combine exposures I use luminosity masks, but I would be using tiffs in photomatix.
Does anyone have better examples of a three shot bracket being combined for this desired look?
So, all that's being done is taking different exposures and tossing them into a program?

Can this be done in post by adjusting specs?

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They look pretty good to me.

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