A Perfect HDR Real Estate Image Through Photo Blending

As a real estate photographer, you know the struggle - trying to capture a beautiful exterior shot, only to have the windows blown out by the bright sunlight. Or photographing a gorgeous living room, but the view out the window is barely visible. It's frustrating when you can't portray the full beauty of a home in your photos.

This is where HDR real estate photography comes into play. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start using HDR photography for your real estate listings. You'll learn why you should use it and how to create natural-looking HDR images.

Creating HDR Real Estate Images

In case HDR real estate blending seems intimidating, do not fret. In the simplest of terms, HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a very wide range of light and dark, even wider than the normal camera. HDR photography allows highly contrasted or illuminated photos to be captured and appear as if you saw it in person. 

White bedroom with a pair of white lampshades and a big window

Now, HDR real estate image editing or blending can take a turn for the worse if not used correctly. The wide and flexible exposure range gives a lot of room for creativity. If you manipulate the image too much, it can look fake and offputting. This could result in you losing that sale for your real estate partner.

Understanding HDR Bracketing in Real Estate Photography

Bracketing in HDR involves taking multiple images of the same scene with different exposure settings. 

For instance, you can set the exposure compensation to -2 to take underexposed photos, +2 to capture overexposed photos, and 0 to capture normal photos. You then combine the bracketed photos into a single HDR photo.

We connected with Matias Galeano, a real estate photographer at HCE Visuals, who has a lot of expertise with blending photos together to create stunning images. When it comes to bracketing in-camera, he recommends 

“choosing a 5 image bracket over the standard 3, which some people avoid because it takes a little longer both to shoot and to edit. But those 2 extra images ensure a more complete spread over the entire light-range, and can often lead to much better results, making the editing process even more effortless and straight forward.”

How to Shoot Images for HDR Blending

To take the perfect HDR photo and set it up for real estate image blending, the right preparation needs to happen. Note that shooting HDR heavily relies on photo precision and that the image position does not move so that when it is later tied together, the breaks in the structure with the background will be perfectly aligned. 

Regardless of the type of real estate you’re shooting, you’ll need the following:

  • - A DSLR to capture the photos
  • - Memory card(s) with enough memory to capture multiple real estate photos of one scene
  • - A tripod to ensure stability and endure the awkward angles without shakiness
  • - A remote trigger to avoid any unwanted movement on the camera
  • - A flash that can adjust its exposure
  • - An HDR real estate software for merging the HDR photo

When it comes to taking the photos, Matias says,

“The most important things in my opinion are:

  • - Getting the correct settings - aperture around f9-11 to have everything in focus
  • - Choosing the correct range of exposures - making sure the images are not too far apart in terms of coverage, and ensuring there is enough overlap in the dark/bright areas to allow for the final image to be perfectly balanced.
  • - If possible, use a remote trigger (this can be done using your phone, an iPad, or even just a shutter-clicker) to avoid any vibrations, which can end up not only in blurry images, but also in slight movements of the camera, messing up the final stacking of the exposures.

Being ready for HDR real estate photography is equally important as being vigilant during the shoot. Considering that HDR real estate photos are taken in quick succession called bursts, watch out for anything that will make one photo different from the next. 

Green bedroom with wooden bed frames and cabinet with tall wide windows

Common examples include but are not limited to:

  • - Birds in the background
  • - Cars passing by
  • - Gusts of wind that may move the camera or tripod
  • - Aircraft that fly by and possibly cause vibration
  • - People walking in and out of the frame

Take a deep breath and observe the surroundings. It will be highly unlikely that these things will come all at once, but at the very least, be on the lookout for even the tiniest movement that can cause a difference from one photo to another during the burst of shots. 

Do not forget to take multiple exposures - this will be the key to achieving that perfect blend in HDR photography.

What is HDR Photo Editing?

Photo Photo blending in the context of HDR real estate photography takes on rather basic concepts but requires the utmost precision and detail. Now that you have the bracketed photos you need from the photo shoot, it is time to bring it all in to create that masterpiece. 

You need to remember that real estate image blending relies on stacking. Yes, stacking. There is a reason for the multiple exposures and multiple shots of one image, and that is to grab the best parts of each and merge the layers of photos with each other. 

In the best HDR real estate photography software, such as Lightroom, the tools normally used are auto-alignment of layers or stacking. This ensures that the photos are stacked perfectly to reflect each other and align seamlessly to avoid any blurred edges.

Living room being edited in Lightroom

Exterior Photography

When HDR photo editing for exteriors, it is crucial to combine the best of both the brightness of the property and the background. 

Imagine where the sky is overexposed, and the clouds are not distinguishable, but the property is perfectly illuminated. In another photo, the property is hardly seen, but the gorgeous sky is to die for. 

Merging these two photos together into an HDR image brings out the best of both worlds and makes everything visible. What is more amazing is that due to the wide range of lightness and darkness by the HDR, real estate photo blending can produce photos with the twilight effect. 

The HDR concept can be applied to take photos during dusk and still reveal the house’s strongest external features.

Interior Photography

Editing for interiors will entail the same concept of stacking. However, to get the true advantage in real estate photo blending, you must have a watchful eye for windows and the breathtaking landscapes that come with them. This is called the window pull technique. 

If we recall how HDR blending captures different ranges of exposure, then at some point the interior becomes perfectly visible where windows are overexposed. On the other end of the spectrum, the windows and landscape are visible for this set of photos, while the interiors are not. 

