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HDR Photography In Real Estate: How Much Is TOO Much?

Bad HDR

Too Much?

Have you ever met someone that had “too much” work done”? Yes – I am talking about plastic surgery. Well, have you? Remember walking away thinking “OMG that is waaaaay too much?” Plastic surgery is one of the areas where some is complimentary but too much is clownish. I find the same is true with real estate photography.

The other day I was editing a real estate video for a client, a real estate agent. I asked, as is customary, if he had any additional photos he would like to include in the video, ya know – maybe some pictures taken at night or near dusk etc. He said “let me check with the photographer”. 20 minutes later I had an email with photos his “photographer” had taken of the property {the image used in this post IS NOT one of them}, they were HDR or High Dynamic Range photos. In case you are not familiar, HDR is a photography method  whereby a photo is taken at multiple exposure levels; one photo OVER exposed, one UNDER exposed and one in the middle or at NORMAL exposure. These photos are then combined or “layered” on top of one another in a photo editing software to reveal an effect known as – HDR

HDR can be accomplished with photo editing programs like Photoshop and can also be done {not amazingly though} in camera, with high-end DSLR’s like the Canon Mark III. Back to the story…

I opened the email to reveal what I think was a house. A series of pictures taken by the real estate photographer that was the equivalent of someone that had too much work done. I mean I was like “daaaaaaaaaaamn!” These photos had so much manipulation that they actually looked ORANGE! Just in case you were wondering, orange is good is sunsets but not so much in real estate. It got me thinking, about HDR and why real estate agents may want to reduce its use or maybe even avoid it entirely.

Let me tell you a story..

I’ve been married for years now… many years… but I remember when the online dating phenomenon started. I worked in an office with a few ladies that were trying it. I remember thinking how “weird” it is to meet someone online, {not realizing it would be common place today}. As one of the ladies showed me pictures online of guys she was “talking to” online I remembered one awkward date I had in college. {cue the dream sequence and weird music!}  It was 1996, I was 23 and loving life at the University of Nevada @ Las Vegas. VEGAS!!! VEGAS!!! Sorry, I had to do that. Anyway, one of my buddies girlfriends told me about her “cute” friend, and how I should go out on a date with her. I shrugged it off. About a week later my buddy and his girlfriend came over, this time with a picture of her girlfriend. She was pretty and I was single so when they said we should double date! I thought – why not.

Fast forward to that weekend and my buddy, his girlfriend and her girlfriend come over to my apartment, in that order…, my buddy through my door first, then his girlfriend and then her girlfriend. I remember hearing, “Stephen, this is my friend Lisa” {name changed to protect the guilty}, I looked up at her and my face must have given it away – I smiled but on the inside I was thinking DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN!  Let me say that again: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN! What is this!?? She looked NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING like her photo. I remember thinking, what did I get myself into, this is not what I signed up for, I could be doing so many other things this weekend instead of going out with big – nasty.

She turned out to be a nice girl, but there was nothing there for me. It was a great memory and a great story I tell whenever I hear someone talking about going out with someone they met online. What does this have to do with HDR Photography? Well, now, take out my buddies girlfriends, girlfriend and replace it with real estate – a house. Some buyer sees a picture of a home or a bathroom or a kitchen online done with HDR that looks AMAZING. They have to see it. They make an appointment to view the property, take time off of work or away from the kids to see this amazing piece of property, they arrive only to see not an AMAZING house but an average one {at best} edited to look like something else. Now you have just wasted their time and yours AND they are probably disappointed.

HDR is one of those things that can look great if it is done right and, like in the case of the clownish photos I received, can look horrible as well. But ultimately it is about the property right? What good is taking a photo that doesn’t reveal what a property actually looks like?   They will notice ya know… I see so many real estate agents that want to “keep up with the Joneses”. One real estate agent does something so another one has to and then another and another and – you get the point. One example is QR codes, just because you can does not mean you should.  Just because one agent is using HDR photography, or just because someone tells you “it’s all the rage” does not mean you should be using it. If you REALLY want to bring out the beauty of a piece of property, if you REALLY want to give a buyer a “feel for the property”, if you REALLY want to impress your seller… maybe you should skip the HDR Photography and instead ask our tech team to shoot an HD Property Tour for you? Oh and as an added benefit, videos can rank on the 1st page of Google, Pictures, even HDR – not so much. What do you think about HDR? Good? Bad?

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Stephen

Hi I'm Stephen Garner, I'm just a guy in the title industry {in Phoenix} trying to change how real estate agents market themselves and their services. To that end, I teach my clients HOW TO leverage sales technologies like WordPress, Content, Video, Camtasia, Final Cut X, iMovie and indexable IDX solutions to convey value and help your ideal client find you online when they are most interested in learning about you and your services. I work for escrows. Hire me!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jedagray Jed Gray

    I love the comment “I mean I was like“daaaaaaaaaaamn!” I just started using HDR and now I see it all over the place. I will admit that it is hard not to get carried away but the truth is, less is more. Great post!

    • http://mytitleguy.com/ Stephen Garner

      It was like it was yesterday Jed – DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN! :-) HDR is everywhere but the rule I follow is this: at the end of the day, any video I take, any photos I shoot should look like the subject not distort it. Ya know? Are you using HDR in camera or in an editor like photoshop?