Best HDR Software for Real Estate Photographers (2023 Review)



Capturing beautiful real estate photos can be challenging with the high contrast lighting common in rooms with bright windows and dark corners. Without effective high dynamic range (HDR) processing, details can easily be lost in the shadows or blown out in the highlights. 



Manually merging different exposures is extremely tedious and often results in unrealistic halos and artifacts. Real estate photographers need the best HDR software for real estate that efficiently combines images and provides advanced editing controls to bring out details across the entire dynamic range. 

Best HDR Software for Real Estate Photography?

The wide range of HDR tools on the market can be overwhelming. The ideal solution will be easy enough for beginners to pick up quickly but offer sophisticated capabilities for tackling tough lighting situations. 

Mansion with oblong shaped pool reflecting the night sky

TLDR? We asked an expert photographer on what the best software is! Pro real estate photographer Matias Galeano from HCE Visuals shares this:

“I would recommend Aurora HDR (now HDR Merge) to anybody starting out, based on ease of use, particularly for batch editing. The software identifies the different exposures of the same image and groups them together, meaning after a few choices of presets or values, it automatically exports each image already blended together into the chosen folder. It’s amazingly fast, and once you’ve found your general edit/preset/settings, incredibly efficient and accurate.”

We completely agree with Matias, and HDR Merge in Luminar Neo is also our top recommendation. Not only is HDR Merge an extension within Luminar Neo that’s dedicated to HDR processing, but it uses AI to create extremely realistic and high quality HDR images.

Below, this comparison of the latest HDR programs aims to help real estate photographers, whether novice or expert, select the best software to save time while producing professional, true-to-life photos that properly showcase any listing.

Software

Ease of Use

Features

Payment Plan

HDR Merge in Luminar Neo

Beginner-friendly interface and automatic HDR merging

AI-powered HDR merging for realistic results

Subscription or lifetime purchase

Photomatix Pro 7 

Advanced controls can be complex for beginners

Strong deghosting to handle movement

Single-user access license, one-time purchase

Lightroom

Intuitive for all skill levels

Built-in HDR merge and editing tools

Subscription

EasyHDR

Very simple interface for beginners

One-click presets for fast editing

Single-user access license, one-time purchase

Oloneo HDR

Advanced with a steep learning curve

Great for handling high contrast scenes

One-time purchase

Nik HDR Efex

Easy to learn workflow

Control Point feature allows selective editing

One-time purchase

Affinity Photo Tone Mapping

Moderate learning curve

Can work with 32-bit files for precision

One-time purchase

HDR Merge in Luminar Neo

You might have been familiar with Aurora HDR, which was Skylum’s well-known HDR plugin that worked with Luminar Neo. They’ve recently discontinued it, and instead, you can now get HDR Merge within Luminar Neo.

This change makes it much easier to use HDR Merge, since it’s an extension directly within Luminar Neo. Compared to Lightroom, Luminar stands out because it can create an HDR image from just one photo. If you forget to take bracketed images of a specific scene, you can still create a high quality HDR image.

Overall, this is one of the most advanced photo HDR editing softwares on our list. It is known for the convenience it offers to real estate photo editors. You only need to select the photos and look you want, and Aurora HDR does the rest.

It can easily improve details, shadows, lighting, and, above all, clarity. Artificial intelligence is also built into the software, making it a great assistant for photo editors. 

Wooden table with four matching chairs on a shiny wooden flooring

Pros

  • - Like the Affinity Photo Tone Mapping, this software allows non-destructive editing. This allows you to revert back to your original photo in case you mess up.
  • - You can merge up to 10 images together to create a dynamic and highly detailed photo.
  • - When merging photos, there are features such as ghost reduction and auto-alignment that will automatically clean up your image

Cons

  • - You can’t batch process images, so it can take a little longer to edit if you have a large amount of photos to adjust.
  • - In order to use HDR Merge, you need to buy Luminar Neo

Photomatix Pro 7

There are a lot of expectations coming from the Photomatix Pro 7 application. Its Tone Balancer is stunning and is highly recommended by the developers to be used for real estate or landscape images. This is the best option for editing exterior images.

With Photomatix Pro, there is a better touch of reality and authenticity with the available retouching tools. It also includes straightening features, enabling you to easily see distortions and curves in places where they shouldn’t be. 

