Bracketing Exposures to Photograph Real Estate Interiors
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Bracketing Exposures to Photograph Real Estate Interiors


Hello, this is David Robinson and here
I’m going to show you a couple of techniques that you can use to take accurate
bracketed exposures for HDR processing. When you use these techniques,
you’ll know that you have perfectly covered the lighting range in your scene. This is especially important with
interior real estate photographs where there may be very wide differences in brightness. There are 3 basic steps: Set up the camera. Which photos to take. Taking the photos. When you’re taking bracketed shots
for HDR, they should all have the same ISO and Aperture. Only the shutter speed should vary. First set the camera to Manual mode and then set both the ISO and Aperture. The ISO setting determines how
sensitive your camera is to light. A higher ISO allows you to use a shorter shutter speed but it can also introduce unwanted noise. So, you should set the ISO as low as possible to reduce the possibility of noise. Avoid going higher than ISO 400. At this point, you’ll also need to
select a suitable aperture. This will vary, depending on the
scene, but f/8 is a good balance between depth of field and shutter speed. Because you will be taking a number of shots and some of these may have slow shutter speeds, it’s important to mount the
camera on a good solid tripod. Pressing the shutter button
may cause the camera to move a little, causing blur within the photos. Using a remote shutter release solves that problem. When you’re taking a bracketed
set for HDR, it’s very important that the darkest photo has all the details in the highlights and that the brightest photo
has the details in the shadows. Between these two you then need to fill in
the mid-tones with additional shots. Since you have already chosen the ISO and
the Aperture you’ll be using for the bracketed set, what you now have to find out is the longest, and shortest shutter speeds. The easiest way to do this uses
Spot Metering mode on your camera. Normally, when working out what exposure to use, your camera looks at a large part of the scene but in Spot Metering mode it looks at just a small area, usually around the centre of the image. Because you want the camera to work out
the exposure to use with the aperture you’ve chosen, switch to Aperture Priority mode. The first reading is for the photo that
requires the longest shutter speed. Point the camera at the darkest area inside the room. Read the exposure shown in
the camera and make a note of it. Now, you need to find the photo that
requires the shortest shutter speed so, point the camera at the brightest part
of the room and make a note of it. Just remember to avoid pointing
your camera directly at overly-bright objects, such as the Sun or any reflections. There’s another way to determine the
longest and shortest shutter speeds which is more precise but takes a little longer; using the brightness histogram on your camera. Most cameras have a setting that displays a histogram of the brightness levels of photos that have been taken. For this method, keep the camera in manual mode and point it at the darkest area of the room. Now take a test shot. If you have a vertical line at the
left side of the histogram, then there are dark areas you haven’t covered yet. Change the shutter speed to
something longer and try again. When you have a histogram nicely balanced like this, you’ve got a good shutter speed, so make a note of it. Now do the same thing for the shortest exposure. Point the camera at the brightest part,
adjust the shutter speed till it looks well exposed, then take another test shot. This time you need to look out for
a line on the right hand side of the graph. If you see this, adjust the
shutter speed so it becomes shorter and try again until you have
something that looks more like this … and make a note of the shutter speed used. Now that you’ve made a note of the
longest and shortest exposures, take the photos, from the fastest shutter
speed through to the slowest, and with the right number of photos in between. I’m going to show you two methods to do this: The Semi-Automated method and
the Full Manual method. The Semi-Automated method uses the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function of your camera and the HDR Exposure Calculator. Most DSLR cameras are capable of taking
a certain number of shots automatically, with exposures bracketed around
a central shutter speed. And the calculator will tell you
which shutter speeds to use and how many automatically
bracketed sets will be required. Here’s how the HDR calculator works: Open the app, and using the readings you noted earlier, in the first box, enter the value for the shadows which is the shutter speed for
the darkest part of the room, the longest exposure. And in the second box, the value for the highlights, which is the shutter speed for the
brightest parts of the scene, the shortest exposure. Below this, enter the AEB capabilities of your camera, that is to say, the maximum number of
exposure bracketed photos it can take. And in the final box, enter the stop
difference between them … the EV spacing that you want to use. Now click ‘Get Exposures’ and the calculator
will tell you the exact number of photos to take … the settings for the bracketed set
and how many bracketed sets you’ll need using the AEB function on your camera. So, once your camera is on a tripod,
framed and focused, we can begin taking the photos. Start by activating the AEB function on the camera … and make sure that the camera is in Manual mode. Set the shutter speed to the first value given … select your bracketed of 5 photos … and without moving the camera, take the bracketed set by pressing the remote shutter release. Or, if you’re not using one,
by pressing the shutter button. If your camera doesn’t have an AEB function, or you don’t have access to the calculator, then there’s another method to get the photos you need. Select Single-Shot mode on your
camera, and in Manual mode, dial in the fastest shutter speed. Now, take a photo. Then, decrease the shutter speed by one stop, also known as 1 EV, and take the next photo. Repeat the process until you’ve reached
the point where you’ve taken a photo with the slowest shutter speed. Using this method means that you’re
constantly touching the camera, so make sure that your tripod doesn’t
move and that all the joints are solid. So, here are the important points to remember when taking bracketed sets
using the advanced technique: Keep your ISO and Aperture unchanged between shots. Use your camera’s Spot Metering function or histogram to work out the shortest and longest shutter speeds. Use the HDR Exposure Calculator
to work out the photos you need. You can also take your photos manually, one at a time.

