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Cooking up the perfect kitchen image

So how much effort goes into a real estate photo? The difference between a quick iPhone snap and a fully processed professional image is pretty takes time and effort to get the final image conveying the best the property has to offer. Even a kitchen photo has a fair bit of processing behind it!

There are various methods real estate photographers use to get a great final image. I commonly use a HDR method - it allows me to get in and out of the property quickly (many agents and owners like this!), keep my prices down (good in a low to moderate cost real estate market), and provide a great image quality. Here's an example of what goes into producing a nice kitchen image using my version of the HDR method.

1) Straight out of the camera - 5 images with different exposure levels. I use a tripod to keep the camera perfectly still...some of these shots can take up to 30 seconds depending on the light levels.

2) I then blend these images together to create a high dynamic range image - this image has a much more 'even' exposure than is possible with a single image. For this room, I could have gotten away with fewer images, but I've gotten into the habit of using 5 images 'just in case' - more images helps when there are very bright windows and you can always leave a few out...much harder to go back and take more pics!

3) Next I make exposure, shadows, white balance, and contrast adjustments. I also adjust for any distortion caused by the lens. I use a very low distortion lens, so you may no be able to pick the change....look at the lower left hand corner...see the slight curve?

Then, I adjust the 'verticals', making vertical lines, well, vertical. I try and get the camera as close to vertical as possible when I take the photos, so this is normally a minor properties with crooked walls and/or floors, this can end up being a MAJOR adjustment.

4) Now it's time to adjust the colors. You can see in the image above that there is a blue tinge (from sunlight) under the cabinet on the lower left, there is a green tinge (from vegetation and/or reflection off green items) under the kitchen bench, and the lights are throwing quite a bit of yellow/orange color. In the image below, I've adjusted for the blue and green, and also used a local exposure adjustment to even out the brightness in the image.

5) Next, I bring down the orange and yellow from the overhead lights, and do a little more local adjustment for the brightness, then fine tune the distortion (look at the lower left cabinet again....I overdid the distortion adjustment the first time and curved it back the other way).

The final product is straight, consistent in color/exposure, and has a natural looking white balance ('s a bit tricky to explain, but think the difference between fluorescent lights (blue/cold light) and incandescent globes (yellow/warm light).

The finished product :)

When using the HDR method, each image will have it's difficulties! Light is usually the culprit. Depending on what light sources are present - inside and outside of the room - I may have a tough time getting consistent colors and temperature (white balance). If that the case, or I have other issues, I use tricks such as: localised white balance, (either spot removal tool in Lightroom, or Photoshop),

That's a very brief overview of some of the methods and tricks I use when processing real estate images. There are a bunch of others such as: white cards (reference points of pure white placed in the shot), cropping, fill flash, item removal, haze removal, tone control etc.

For those interested in the software side of things, I use Adobe Lightroom for the majority of my images, but may switch over to Photoshop for more complex fixes. Feel free to ask me questions in comments section below!

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