Currently, it’s priced at $99 for a single-user access license, which isn’t a bad deal. You can also upgrade your outdated version for $29 if you have an older version of the software. 

Pros

  • - The application has advanced features, such as the ghost removal tool. This allows you to reduce ghosting.
  • - Similar to Lightroom, this software comes with a batch editing tool that allows you to edit multiple photos simultaneously, saving you time.

Cons

  • - The software is not as intuitive as others like Lightroom, resulting in a steeper learning curve.
  • - When processing images, the software sometimes adds noise and grain into the details of images, which is something to keep in mind if you’re shooting at a high ISO.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is advanced in what it can do in terms of editing raw files. This software has wowed many people for its photo organization, distinctive features, and HDR functionalities. It can merge or stack images to create HDR images, and this software has come a long way in terms of HDR capabilities. 

Lightroom and Photoshop icons visible on a laptop screen

It offers the de-ghosting feature, which removes blurs when creating HDR images. Best of all, you can use all the other great features that would benefit the process of HDR blending and enhancement. For example, you can use it to enhance the vibrancy and saturation, or you can use tools like the gradient tool to adjust certain areas of photos.

There can be distortions when you capture HDR photos with a wide angle lens. There can also be vignetting when using the widest aperture. Lightroom features built-in lens correction tools to help you reduce the distortions before using the HDR merge tools.

Pros

  • - Lightroom offers lens correction and perspective correction tools. This helps to correct distortion, vignetting, and perspective issues in your photos.
  • - Lightroom has excellent support for RAW image files. This allows you to work with high-quality, unprocessed image data.

Cons

  • - It uses the subscription-based model with Adobe Creative Cloud. This means you have to pay a monthly or annual fee to access Lightroom.
  • - Lightroom HDR Merge creates a DNG raw image, limiting your final image processing control.

EasyHDR

One of the things you always hear or read about is the ability of applications to batch process several images all at once. Well, EasyHDR can do that for you and more.

It is compatible with any operating system, including both Windows and Mac. Along with this, EasyHDR can act as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop. This allows you to easily migrate images from one application to the next.

HDR outputs will also be the envy of most editors with its tone mapping capabilities, allowing only the best results in terms of authenticity and feel.

Pros

  • - As the name suggests, EasyHDR is the best HDR software in terms of how simple it is to use.
  • - This software provides various tone-mapping algorithms. This allows you to adjust your HDR images' contrast, tone, and color to achieve your desired look and style.

Cons

  • - EasyHDR aims to simplify and automate HDR image creation. As a result, it lacks advanced features that other tools like Photomatix Pro has.
  • - It can be resource-intensive, particularly when applying complex tone-mapping settings.

Oloneo HDR

Oloneo HDR is one of the most affordable options on our list at $59. Oloneo offers real estate photo editors the ability to edit lighting and exposure as if they were still tinkering around with their cameras.

This software does not require a lot of computer memory, allowing it to respond to commands and processes quickly. It’s a good option for beginners just starting out with real estate photography.

Living room with matching brown furnishing and wide glass windows

Pros

  • - Oloneo HDR features real-time processing. This allows you to see the effects of your adjustments immediately.
  • - It includes advanced algorithms to handle moving objects. This reduces ghosting issues often encountered in HDR photography.

Cons

  • - Oloneo HDR does not have mobile or cloud versions. That means you cannot access your projects and edited images on different device
  • - The application is generally available for Windows, but not Macs.

Nik HDR Efex

Nik HDR Efex is an advanced plugin for photo editing software. Like other applications, it allows you to create HDR images from multiple exposures. It is part of the Nik Collection, a suite of photo editing plugins developed by Nik Software. Google later acquired it, and then it was acquired by DxO Labs.

This plugin is usually installed in advanced HDR and editing applications like Lightroom.

The application comes with Control Points, a feature in many Nik software plugins. This feature allows for selective adjustments in specific areas of the image, offering fine control over local adjustments.

This software works on top of applications such as Photoshop and Lightroom, seamlessly blending with your existing editing workflow. Usually, this makes the editing process easier. You don't have to switch between applications.

Pros

  • - The application comes with presets that you can use for most HDR photos if you want to speed up your editing workflow.
  • - The interface is very intuitive to use, so it doesn’t take long to learn how to use the software.

