Using HDR for Interior Commercial Photography

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 18, 2010

Category: General

There’s been quite a bit of discussion online lately on blogs and forums about the use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography and I reckon it’s fair to say that some people love it, and some people (clearly) hate it. Scott Kelby wrote on his blog recently asking for peoples thoughts on the subject and boy, did some people really let their thoughts be known.

I first became aware of HDR when a Photographer / Photoshop Guru by the name of Ben Willmore began posting HDR images he’d put together during his ongoing journey along Route 66. He’d edited them in such a way that gave them an almost surreal, futuristic look and to be honest it was this look that I associated with HDR and never considered it’s other uses…until fairly recently.

Ultimately HDR enables the photographer to produce images (when not over processed) that capture much more detail in the shadows, midtones and highlight areas and so resulting in a closer interpretation of what can been seen by the human eye:

Interior Commercial Photography:HDROver the past couple of months aside from my Portrait work, I’ve been finding myself getting commissioned to photograph interiors of Hotels and Restaurants and rather than adding in bursts of light during longer exposures I’ve opted for HDR for two reasons. One reason being the speed it enables me to work and secondly (& more importantly) it gives me exactly the kind of look I’m after…a definite win, win situation!

To create a HDR image, the process involves photographing a ‘scene’ but rather than taking a single photograph, a number are taken. Five is a generally a good number of photographs to take as the first photograph will be ‘properly’ exposed and then two photographs are taken either side of this exposure each 1 stop apart:

HDR Photography TutorialSetting the exposures for each shot can be done manually but by doing this there is always the risk of knocking the camera so that it becomes out of line. Most modern SLR’s and some ‘Point and Shoots’ like the Canon G series, have this facility (known as Bracketing) built into them where you can select the number of exposures you want the camera to take.

Once you have your five photographs, it’s then a case of combining them so that the full range of exposures can be put together to make one final image. I generally combine three of the images together: the ‘properly exposed image plus the image that is 2 stops under exposed and the one that is 2 stops over exposed. Photoshop does have a built in ‘HDR’ creating function but to be honest it still needs a little work, so the software of choice is Photomatix, and I tend to find 99% of the time that the default settings work just fine. Once the images have been combined (tone mapped) I’ll then do a little tweeking in Photoshop just to add some finishing touches.

Interior Commercial Photography:HDRHere’s a couple of examples of ‘overly’ processed HDR images where I went for the surreal/drawing kind of look (just for fun you understand):

HDR Photography Tutorial: Pegasus Bridge, FranceSo, what’s your opinion of HDR? … like it or dislike it? HDR is no magic fix…it wont make a bad shot into a good shot. The old saying of ‘Garbage in Garbage out’ still counts for HDR because you still need to have good quality images to combine in the first place. Personally I think there is defintely a place in the ‘tool kit’ for it but I’d love to hear your thoughts / feelings on the subject so please leave a comment. If you’ve got any examples feel free to send them over and I’ll post some up here in an ‘update’.

Also, if you have any questions about this post or would like to see a video tutorial then just let me know in the comments section below or send me an email, message on Facebook etc… and I’ll ‘get on it’.

Bye for now.

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  1. Beth Daane

    Love it- you do a wonderful job at it. Definitely a talent of yours. Keep it up!

    • Glyn

      Hi Beth,

      Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words. Just had a browse around your blog and I love it!!! You have some really great images on there…thanks for sharing!!!

      Best wishes 🙂

  2. Mervan Ayberk

    Good informative post. HDR once used with caution is a very effective way to produce images which were once impossible in a single exposure shot. I find it most useful when shooting an interior that has a view which must be shown in the shot.

    As said in the post, Photomatix and Photoshop is the way to go. Again trying to keep it all looking natural.

    • Glyn

      @Mervan…Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Since this post I’ve been using CS5’s HDR utility and absolutely love it. In fact I’ve not touched Photomatix since. How about you…have you tried the HDR in CS5? and if so, what do you think?

  3. James Crawford

    Hi Glyn – just read your blog and there’s a lot I can associate with. I’m also enjoying a fair bit of business through estate agency photography and I always use Photomatix to tone map 5 images before tweaking in CS4.

    I’m still not 100% happy with my results though and I wanted to ask what your settings are in tone mapping? I only have my Strength at 45% and Light Smoothing at Max to try and keep things natural but there is still too much “softness” and lack of good blacks, even after the Photoshop work.

    I note you’ve moved on to CS5 but would you be able to share your Photomatix settings for obtaining natural looking interiors?

    Thanks, James

  4. GIno


    what settings do u generally use for interior hdr photography with photoshop cs5? I can never seem to get it looking realistic but brilliant at the same time…


  5. Stephen

    Great post on HDR! The key is to make the shot look as real as possible. Too many HDR shots look fake, which I don’t like.


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