HDR Photograpy for Real Estate - Your Phone, an App, and Google Backup

Many will argue that a professional photographer should be used for listing photos. If you want to do that and can afford it, that's great. However, the quality and resolution of digital cameras and smart phone cameras have grown exponentially in recent years. I have never used a pro, even on a million dollar listing. I took over 100 photos with a high-resolution digital camera and selected around 30 for my website listing. They worked well for me.

Any Good Smartphone Camera Will Work

Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Jim Kimmons

If you take the do-it-yourself route for your listing photography, and if you have a relatively new model smart phone, you can do a great job if you take care.  Though lower resolution is OK, especially if you're just using the shots for the Web, 12 megapixels or better seems to be best for me.

You do need some innate ability to frame photos properly and to shoot the best features of your listing. There are also apps that can stitch together multiple shots if you need a more wide angle approach. However, this is about HDR, High Dynamic Range, photography. Let's look at that a little closer in the next screen.

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HDR and Apps for Listing Photography

HDR Photograph

Notice something very important in the image above. How many times have you tried to take advantage of a bright home with lots of outdoor lighting and had your photos turn out badly? Either you get dark interior walls and details due to the blown-out high-intensity door and window lighting, or you must do heavy editing.

Unfortunately, even if you can edit to bring up the dark areas, all that does is to increase the intensity of the highly lit areas as well. The only way to do better with editing is to use a high-quality camera that takes RAW format images. Then you use some expensive and complicated software like Adobe Lightroom. It can work for you, but it's a lot of trouble.

Along came HDR, High Dynamic Range, photography to save the day. What you need to overcome is the huge variable exposures in the room. You want the details outside the glass door or window (very bright exposure), but you also want the details and textures of the walls and interior (much lower exposure).

HDR is the process of taking three or more images with different exposures. Very common is using three, with one at the proper exposure, one overexposed one stop, and one underexposed one stop. This gets all of those low and high exposure details.  Now all we have to do is somehow merge those three photos in a way that captures all of the details across the three exposures.  Some sophisticated cameras will even take five or seven photos, all with different exposures.

I use HDR Camera + from the Google Play Store on my phone. I've used it in several phones, always with good results. In research for this article, I found some references to built-in HDR capability in iPhone 5, but if you don't have that on your iPhone, there are HDR apps you can get free or at very low cost. They automatically take the photos at the exposure spread and combine them into a great image.

Google + Auto Photo Backup

Google + Auto Backup
Jim Kimmons

 I use Google + to automatically backup all photos I take with my smartphone. They go up to the cloud but are kept private unless I choose to share them. They go up with full resolution, and they're ready for me to use/download when I get back to my computer. You can get instructions on how to use this service here.