A couple of months ago, I managed to shoot a small boutique hotel in Valparaíso. One of the first images I made during my test shoot was the breakfast area in the restaurant, which has a nice warm atmosphere with a great view of the city. It includes a window with a view, so we can see both inside and out.
I aimed for it to look reasonably natural but, if you try and take a picture under the same circumstances, you’ll probably end up with an image like this, which is seriously over exposed in the window area and extremely dark in the inside area.
Correctly Exposed Image
Based on this I decided to use HDR (gasp!). I know! I know! HDR has lost appeal because it usually produces surreal images and, the current trend in architecture photography is to use composite images. However, the current trend in HDR is to make it look natural, more like the human eye is used to seeing. Having made that decision, I set my camera on the tripod and shot 5 images: under-exposed 2 stops, 1 stop, correctly exposed, over-exposed 1 and 2 stops. I used a Canon M3, with the EF-M 18-55mm at 18mm, set the ISO to 400, aperture to f/5.6 so the depth of field is nice and natural due to the crop sensor, and played with the time.
Five images, under- and over-exposed
I then imported all the images into Lightroom, selected them and went to Photo > Photo Merge > HDR. In the next dialog box I ticked the Auto Align option and set Deghost to None. Auto Tone may result in a surreal image, so left it unchecked. I pressed Merge and waited. Lightroom created a new DNG file that, at first, didn’t look like much until I went into de Develop module, went to Lightroom’s presets and pressed Auto Tone (yes, I sometimes use it as a reference or starting point). That was when the image came to life!
I still adjusted the exposure a bit, clipped the black point, brightened the shadows, pushed Clarity and Vibrance, set the tone curve to a Medium Contrast and corrected the perspective so the columns look vertical and straight.
The image looked good but the frame still looked dark, so I used a brush to adjust exposure around it. Voilá! Happy customer!
Tell me, what do you think about this guide? Unleash your comments below 🙂