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I have read that your can use exposure fusion in real estate photography to reduce overexposed windows. I would like to know which editing program is most suitable for this. I have experience as a photographer for around 22 years, mainly doing weddings. I would like to get into real estate photography, so I am looking into the best and simplest program to start out with.

I am good with cameras, but overexposed windows throw me off. I am not good with technology though. So I'd like to avoid having to learn a complex software package like Lightroom or Photoshop.

Is there a simpler software alternative where I can merge bracketed photos to have an HDR image?

If there is no simple alternative, what complex software (e.g. Lightroom or Photoshop) would you recommend? I am only interested in real estate photography at the moment.

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Real Estate photography is part of my remit as a photographer and going by what I use, I can’t recommend Lightroom and Photoshop high enough.

However, there are cheaper or even free options to get you started.

Having previously also worked as a Wedding Photographer, the difference between the two types of images is immense.

As a wedding photographer, it was more about capturing the moment. I was always under time constraints. With real estate, it is about technical precision and taking my time.

When taking images of interiors, I find myself exposing separately for various different features within a room which simply can’t be achieved with one shot. It is also extremely difficult or at times impossible to display with 3 exposures merged as an HDR with dedicated software, exactly what I want to portray.

At times, I have to take 10 shots of the same room; say the fireplace, windows, the couches, the white skirting boards, a dining table, a TV and a separate shot for below the TV stand…. And the list goes on.

The only way I find that these elements can come together precisely, is via Layer Masking. https://photo.stackexchange.com/search?q=layer+masking

The other consideration when doing real estate is, perspective. This means that a tripod is my best friend because I cannot allow lines to converge.

However, if lines do converge, then this also needs correcting in post software, https://photo.stackexchange.com/search?q=converging+lines

Now… for most real estate photographers, Photoshop is there go to software, but at a subscription of £10 or $10 p/month plus the learning curve involved, not everyone wants this and therefore, there are other choices available.

One piece of software that I have used that can be used online with no subscription, is PIXLR. This software will give you many of the basic Photoshop tools such as Layer masking and perspective correcting for FREE.

Overtime, you may opt for their paid upgrades or move over to photoshop.

PIXLR is a great option if you’re starting.

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If you want the one-trick pony, an HDR specialist, you should give Aurora HDR a try. Link is specifically to their architecture/real estate page.

It can take a lot of the hard work out of it. It's better with bracketed exposures, but it's half decent just from singles if that's all you have. It has a tendency to over-push the colours, but you can drag it back quite easily.

It's not the only app that can do HDR, of course, but it's one of the few with that single task in mind, making it much easier to operate.

I don't have anything architectural, but this is a quick screen-shot of a split-screen before & after from a single exposure.
Actually, after and before… I mocked it up the wrong way round.

enter image description here

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  • Unless you're reading from right to left, I like the "before" a lot better than the "after." – Michael C Jun 10 '20 at 13:28
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    @MichaelC - I am actually reading right to left, sorry - I mocked it up quickly & then realised the after is on the left. I'd binned the mockup by then, so it was too late to go back… I've added a note. – Tetsujin Jun 10 '20 at 13:44
  • I have appreciated all of your answers. It gives me some ideas I can start with. – Heidi Hofmann Jun 10 '20 at 22:02
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A lot of real estate photographers I've known recommended Photomatix for its ease of use and more streamlined workflow compared to Lightroom/Photoshop. A lot of those guys have either moved on to other segments of the commercial photography market or adopted different practices outlined below. Photomatix is still available and supported from HDRsoft, company that created it. The latest update was released in January 2020, which added support for relatively new .cr3 Canon raw image files. Photomatix can also be used as a batch plugin in Lightroom.

HDRsoft also markets a real estate application for the iPhone platform that automatically does a lot of what the desktop based versions of Photomatix do. There are other companies who market dedicated cameras as well as software applications for real estate photography applications.

The real estate photography market, at least where I'm located, seems to be moving towards dedicated devices with HDR capabilities, as well as 360° views and software, either onboard or web-based after uploading the camera's output to the manufacturer's website, that can automatically generate a web-based tour of the property.

Such devices and the software applications that run on them are even more streamlined than using any traditional still camera plus post processing application. The hardware is also generally less expensive than typical interchangeable lens cameras with high quality wide angle or even perspective control (tilt/shift) lenses used for real estate work, as these dedicated cameras harness the power of computational photography to correct for lens shortcomings.

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  • I hadn't heard of Photomatix, so I gave their demo a try. Seems a similar idea to Aurora, if a bit less 'shiny' on feature-set, & some of the presets were very promising - but unfortunately on Mac it's so sluggish I couldn't really do anything with it. Simply trying to resize the main window ground my 24-core Mac Pro to a halt, so I wasn't able to give it a fair test. – Tetsujin Jun 10 '20 at 16:11
  • This is good to know since I failed to mention that i also work on a Mac. – Heidi Hofmann Jun 10 '20 at 21:59

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