How To Get Clean Whites When Shooting HDR

November 29th, 2009

A couple of months ago there was an outstanding thread in the PFRE Discussion group discussing various approaches on how to get clean whites when shooting HDR. This thread caught my attention because getting clean whites when shooting HDR is a classic problem that many beginning real estate  photographers struggle with.

fuzzybabybunny:) starts out the thread by providing a series of shots and showing his results (the photo to the right) and asks for advice from the group members on how get whites, whiter and cleaner. The resulting responses are combination of showing results of various HDR and blending products and giving specific workflow advice. Here is a summary of the advice on this subject:

  1. Dan Achatz advises:
    • Keep your ISO low (50 or 100)… fuzzy was using ISO 1600.
    • Use a fill flash. You don’t need high power, 1/8 power bounced off a wall can make a big difference, by adding sharpness and contrast to the whole room.
    • Use three bracketed shots. Three shots two stops apart work better than adding more bracketed shots (5, 7 or 9).
    • Do final color corrections in Photoshop or Lightroom. Dan recommends desaturating with the sponge, using the color   replacement tool for removing color casts, and the HLS tool for selectively desaturating just one color.
  2. Several contributors give examples of blending in Photomatix and Enfuse and Bracketeer. These enfused examples appear to have pretty clean whites.
  3. Andrew Hurst points out that Picturenaut, using the photoreceptor tonemapping setting, gives cleaner looking whites than some of the examples done with Photomatix.
  4. Almost all the contributors to this thread hand layered the window in the final photo from the bracketed shot with the best window exposure. Nothing to do with whites, but this appears to be standard practice for shooters using HDR and Enfuse.

This thread is an excellent example of how a collaborative answer to a question like this is far more interesting and gives more depth and a variety of options than just one person’s opinion and experience.

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6 Responses to “How To Get Clean Whites When Shooting HDR”

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  • This is tangential to this discussion, but I wonder if worrying about burned out windows is worth all the effort? Unless the outdoors area is attractive and integral to the room, it can often detract from the impact of the room itself.

  • Michael- I think one has to make the call on how to render the windows on a case by case basis. You are right many times windows don’t matter as long as the brightness isn’t a distraction.

    I just raised the issue in this post because I’ve gotten several questions lately asking why one can’t get perfectly exposed windows with HDR and Blending. Fact is if you want perfectly exposed windows you have to either use some interior lighting or mask in a perfectly exposed window or shoot when the light outside is the same level as inside.

  • Windows are the bane of my existence come winter. I replace the burned out window with…..properly exposed, blinding white snow – hmmm.

  • I still think the best interior real estate photo is achieved by blending an HDR image with a conventionally “flash lit” image. You get the best whites and windows. The problem is that it takes longer.

  • Dylan, is this the 4 shot method you discussed in the HDR + Flash post? Where you do the 2 stop AEB and then add another single shot with a bounced flash?

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