How to Keep Windows from Being Too Bright When Using LR/Enfuse

February 1st, 2017

Keri in KS asked:

I shoot 3 brackets with a Canon 5DMkIII and process them with LR/Enfuse but when I shoot towards bright windows the windows turn out too bright even though I expose for the darks inside the windows. I also get some color casts. What can I do to fix these problems?

The problem causing the windows to be too bright is that when you shoot brackets your brackets are not capturing the whole brightness range of the room. This post describes a way to make sure you are capturing the whole brightness range of a room.  With this technique, you use the histogram in LiveView to let you see the exact brightness range of the room. You move the histogram all the way to the left where it starts to crawl up and touch the top and then shoot brackets every stop as you use the shutter speed to move the histogram towards the right. Stop shooting brackets when the histogram crawls up the right side and starts to touch the top.

For your color cast problem, if you use a single manual flash bounced off the ceiling or wall for some or all brackets it will make all the colors more accurate and the whites whiter. Experiment a little to see what the best power setting is for each room. You don’t need a lot of flash power to fix color casts.

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15 Responses to “How to Keep Windows from Being Too Bright When Using LR/Enfuse”

  • To me, pulling in a very bright view with enfuse is like trying to hammer a nail in with a screwdriver. It’s just the wrong tool for the job. The same thing goes for getting correct colors. If you want colors to be correct, use another tool. The correct tool in both those instances, and when I say correct I mean easiest and providing the best results (kinda like putting a nail down with a hammer), is flash.

  • I fought with the same exact problems, and I agree with Andrew.
    Flash is the way to go.
    After several attempts using strobes on small tripods, I’ve settled on a ‘hybrid’ system.

    Running around to make multiple light adjustments, feeling the “pressure of time”, kept making me fall back to a 4 or 5 image infuse (no strobe) shoot.
    Determined to make it work, I’ve recently discovered I can hand hold one light (bounced off the ceiling) for most rooms.
    If needed because of uneven lighting, I can add multiple images to the same tripod setting, only pointing the strobe in another dirrection.
    What I end up on those difficult situations is a 2 to 4 image stack that I STILL blend with enfuse.
    The amount of time on site is only about 30 to 50% more, and the time in post production has been cut drastically.
    Colors and windows are perfect, and whites are correct (rather than yellowed). Another benefit is less ‘clicks’ on my camera body.

    There’s no disputing the fact that my job got a lot easier with strobes.

  • One thing I started doing recently that’s helped my HDR-only workflow with bright casts (and sometimes lens flare) around windows is using a polarizing filter on my lens. It adds a bit to the exposure time, but negligible. You have to play with it some to get the right setting before shooting your brackets, but it’s really done a great job of cleaning up my windows!

  • My story is about the same as Russell’s. I wasn’t happy with the results just using hdr/fusion, and I don’t like the time it takes on site using flash/strobes so I use a flash/enfuse blend. It adds a little more time on site but more than makes up for the time saved in post.

  • Deno and Russel, I’d be interested to know a bit more about your technique. Are you shooting in aperture priority or manual mode? And are you firing the flash with each shot or just one? Do you run the Enfuse then hand blend the flash shot in PS, or run Enfuse on the whole set?

    I started with just Enfuse and have now switched to off camera flash, getting 1 or 2 ambient shots and however many flash shots needed. I do not mind the extra time as the results are worth it for the higher end homes. However for some homes I think Enfuse with manual would be a good option in terms of efficiency.

  • How do you all deal with unnatural shadows cause by flash?

  • @Peter – if you bounce the flash off of the ceiling or the ceiling/wall joint from several feet away there will be no harsh shadows because the bounced flash is big and soft.

  • I use a flash + ambient hybrid approach also. I use my flash frame to properly expose the window view and provide a well-lit interior (flash bounced off ceiling or wall/ceiling joint). I then take a 3 bracket ambient set (-2/0/+2) and replace the 0 ambient with the flash frame when I use Enfuse/LR. The output tends to hold the well-exposed window view and color accuracy plus some of the natural shadowing from the ambient frames.

  • I admire and respect ALL of the comments and tips on this wonderful forum. One thing that almost always comes to mind when reading about all the efforts put into images during the edit/post workflow is, “Wow, these folks sure do spend a ton of time on each photo!” I really wonder how you keep your pricing competitive when shooting so many photos during a session, and then processing these.

    In my case, say with a 2000 square foot house and moderately sized yard, I’ll shoot perhaps 120 photos and follow that in Adobe Bridge with the elimination of non-optimal or poorly lit shots; that may leave me with 60 shots to process though Silkypix and/or LR and/or Photoshop CC. Though I have never really timed it, I’d say each photo (of the 60 sent to the client agent) gets an average of 3 minutes in the workflow. That is a lot of work, and needless to say, clients have no idea how much is involved.

    Does this amount of time jive with what others are doing? No complaints – I chose this fun occupation – just curious.

  • @Phil – I typically deliver 25 – 30 images but would shoot more than that on-site. I will run all of the set-ups through my Enfuse process and after seeing how they turned out, decide which ones to eliminate and which 25 – 30 to process and deliver. I have presets that I use in LR Develop that cuts my workflow down. For some shots, I spend another 30 seconds tweaking it after applying the preset(s) while others might take a couple of minutes. I can usually crank through a set in under an hour.

  • I’m averaging 3-6 minutes for editing each photo.

  • @Caroline – I shoot a 5-shot bracket in manual mode with no flash, then a single shot with flash. I batch the bracketed shots in Photomatix. It takes less than 10 minutes to run. Some people will probably laugh at these next steps but I’ve tried every method on here and this is by far the easiest for me. For that single flash shot, I shoot on-camera flash pointed straight ahead with the WAD down and I hold a small, white umbrella in front of it. This will eliminate most of the harsh shadows. There will be some around ceiling fans but that’s an easy fix using the ambient shot. This shot will NOT be pretty at all, but all I use it for is the color and highlights. I use the shots from Photomatix and the flash shot and blend those using LR/Enfuse. This takes about 20 minutes. I just tried this once out of curiosity and I couldn’t believe the results. It used the color and highlights from the flash shot and the rest is the natural light from the bracketed shot. It will also fill in some shadows using the flashed exposure. Now, most of my editing is done and it’s all been batch processing that took about 30 minutes. I do a quick blend of the shots from PM and Enfuse in Photoshop to bring back any natural light I like and get rid of the ceiling fan shadow. It takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the shot.

  • For interiors, I’ve pretty much stopped using enfuse for 2 reasons. First, windows were too bright. This result makes sense since enfuse is a modified averaging program. If you input a lot of shots with a bright window, the average will have a bright window. Second, I got odd looking dark areas on window frames when they were between bright window panes.
    Instead, for interior tripod shots, I use Lightroom HDR. The processing is faster and the results look better to me.
    When the input images don’t align (because of wind or because you shot hand held) LR HDR produces serious artifacts, and does not align images as well as Enfuse. So I use Enfuse for exterior and hand held.

  • Some years ago Jeremy Esland posted this helpful bit on his way of handling a brighter outside when using Enfuse.

  • @David
    Thanks for sharing that Esland post. It could be that I was throwing too many images into Enfuse, when 2 would be best. I guess for me, that’s another advantage of LR HDR, I can take an automatic bracket of 5 and throw them all into LR HDR, and the result is usually good. Another problem with Enfuse that I forgot to mention is that the images can come out looking “smokey.” I don’t know exactly what that look is, but I know it when I see it, and I don’t get that from LR HDR. I do miss the batch processing from Enfuse.

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