40 Comments

  • Felix Mooneeram

    Great video – nice and clear and with a good pace

    My only q is about the spot metering. When you say "point the camera at the darkest part in the room" – do you just mean to simply move the focus point over that area?

  • Capitaine Grignoto

    Hi ,
    I don’t understand why i should use the hdrsoft app if i use the aeb of my camera ? It will automatically do it.
    I can’t really tweek the feature, maybe with the calculator check the difference ? Thanks for the explanation.

  • Charles Ludwig

    No professional photographer shooting real estate for MLS is going to bracket for HDR. First, it takes too much time, effectively making a $50 per hour shooter, a $13 an hour shooter. Second, bracketing is not at all necessary, just shoot wide angle, hand-held, on-camera flash set at TTL +1.3, and bounce off ceiling, with camera set at 1/80th second, f6.3 and 320 ISO. That's it, pretty much everything that needs to be done for a technically great image including windows and their walls. What's important and not mentioned is what perspective best shows the interior, as well as the effect the presence or absence of interior design has on the shot. Let me shoot a home decorated by an interior designer and my images are sure to please. sterlingimagesphotography.com

  • Brian Kenneth Kondas

    The problem with this technique is outside lighting conditions change all the time. Clouds pass by and make this scene darker or clouds pass by make the scene lighter. The best technique is to take the bracketed shots and look at the histogram to see if those shots were exposed correctly.

  • chinh luan

    Hi I can use one speedlights with bracketing flash, apecture mode? Photomatix manual dont requires flash. I should use raw or jpec for interior photograph? Very tks

  • Today's Hike

    oh good grief – it is not this complicated!…just go Manual mode. Look at LCD on back of camera in Live View and dial the aperture so the brightest areas are properly exposed. Then same for dark areas. Expect 8 clicks if light is kinda even in a room and 15 clicks if you have bright areas like windows. Shoot more exposures than you need on both ends.

    And this guy did not even level the camera. His verticals are not aligned. Beginner stuff. Clearly, he is not a seasoned pro. For architectural work… use Manfrotto 410 3-Way, Geared Pan-and-Tilt Head

  • Ian M

    Great explanation together with a very well put together video.
    Thank you very much for your attention to detail & knowledge sharing.

  • Dimitris Savalas

    Yes great video BUT…. how do you combine all the exposures to have the final photo? Till now I have been using Photoshop to create layers of a window (outdoor shots) which I then insert to an interior shot….. Yet it is very time-consuming. Any ideas?

  • VIDEO&MUSICEditor

    Hello David, how do you get it the outside exposure correctly? I took an HDR photos and merge them on lightroom but it doesn't grab the outside well exposure of the photos. So what I get is a photo with the outside overexpose.

  • Ramon Clemente Fotografía

    Nine images for a bracketing is way too much in my experience -> www.ramonclemente.com

    I find that for many HDR techniques and modern software fewer images but with a wider EV separation works better. For many interiors a 2x+4EV, 2x+3EV or 3x+3EV is enough to cover from HL to SH.

    If using continuous light only I'd also suggest using a higher ISO. I find thermal noise more annoying.

  • Amy Gunville

    Thank you for explaining everything so clearly! This is incredibly helpful. I really appreciate that you went over the process so thoroughly because all the short answers I have seen so far do not allow me to understand the functionality and all the possibilities I have at my disposal. Brilliant! Thank you again!

  • Steve Loudon

    I like the video. But where do I find the exposure calculator? I see a link in one of your answers but can it be found in the Google play store?

  • Charles Ludwig

    Great video yet there’s no way an MLS Photographer can do HDR and make any money. Just use fill flash. sterlingimagesphotography.com

  • Rick Bonilla

    I am an AEB first-timer, I am aware of the basic functions. You can read about it a number of times until you think you get it, but actually don't. SEEing it, takes it another step. Thank you for helping it make some sense. It's appreciated.

  • subash maharjan

    after getting all the exposures, where do you focus for the final shot when doing the AEB? Do you focus on the highlight, midtones or the shadows? From the video it appears he is using manual focus? I am newbie. thanks.

  • Old Grumpy Jim

    Good for those that don't want to use flash. Personally I prefer off camera flash and ambient and then do a quick blend in photoshop when required. Bracketing is fine in steady light conditions that don't change but strong changing sunlight from outside can bugger everything up and then you need to use the liveview function and the histogram for individual shots. Good video with attention to detail for those starting to think about this line of work as long as they realise there is more than one way to achieve this.

  • Donny Larsen

    I am a seasoned real estate and magazine photographer and followed your steps exactly but instead of using ISO 400 I used ISO 200 with f/11 AEB 2. My shadows setting was 1/15 and highlights 1/1600. I plugged it into app and was told to use 1/250 and read as follows: 1/15..+4 +4, 1/60 +2 +2, 1/250 0 0, 1/1000 -2 -2, 1/4000 -4 -4. I dialed in 1/250 and shot. What my Canon 5D III w L series 17-40 readings were 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000. All too dark to even consider into loading into Photomatix Pro 6. I was hoping to save time on my shoots with this procedure. I have been using AEB for years and my procedure has been to get my get my light reading and start my series of 7 shots form -2 up to +2. It has worked for me pretty well most of the time but welcomed a more precise way of shooting. I would appreciate an opinion as I would like to try this out on my next shoot.

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