This presents a perfect opportunity to create this window pull technique by making the room look beautiful and accompanied by a priceless view.

Why You Need HDR Photo Blending in Real Estate Photography

In the competitive real estate market, exceptional photography can set a property apart from others. Usually, detailed photos help emphasize a property's unique and desirable features, such as spacious rooms, modern amenities, or beautiful architectural elements. 

However, even if you have invested in a high-end camera and lens, there are still limitations on how much detail the camera can capture depending on the overall dynamic range of the scene. HDR photo blending helps you overcome these limitations in the following ways:

White bedroom with blue and white accents

Helps to Capture More Details

As a real estate photographer, you might face a dilemma when choosing the correct exposure settings due to the camera's limited dynamic range. For instance, if you correctly expose the interior, the exterior may become overexposed, washing out the view. Conversely, the interior may become too dark if you correctly expose the exterior.

That means you must sacrifice a part of the correct exposure for the highlights and a part of the correct exposure for the shadows. This results in a loss of clarity and detail in the final image, as subtle textures and features are lost in the shadows and highlights.

HDR photo blending allows you to correctly expose the highlights and capture all the details, correctly expose the shadows and capture all the details, and then combine the photos into one. This helps you preserve details in both highlights and shadows, resulting in a more detailed and clear photo.

Makes the Colors Appear More Vibrant

Vibrant, well-saturated colors can make a property look more visually appealing. For instance, vibrant colors can help emphasize specific features of a property, such as a beautifully landscaped garden, a striking accent wall, or a colorful kitchen.

Usually, HDR real estate photography results in stunning images with great color vibrancy. This can draw the attention of potential buyers and create a positive first impression. 

Makes the Photos Appear Natural by Improving the Overall Dynamic Range

Capturing multiple images and merging them helps to balance the dynamic range. Usually, this makes the colors appear more vibrant and accurate throughout the image. As a result, the photos appear natural, as the dynamic range is almost like that of the human eye.

HDR Images Retouching Tips

Since you are combining photos of different exposures, retouching can help balance the different colors and shades for a more polished image. We’ll share tips that work in Lightroom, but most can be applied to other editing software as well.

If you’re looking for a different software, Matias recommends HDR Merge:

“I use primarily Aurora HDR (now HDR Merge) and would recommend it to anyone starting out with HDR photography. The ease of use it offers is hard to match, and the workflow is extremely well streamlined, often needing little more than drag, drop, choosing the settings, and exporting.”

Kitchen with low hanging light fixtures

Adjust Contrast to Improve Clarity

Although HDR allows you to capture a wider range of colors and tones, combining several photos can affect the overall contrast, making the photos look flat. You can prevent this by increasing the contrast of the final image slightly. 

Usually, this will make the photo appear more natural and aesthetically pleasing, with a clear border between highlights and shadows.

Remove the Haze

The high contrast between different color shades can make the resulting photo foggy. Usually, this can obscure details, almost like when taking pictures in foggy weather. 

Fortunately, photo editing applications such as Lightroom have a built-in dehaze tool that removes this effect. Simply slide the slider to the left until the photo looks clear. 

Fix the Horizons

There is a high chance you won't be able to hold the camera stable and level across all the photos if you are shooting the photos handheld. Usually, this misalignment results in crooked horizons and corners during HDR blending. 

Luckily, you can use Lightroom's straightening tool to improve the straightness of the horizon. This tool is located in the Crop tool panel, which you can access by clicking the Crop tool icon in the Develop module.

Adjust the Edges of the Image

When taking the overexposed photos, the highlights are clipped, and the shadows become darker. This can lead to dark edges around the perimeter of the photo, especially when using wider apertures.

You can adjust and improve the appearance of the edges using the Lens Correction option in the Lightroom Develop Module. Simply move the vignetting slider towards the right until the dark edges are gone. 

Adjust the Color Vibrance and Saturation

Vibrancy is the relative intensity of a color compared to other colors in the image, while saturation is the intensity of the color. That means vibrance is a more selective way to adjust the colors in an image, and you can use it to improve the overall balance of the colors.

Both saturation and vibrance are available in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Depending on the image, you can increase vibrance by around 20 to 30 percent and saturation by around 10 to 15 percent.

Dining room with matching wooden table and chairs

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Shoot HDR in Real Estate Photography?

You can shoot HDR in real estate photography by capturing multiple exposures of the same scene at different brightness levels, and then using HDR software to blend these exposures into one well-exposed image.

Is HDR Good for Real Estate Photography?

Yes, HDR real estate photography techniques can help balance exposure, capture more details, and create well-lit, attractive final images of interior and exterior spaces, making the real estate listings more appealing to potential buyers.

What Is the Best HDR Setting for Real Estate Photography?

The best camera settings for HDR real estate photography is to use auto-bracketing with a range of -2 to +2 stops. Keep the ISO low, use a tripod, and then shoot real estate photos in RAW format for post-processing flexibility.


HDR realty editor has indeed gained more and more attention because of the flexibility ambient light exposure offers. The blending technique it brings is a powerful tool to consider when the property does have a lot of accompanying landscapes to boast. Always keep in mind that while HDR editing packs a lot of punch, editing and retouching must be performed to enhance the image further and showcase the reality of its beauty. 

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