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Architectural interior (real estate) photography: processing for overexposed windows


Ruidoso Bill

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OK, here is the issue, I do Real Estate Photography and have a major issue with blown out windows. There is such a difference in exposure between the window and the room interior. I use fushion and hdr plus various flash techniques but I'm remain unhappy with the results. One other technique I have used is masking in PS, export from Lightroom into PS as layers and paint the windows in but that never looks natural. I was reading about the problem and to quote one suggestion:

"With camera on tripod: meter for highlight,(window) take a shot-then meter for shadows, (room) take another shot. In Photoshop, add lighter image to darker as a new layer, then: Select> Color Range-click highlights ,check �invert�, click �OK�. Add layer mask. Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur 250 pixels. Flatten and save. You will get detail in highlights and shadows".

I just don't follow the steps this guy is suggesting, the camera setup is understandable it's the PS steps that I need clarification on, can someone interpret for me?

Some Pics that demonstrate the issue:

_DSC5782.jpg _DSC5785.jpg

How do I "
add lighter image to darker as a new layer" When I export from Lightroom I have the option to Open as Layers in Photoshop.

Thanks

 
Last edited:

Tom Mann

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I've got a bit of a gripe about his 250 pixel blur, but other than that, his approach sounds pretty reasonable. All he seems to be doing is using the blown out window area in the 2nd shot (ie, properly exposed for the interior) as a mask to allow the properly exposed outdoors (taken in the 1st shot) to replace the blown area. Since it sounds like you've tried a bunch of other, very similar approaches, I doubt this guy's technique is going to look much different from what you've already done.

However, that being said, if you want to post some of the results you've obtained (say, for the two images you've already posted), we'll be happy to take a look and go from there.

Cheers,

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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PS - I see that you've added a sentence while I was typing. The most straightforward way to get the two images into the same PS document is to export them from LR into two separate PS documents, and then just copy one of them (ie, control-A, control-C) and paste it into the other PS document (cntrl-V). You can then delete the 1st (ie, temporary) PS document.
 

Ruidoso Bill

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This wasn't my best but one I did:

_DSC5781-Edit.jpg

My normal camera workflow is: 1st windows, 5 shot bracket of the room and one Flash of the room, fusion in photomatix and then play with the highlights back in lightroom.
 

Tom Mann

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The more I look at this, the more I think it's not really a problem with the exterior shot, but I simply would like the interior brightened. It looks too dark and cave-like, as is.

Maybe something like this ...

Tom M

PS - Sorry about the lousy masking - I wasn't going to take time to do it right on an image this small.
 

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Ruidoso Bill

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Tom, that looks much better to me than what I am achieving. I started experimenting with a different technique yesterday which uses strobes in all the shots. I exposed for the windows first, then went up 2 stops for each shot. Total of 4 shot, the windows are important in this local due to the views, views are $ here. Blown windows are what the beginners do. Here is my latest:

_DSC6375.jpg _DSC6376.jpg _DSC6377.jpg _DSC6378.jpg

Final with lens correction, a little color correction and some selective brush lightning

_DSC6375_6_7_8.jpg

I am trying to find a better sweet spot of processing which combines speed and ease of setup and quicker post processing. I hate harsh looking HDR and want a more natural realistic appearance.
 

Tom Mann

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Two thoughts:

1. You have never mentioned that you do any serious post-processing the output of your HDR / fusion process. In my experience, it's rare that the output of HDR programs like Photomatix can be used as is. In my experience, HDR software always seems to need some final post-processing tweaks (like I did on your image) to bring it up to snuff.

2. I don't specialize in interiors, but when I've been asked to do them (and make sure the window view looks good), on of my favorite techniques is the following.

a) Set the camera on a really good, sturdy, REALLY steady tripod.
b) Put a Pocket Wizard (or equivalent transmitter) in the hot shoe for the flash.
c) Attach a small hot-shoe flash to a Pocket Wizard receiver.
d) Attach a remote (wireless or corded) to trigger both the camera (and hence, the flash).
e) Set the flash/ambient exposure balance so that the brightest part of the flash in the scene balances is about a half stop or so below a perfect exposure for that area of the room.
f) Walk around with the flash in one hand, the remote in the other and take 20 or 30 pix with the flash at different places in the room, pointing in different directions (...selecting the best positions for the flash is the only thing that requires some experience).
g) Load all the shots as separate layers in PS with the blend mode of each set to "lighten". Put a no-flash, windows-only shot at the bottom of the stack.
h) Experiment turning the various flash layers on and off to get the best look. Be careful not to turn too many layers on and get an overly flat look.

Once you have done it a couple of times, the above is an amazingly fast process. I've found that it produces very nice results without a lot of thought, a lot of post-processing, etc.. The best part is that it doesn't involve all of the trade-offs that HDR algorithms must make to blend exposures, because it's nothing more than a bunch of ordinary photos, so it can look very realistic, with good, natural shadows. Another nice feature is that you don't have to worry about being in the picture. If you don't want to set up a small light stand and need to be in the picture, just hold the flash such that you are between it and the camera, your dark silhouette will almost always be filled in by the "lighten" mode from one of the other frames, but it's better to avoid this situation if possible.

I'll try to find some pix I've taken this way and post them.

HTH,

Tom M
 

RuidosoBill

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Re: Architectural interior (real estate) photography: processing for overexposed wind

Tom, I truly appreciate your time, thought and suggestions, I will give your approach a try tomorrow morning. I always adjust after merging, whatever process I try. Normally shadows and highlights, I will also try doing a window exposure and then strobes to attempt that bright even exposure I am trying to achieve. Thanks for your detailed input, very much appreciated.
 

Tom Mann

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Re: Architectural interior (real estate) photography: processing for overexposed wind

You are quite welcome. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Tom M
 

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