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What Are The Best Techniques For Post-exposure Modification of Over-bright Interior Lights?

Published: 23/11/2016

Don asked about controlling light from over-bright bulbs:

I wondered what the best techniques are for post-exposure modification of over-bright bulbs, lamps and other fixtures that show up as undifferentiated white blobs.  Obviously, I would rather avoid the problems by using bounced light, changing bulbs, or using a dimmer, but sometimes that isn't possible. What are the best practices for fixing these problems in Lightroom or Photoshop CC or in camera?

There's a very effective way of controlling by shooting two exposures. One for the bright bulb and one for the rest of the room. Simon Maxwell, the author of Enfuse and Hand Blending In Photoshop For Real Estate Photography has a tutorial that explains this technique very nicely.

Once you use this technique a few times it is quick and easy. It is faster and easier than changing bulbs!

Larry Lohrman

5 comments on “What Are The Best Techniques For Post-exposure Modification of Over-bright Interior Lights?”

  1. Another technique, particularly if didn't take two shots for blending and suddenly discovering on the large monitor in post, use a graduated filter in Lightroom or other software. Reduce the intensity of the light and blending down not to impact the ambience of the room. Technique is also good if you have a hot wall due to light placement, and of course adjusting sky/clouds detail on exterior shots. If the broader graduated filter isn't appropriate due to composition, then spot adjustment with a control point using NIC Vivenza plugin which is now free after Google bought NIC.

  2. For real estate photography, dont sweat it. The buyers can figure out the room whether windows/lights are blown or not to decide if they want to contact their buyers agent (not the listing agent) to see the property. On your next shoot be sure to make some additional brackets, ala Mike Kelley Oev +/- 3 stops.

  3. @ Rohnn...WOW, initially thought was spam post, particularly when web link is invalid (misspelled with 3 n') as it threw both professional photographers and listing agents under the bus and closed with a reference to 7 exposure HDR. With a Google search, I see you are an actual photographer and noted the misspelling on the link you provided. In two of the three sentences, you minimized (don't sweat it) and re-iterated 2 stereotypes - minimized professional photography (immaterial if windows blown out) and buyer's agent scare tactic falsely inferring conflict of interest (don't use listing agent). As a photographer and a Realtor, let me give you a little insight. First, the message of photographers is the value of professional photography attracting more buyers to a property supporting a higher price. A listing agent likes nothing better than to say "We have a multiple offer situation - highest and best by tomorrow noon." Your statement of it doesn't matter only supports the agents that wouldn't hire you in the first place as they use "not mattering" as an excuse. Second, suggesting buyers only use buyer's agent essentially sells out the listing agent that hired you, and buyer's agents have little need for professional photography. A misnomer is that 1) the listing agent is dependent on that sell where really, that sell is nice - but just as with photographers - a happy customer(s) referring future business which is very cheap marketing. Unhappy customers not only don't refer, but worse tell their friends and social media their tales of woe trashing the Realtor. That is also where the whole "conflict of interest" buyer's agent argument falls apart as you don't sellout either party, but unfortunately, the argument is so simplistic that the public doesn't recognize it. When fortunate to represent both a buyer and a seller, the agent is under no obligation to sellout either party with the inside information they have, rather work within the overlap to where both parties agree. It doesn't get any simpler than that - and you have two happy customers referring their friends and business associates. Additionally, where the home is a mismatch for the buyer's need there is no advantage to cramming them into it to get "both sides." Finding another home in the same price range that better suits the needs of the buyer for 1/2 the commission and the other half when you sell the listing is mathematically the same and even better if you can repeat that process at time or two as the listing attracts other buyers. Unfortunately, the buyer's agent effectively uses your photography and the listing agent's work to intercept those buyers, denying the listing agent, your client, a truer return on their investment. In short - be careful what you post.

  4. Apart from lectures and dismissing this as a problem, my take away from the discussion is captured in the link Larry supplies above on Simon Maxwell's book link. I don't have this problem very often but when I do I find that software like Photomatix and AuroroPro (even the new improved version) tend to take this problem and run with it. And my standard bracketing of 1 1/2 stops either way which covers most of my extreme exposure problems does not cover this one. And the transition from exposure in adjacent areas as they become blasted out by the light fixture passes through what is generally a yellow, orange, magenta or sometimes blue color shift. I used to have the highlight vs dark areas of Fuji transparency film go from magenta dark to green high light areas within the same piece of film but I did not expect to experience such a problem with digital.

    So my take away is this line in the introduction to Maxwell's book "This book also shows you how to use the popular Enfuse-Flash Hybrid technique where, by simply adding a single manual fill flash when shooting brackets, you can improve your results significantly." It certainly adds time to the shoot at least with my Canon since I have to cancel out the auto bracket and burst shutter settings between each shot. But even with this, I am not sure I will be entirely satisfied with the results. So I will continue to bracket my shots with no exposure adjustment then do another set moving the "normal" exposure down a stop to get some darker exposures to pick from, then hand blend them using layers and the "eraser" tool in Photoshop.

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