Madeira is now living through a real boom of real estate deals: a lot of houses and apartments are being sold or repurposed from short-term leases. Surprisingly, with such a great nature around, only a few announcements can boast quality photos. If you are going to impress your buyers/guests/customers with an outstanding ocean window view in real estate HDR photography, you may need to know how to capture it. To be honest, the task is not easy. You will probably get overexposed highlights (or just washed-out blanc windows) and underexposed parts of your interior (every detail in shadows). In simple words, you will catch a nice sunny view and a very dark room where you can’t really see anything or a nice room with details and just a white window. What can we do about it?

example of real estate HDR photography
Dark room interior with bright blue ocean view in one HDR photo

There are two ways of taking photos from inside to outside with keeping the information in highlights and shadows: 1) HDR and 2) Photoshop it/make it. The most convenient one is the first one and I’ll explain why.

Our eyes are more advanced cameras than any modern many-megapixel machine. Eyes can see details inside the dark room and at the same time outside the window. Cameras cannot do the same. The camera’s sensor has the ability to record a defined dynamic range. To fit all the details into one frame we need to apply some tricks.

Manual vs auto mode

Manual mode of shooting HDR

First things first. To get a better idea of how it works I suggest starting from the manual way. You can take the first photo with a well-exposed interior. Then you measure exposure again at highlights in your window and take a second photo. The third photo needs to be taken in between the first and the second exposure’s adjustments. With these 3 photos, you can easily get details in the bright outside highlights and in the dark shadows. All you need to do is put these 3 photos into 1 HDR, in other words – merge them into one. All this you can do in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

3 photos for real estate HDR photography
1. Blown up sky and ocean, but good exposed interiors; 2. Almost balanced outside exposure with underexposed interiors; 3. Averaged exposure from the first and the second images.

Automatic exposure compensation mode

Almost the same result is achievable through the ‘Exposure Bracketing’ mode in your camera. All you need to do is set EV bracketing with -1 or -2 exposure compensation between shots and push the trigger. Your camera will do the rest. It will take three photos with +1 EV (one stop overexposed), 0 EV (normally exposed one), and -1 EV (one stop underexposed). By the way, you can set the EV bracketing parameter also. Later, at postproduction, you need to unite those photos into one HDR photo the same way you did in “Manual mode”.

HDR real estate photography
Example of a good compromise in real estate HDR photography: well exposed interior and balanced exposed highlights of sky and ocean outside

Which mode of taking HDR photos is better?

In case you compare, you may notice a difference between the results. In the manual mode of taking photos with well-exposed details in highlights and shadows, you will see a bigger variety of tones than in auto mode. The reason is simple: you measured exposures more correctly manually than the camera. Your camera did one-stop compensation instead of exposure measurement of each scene.

So, to get better results in automatic mode, you will need to have experience (or do several takes) to set your camera EV compensation (-1 ; 0 ; +1 or -2 ; 0 ; +2). Free advice. If you see that outside your window is very bright (sunny summer midday or sunlight directly comes through), but your room is rather dark, then -1;0;+1 compensation is not the best option. Try to compensate more like -2;0;+2 and then check each photo.

real estate hdr photo vith ocean view
It is hard, but possible to keep details in the dining room and well-lit sunny valley outside


Besides well-taken details in dark areas of your room, as well as details in the bright outside view, you need to have a smooth transition between photos. In the postproduction, you will merge all the photos with a better tonal variety.

As a photographer, I often get requests from house owners to capture in the photos the beautiful views from the window. Totally understand them.

Every other house or apartment has such a view that makes you stop and just gaze for a bit forgetting about everything you’ve been thinking about. So it’s a shame if property owners neglect this part. Please, don’t do it! I am asking as someone who is in love with the Madeira nature. Use our tips on real estate HDR photography, or ask for help from a pro. It will add 200% value to your property. Especially in the eyes of someone who is looking for refuge in a paradise, which Madeira definitely is.

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