January 18th, 2009
At the same time a discussion in the PFRE flickr group has been going on about the fine points of getting a good clear view out the windows of a view property a reader ask about what the basic options were for controlling window brightness. This reminded me that this blog has readers with a wide range of experience. Since window brightness is such a classic interior photography issue I thought it would be useful to recap the basics of this problem.
The problem is of course, the fact that there can be, and usually is, a huge difference in the brightness of windows and the interior of a home. The brightness range is frequently more than a camera can capture. Here are the standard ways an interior photographer has to control this brightness difference:
- Shoot around twilight (sun rise or sunset) when the brightness inside is close to the brightness outside. This makes for some wonderful shots but it’s not always possible to schedule.
- Use lighting (one or more strobes) to raise the brightness level inside to be close to the brightness level outside. Here is a post that describes how to do this in more detail.
- Shoot a RAW image, then open the RAW image once and adjust for interior brightness and then open the same RAW image a second time and adjust the exposure for the window brightness. Then use Photoshop to make a mask for the windows so you can combine the windows with the interior. See this video for a more detailed explanation on how to do this.
- Use HDR (High dynamic Range): Shoot 3 bracketed shots on a tripod (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV) then use Photomatix or one of the Enfuse blending applications to combine the 3 shots using tone mapping or blending.
The image above is a shot I took in 2003 for a view property we listed. At the time, I didn’t have a clue how to use any of these techniques except #1. I made several trips to this home at twilight and the home owner was very disappointed with my results. I eventually got some useable window view shots but it was a very frustrating for both me and the homeowner. A few months ago I ran across the RAW file for this photo and decided to use #3 to create a shot that showed the view just to get closure on this bad memory. I did a post on the result. I feel better now but I know how it feels to do battle with bright windows and struggle to get the view.