Equipment for HDR Real Estate Photography

HDR photography replaces the need for lighting equipment when taking photos of a real estate interior with views out of the window. With HDR, you take several exposures -- short exposures for the bright parts (windows), and long exposures for the dark parts (interior).

To take HDR photos, you just need a digital camera and probably a tripod.

Camera

The camera can be a DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera.

The most important feature to look at for HDR is whether the camera offers AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing). With AEB, the camera takes three or more exposures when you press the shutter button. While you can take several exposures with any camera, AEB makes the process easier and faster.

Most DSLRs include an AEB option, and some compact cameras do too. However the AEB capabilities differ depending on the camera.

For an interior with bright windows, it is best if the AEB settings allow you to take at least 5 shots spaced by 2 EV (or at least 9 shots spaced by 1 EV for cameras that offer a maximum of 1 EV step increments). While some cameras offer AEB in 3 EV step increments, we recommend a maximum of 2 EV step increments for good results.

You can check and compare the AEB capabilities of many camera models on the AEB Settings List.

If the camera you are using doesn't offer an AEB option, you can still take HDR photos manually by adjusting the shutter speed for each shot. You will also need to use a tripod, and it's best to have a remote shutter release to avoid camera movement for the longer exposures.

To summarize:

  • Any DSLR or compact camera works for HDR
  • It is better if the camera offers AEB
  • Ideally, the AEB settings should allow 5 or more shots in 2 EV steps (or 9 or more shots in 1 EV steps)

Tripod

You will need a tripod if:

  • Your camera doesn't offer an AEB option

OR

  • The camera's AEB capabilities are insufficient to take all exposures in one bracketed set

OR

  • The room you are photographing is relatively dark

It is always best to use a tripod whenever possible. You will likely need to take long exposures for dark areas of the room, and these images will be blurry if you take them hand-held.

If you don't have a tripod, then try to find something that is flat and sturdy, such as a table or bookshelf, and rest your camera on it. Make sure the camera is rock-steady, then press the shutter release while holding the camera firmly and avoiding any other movement.

Lens

While the lens isn't relevant to the HDR process itself, the choice of the lens is still an important consideration when photographing interiors (provided you are using a DSLR or mirroless camera).

A fast lens is ideal for dark interiors because it lets in more light, so you can use faster shutter speeds. Look on the front of your lens for something like 1:1.4 or 1:5.6. The lower the trailing number, the faster the lens, so a 1:1.4 lens is faster than a 1:5.6 lens.

Use a wide-angle lens so you can place the subject in the middle of the frame with extra space around it. Chromatic aberration (green and purple fringing around high-contrast edges) is worst at the edges of the frame, so centering the subject reduces the problem.

Lenses with a focal length of 50mm or less are popular choices, but remember that although wide-angle lenses capture wider scenes, they can also make straight lines look bent and distorted.

If you have one, use a wide-angle tilt-shift lens designed for architectural photography. It looks weird, with extra dials on the barrel, but vertical objects won't curve, lean backwards or slant inwards. That means less post-production work later on.

For more information on equipment, see Camera and Photography Equipment for Real Estate Agents

NEXT: HDR Tutorial