Cons

  • - You need other applications, such as Lightroom.
  • - The presets might not work on all the photos, and you might need to make the adjustments manually.

Affinity Photo Tone Mapping

Affinity Photo Tone Mapping is a professional photo editing software developed by Serif. Its tone-mapping feature allows you to enhance and adjust the tonal and color balance in HDR photography.

Standard displays cannot generally reproduce the entire dynamic range. Tone mapping helps compress the dynamic range of the photos into a range the device can display.

Living room with brown leather sofa and printed rug with wide open glass windows

As the name suggests, this application's algorithms preserve detail and realism in your photos. It achieves this by mapping the luminance values of the HDR images to a suitable range for display. Photos edited in Affinity Photo Tone Mapping appear natural and detailed.

The Affinity Photo Tone Mapping non-destructive editing is great. You can go back to your original photo if you mess up. It’s a great choice for beginners trying out HDR photography.

Pros

  • - The application has easy-to-use controls. You can easily adjust saturation, contrast, shadows, and highlights.
  • - It results in good image quality due to the smooth tonal transitions.

Cons

  • - Tone mapping takes lots of computer resources when working with large RAW files. As a result, this is not the best HDR software when using a low-end computer.
  • - The software has limited compatibility compared to applications such as Adobe Lightroom. It might not support the latest camera models.

Why You Need an HDR Editing Software

A seasoned real estate editor understands the process of bringing together or stacking a set of bracketed images. In the past, there was no photo editing software specializing in HDR enhancements. The process was only available through well-known applications that provided stacking features.

The only problem is that all you could have done at that moment while other work had to wait. Now you can have two different software, switching between them as plugins or simultaneously running applications. 

Another good reason to use the best HDR software is to exhaust the potential of an HDR edit. Most photo editing software will be like Swiss knives: They have all the tools ready but limited capabilities, unless you use one of the most powerful applications. Real estate photo editors can edit HDR at their full potential, using all the tools available at their disposal.

If you’re just starting out with editing using HDR software, be careful - going overboard with the editing is easy. Matias shares,

“Less is more. A lot of beginners go through what’s known as the HDR phase, where the unique/odd look of overly edited HDR images makes them think it’s a stylized aesthetic that helps their images pop. Unfortunately for most people, the hyper HDR look simply isn’t great to look at.”

Bedroom with a cream colored flower rug and wooden flooring

Verdict: Which One Reigns as the Top?

HDR Merge is the best HDR application for HDR photography right now. It has AI-powered features, great tone-mapping capabilities, and an intuitive interface. We consider it the best HDR software due to the advanced tools available. This helps to create HDR images that look natural.

Given that their core technology employs a continuous learning background made up of artificial intelligence, the possibilities are endless together with the availability of features. This means that HDR Merge is a dedicated HDR extension that can be expected to perform and understand the user just as Luminar AI has in the past. 

Most users consider this to be the most powerful HDR software on the market, unparalleled with its HDR smart structure, giving real estate photo editors unmatched potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Use HDR for Interior Photography?

Yes, HDR is good for editing interior photos. It lets you capture lots of detail in rooms with bright and dark areas. HDR reveals details lost in very light and dark parts of a room's interior.

What Computer Specs Are Good for HDR Software?

The best computer specs for HDR software are an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor or an AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 processor, 16GB of RAM or more, and a solid-state drive rather than a traditional hard drive. Also, consider getting a monitor that displays the full HDR color and contrast range. 

You can also get a dedicated GPU to speed up HDR previews and rendering. HDR processing takes a lot of memory and fast speeds. A high-end modern CPU and plenty of RAM give you the best experience in creating HDR images.

What Are the Best HDR Settings for Real Estate Photography?

When shooting HDR photos, use ISO 100-200 to avoid noise, use fast shutter speeds to prevent blur, and shoot in RAW format for flexibility. Shooting this way reduces noise in shadows. Fast shutters prevent motion blur. When tone-mapping the HDR image, RAW lets you adjust whites, blacks, and colors.

Conclusion

There are many HDR software options for interior and exterior photos. You can pick the right one based on your needs, skills, and budget. Looking at it technically, we think HDR Merge is best and has the features professional photographers need.

Other HDR software may also be a top choice. You can explore and test to find the ones you like. The journey to find the perfect HDR tools is an exciting one!

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