HD or HDR Photography? The answer is “Neither”.


Interior real estate photographer in Federal Way, Washington

I get asked if I do real estate HD photography. No! Because there is no such thing. “HD” – or high definition – refers only to video (and yes, I do shoot 4K high-definition video).

Most modern cameras can take photos with plenty of resolution to display on high-definition monitors and for printing. Even good phone cameras can.

As a real estate agent, don’t ask the photographer what camera he uses, it hardly makes any difference. A violinist will make melody with a $50 Merano violin. I wouldn’t be able to make one even with a Stradivarius violin.

The real question should be about his lights. A good camera will make getting a good photo easier. Good lighting will make or break the photo. How a photographer lights the space is crucial. And that brings me to my second point.

Avoid HDR photographers like the plague.

In real estate photography, HD gets mostly confused with HDR – or High Dynamic Range. HDR is a technique where multiple shots of the same subject are exposed for the dark and bright parts of the scene. These photos are then digitally combined to produce a photo that captures a wider variation of brightness levels than a single-exposure photo can.

It’s trendy and you see it all across MLS listings.

So why is it bad?

HDR is a technique – it’s a tool in a photographer’s toolbox. It’s not a be-all and end-all. A photographer who relies solely on HDR to balance the brightness of windows with the shadows of the interiors is a one-trick technician. No matter the personality, mood, atmosphere of the house, the photos will all be the same. It’s like a chef using one spice for all of his cooking.

Badly done HDR photos look surreal with characteristic halos around dark edges and unpleasant contrast. The colors are off, midtones are muddy, color cast prevalent. I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about.

By using off-camera lights, good real estate photographers can interpret what they see. They play with lights and shadows to give mood and atmosphere to rooms, emphasize interesting architectural features, direct attention from unsightly defects toward charming elements.

So, the next time you’re interviewing a photographer, ask him if he uses off-camera flashes or relies just on HDR.

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