A Home Buyer's Take on Real Estate Photography

I'll be the first to say that my photography skills are lacking. I have a nice camera, but need to spend a lot more time with it before I can confidently produce consistently good photos. For now, I click, peer at the image on the screen, tweak settings, and click again. I'm not a photography genius, but I know what works and doesn't work when looking at a home listed on the MLS.

Throughout our home search, I encountered listing after listing full of cartoon-like pictures. When I asked a local real estate photographer, Stephen Barling of Barling Photography, what the deal with those images was, he told me that the photographers were being heavy handed with a technique called high-dynamic-range imaging, or HDR.

When I googled HDR, I found some cool looking pictures with interesting contrasts in the sky, but a few looked a bit like Thomas Kincaid paintings. Which is great if you like Thomas Kincaid paintings. I do not like Thomas Kincaid paintings.

In my area, I've noticed that some of the most beautiful homes on the market have gotten the HDR treatment. These are places that don't need any "help" looking beautiful in a real estate listing, so I wonder why it's being used.

Here are a few images from the listing for a $1.7 million dollar home in my area. The home is stunning and it would have looked absolutely gorgeous without the enhancing. The treatment is almost distracting, don't you think?

To contrast, here are a few images taken by that real estate photographer I mentioned above, Stephen Barling.

There's definitely a little something happening in the picture above and the one below (I can see it if I look at the sofa pillows), but the editing isn't nearly as obvious as the first set of images I shared.

I love this last image because it shows a bathroom that isn't the fanciest in the world still looking great without cartoon-like photoshopping.

Aren't those much better than the HDR images?

Even Barbara Corcoran couldn't resist a jab at the overuse of HDR in this clip from The Today Show (Stephen shot the Charlottesville house that shows up in this clip at the end).


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  2. Sara @ Russet Street RenoAugust 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Oh yes, I hate HDR except for fun people photos, and even then I use it to a minimal degree. Those pictures look stupid!

  3. Hi there!

    The bathroom remodel was in 2006, when this blog started. All the info is in those easily posts. I would up buying the tile online after The Tile Sop delivered marble that was terribly discolored and couldn't find any marble in their stores that matched the displays in said stores.
    I seal the tub/shower tile every six months with a sealant that was recommended in the tile forum of GardenWeb. :)
    Sent from my iPad

  4. I love your grey marble bathroom. Would you mind telling me who the manufacturers
    For the marble flooring and do you seal it once a year to maintain it?

  5. I can't believe the people wealthy enough to buy the HDRed home would be impressed by that crap photoshopping. Photography is art. Rich people tend to like good art. Bet the realtor and photographer have bad taste and think this is extra impressive.

  6. Geez, nothing should ever be so processed that you can tell that it's processed! It makes you wonder what they Photoshopped out of the picture.

  7. They use it here (Florida) and I think it makes every house look tacky and cheesy. Even the mansions look cheap.

  8. A certain brokerage in Charlottesville is particularly fond of HDR...unfortunately it's also a brokerage that tends to get a lot of beautiful listings...

  9. Stephen told me that he takes pictures at multiple exposures, then hand blends them together in photoshop (which probably explains why the windows are just squares of light).

    He said that even light use of HDR can do wonky things with colors, so he doesn't use it.

  10. It looks like he used HDR as well, but didn't go crazy with it. I think it's definitely helpful for home photos, but it shouldn't look SO unnatural. I definitely don't like the Thomas Kincaid-like ones!


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