Home Photography – Step it up with HDR

In the past Redfin documented how much more a home can sell for if the photos are professionally done. Lets take a closer look at the three main types (worst, better, best) of photos we see Realtors and home owners use when it comes to selling their home. Of course we’ll talk about what makes the best looking photos so you know what to ask for when you get ready to sell your home.  I’ll also share with you how I take photos, the camera gear I use along with the software used to develop the photos.

Worst – Point and Shoot Photography

The point and shoot photography is the most common type of photography these days. Cameras are cheap and they take decent images for the day to day uses. However they are not designed to take photos of homes with dark corners and poor natural lighting. All of these cameras have a built in flash to help brighten the room but the flash is either not powerful enough to reach the furthest corner of the room which makes the first half of the photo bright and the last half of the photo too dark. Or the flash is too powerful and it washes out the picture leaving the room looking cold and dull.  Furthermore, these cameras are not designed to capture a wide angle which is vital when it comes to showing a home buyer how big your rooms are and how the house is laid out.

The photo below is very flat and muted. Through the window it looks like trees are dying outside and the room looks like its part of an old house that might need some updating.

Photo Example: Low quality, muted colors, dated look

Better – Good Camera, Used Incorrectly

Some agents are aware of the need for quality photos so they go out and buy a fairly expensive camera, but they don’t learn how to use it properly. The photos may look better but if they don’t take the time to learn how to use the camera the photos won’t do your home justice and they will make your home look average.

The image below is washed out due to an over powering flash. While the quality of the picture is higher than the previous image, the colors are incorrect leaving the room feeling cold and uninviting.

Photo Example: Flash creates a washed out and cold look

Best – Quality Camera, HDR processing

A quality camera doesn’t simply take better looking photos. With the proper camera the lens can be changed out and the sensors are larger which allow the camera to record far more information about the photo. It will also allow the camera to capture a much wider view of the room/home. Pair that up with some HDR techniques and the home buyers sitting online can get the feeling they standing inside your home, which makes it all that much easier to fall in love with your home.

The photo below uses a wide angle lens to capture the full size of the room, the room’s layout and the proper colors. The photo also shows an overall better composure and color balance which makes the home look newer, cleaner and more updated.

Photo Example: True perspective of the room, inviting and warm

HDR Processing How it Works

HDR or High Dynamic Range is the merging of several (6-12) photos together and then using software to enhance the specific elements of the photo (dark corners, windows).  The best use for this is with landscape photography, but the second best use is with real estate photography.

Using HDR will allow you to to have photos with an even exposure, color and warmth. The photos will look natural and will give the home buyer the feel they are standing just outside that room looking in.

Take a look a the photos below, you’ll see the photos go from super dark to super bright. The image in the middle is often the image your camera wants to “automatically” capture but in doing so it misses specific elements that you’ll want to enhance. For example. See how much detail you get from the window with the dark photos? The average photo will have the detail in the window “blown out”, which results in a really bright (and ugly) spot in the photo.

HDR Range of Photos

Combined Photo

Final Photo

HDR Gear

For anyone looking to do these photos on your own, I’ve provided a list of everything I use. If you want to do it right, you’ll need quality gear and truth be told it won’t be cheap. I’ve tried to get away with less expensive equipment, unfortunately you can see the difference in the photos.

Equipment List:

  • Full Frame Sensor Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
  • Wide Angle Lens: Sigma 12-24mm DG HSM
  • Tripod: Any quality tripod with bubble levels does the trick


  • Adobe: Lightroom 3
  • Nik Software: HDR Efex Pro

Camera Settings

  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: F11
  • Shooting Mode: AV
  • Exposures: Min 6, Max 12

If you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below.

Author of this Post

If you have questions or comments just leave them below or get in touch.

Marcus Fleming

Serving East Valley, Cave Creek and Scottsdale
Homes Closed: 100+
  • Emily V.

    Wow, that's really good. I'll add that to the someday wish list… It's very impressive.

    • http://www.redfin.com Marcus Fleming

      Thanks Emily!