How to make YOUR HDR photos look NATURAL, by Taylor Brown

This video provides a tutorial on how to create natural looking HDR images in just a few simple steps using Lightroom, Photoshop, and three exposures taken with a camera and tripod. It emphasizes avoiding oversaturated and unrealistic HDR looks.

The steps covered include: merging exposures into an HDR file in Lightroom; adjusting exposure, rotation, and alignment; using the dropper tool for neutral white balance; tweaking temperature and tint for natural look; setting black and white points in the histogram for even exposure; fixing verticals and horizontals to correct distortion; using radial brush for uneven exposures; exporting properly labelled and sized files for MLS.

Tips are provided for dealing with orange or blue color casts from indoor lighting. The video is aimed at beginners looking to get started with HDR real estate photography, with the creator offering to critique photos and answer questions in the comments.


Oh man. Why do people do stuff like this? Much better. Much better. So sometimes HDR photography gets a bad rap because people go just way way too far with their editing and they end up with just some crazy results that don’t even look realistic, they look way oversaturated.

It just doesn’t look like anything from this world. But that doesn’t have to be the case. So in today’s video I’m going to show you how to get some natural looking HDR images and it’s in just a few steps that pretty much anybody can do.

All you need is lightroom, Photoshop, and three exposures from your camera. So let’s get into it. Alright, so here’s where we started. We did three exposures, one at negative three exposure, one at zero exposure, and one at plus three exposure.

So that way we would have details for the shadows, the medium tones, and the highlights. So we shot these just with a camera and a tripod. No extra lighting or anything crazy. So pretty much anybody can do this if you’ve got a camera.

So I shot with the lights off because the lights were really orange and this way the light just showcases the white since that’s a dominant color and kind of beach vibes for this house. So hang in until the end of the video and I’m going to show you what to do if you have to shoot with all the lights on and it’s like orange tinted or magenta tinted or something weird.

So just a few easy tips but we’ll go over these ones first. So now we’re going to get these in lightroom and start Alright, so first we’re going to merge these into an HDR image. All you do is you highlight it, right click, say Merge as HDR, and then that will spit out a HDR file next to the other ones.

Alright so now that we’ve got our HDR image, we’re going to fix our exposure, we’re going to adjust any rotation or alignment issues. We’re going to do that too. What I like to do is use the dropper for the color balance, and I am going to click a light switch or a ceiling as a reference because those are usually like actually white.

And all you do is you just click this and then it white balances for that as like just a neutral point in your picture. I know this is kind of a weird thing to get used to, but that can usually give you a pretty good starting point to start tweaking it yourself, especially if it’s way off.

So we are going to just adjust the color temperature in the tint a little bit until it looks really neutral and natural. And then we are going to use our histogram for reference to adjust the exposure.

So we are just going to slide it up a little bit. We are going to adjust the black to where it’s all the way to the left side of the histogram and then the whites to where they are all the way to the right side of the histogram.

Usually I want your histogram to be kind of like a curve to where it’s highest in the middle because on a screen it’s just going to show up to where you can see the most information. It’s going to be a good even brightness, natural looking.

It’s not going to be like too bright or too dark. So this next part is super important. We are going to fix our verticals on every single shot and we are going to fix our horizontals on some of them if it’s a one point perspective, straight on shot, whatever you want to call it.

The only exception for this is sometimes for front exteriors I’ll leave it to where it’s still angled a little bit to where you can really tell that you are looking up at something or sometimes if you have to be close to it and it’s a wide angle, straightening it out just looks really like stupid and distorted.

So we don’t want any of that. So we are just going to go in and fix that. Usually I just do it manually. I like to turn on the guides to where you can see that and then I’ll just fix the rotation and then I’ll fix the verticals usually in that order.

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell so I like to use the guided transform option. Super easy. All you have to do is click this little icon to activate the guide. the guided tool and then you just trace two vertical lines and then two horizontal lines and it automatically just snaps into place.

Super easy. You can use this for every photo, but it would slow you down a little bit. Sometimes you just need to rotate it a little bit. You don’t need to get into all this stuff. So just another extra quick tip.

If you have any spots that are darker than the rest of the picture, you can even out your exposure by using the radial brush tool. So it’s just this little circle icon up here and you click it, draw your circle, and then you are gonna be able to just adjust your exposure or maybe pull up your shadows a little bit.

And then you should be good to go and you can have a nice even exposure on every photo. Alright, so that’s about it. We should be good to go. We are just going to export these from Lightroom and I’m going to show you real quick on the screen how I label the files, what size the files are and all that for MLS.

So basically I figured out here’s the max size that you can do to where it’s still going to fit on MLS and it’s still high res enough to print on like brochures and stuff. And yeah, just looks really good.

I’ll link my presets. I just made some presets for interiors, for exteriors, for drone shots. Every room’s a little different so you’re going to have to tweak them still on your own but it’s just a good starting point if you’re not used to it.

So check the link in description for those. I know it’s not perfect but it’s a good starting point to get you in the right direction that I use all the time. So this house was actually pretty easy to shoot and edit because it was really bright, it had a lot of nice neutral colors, it had nice white walls and it just looked really good.

So now as promised let’s get into a photo that’s like super orange, super weird to edit and I’ll show you a couple of tricks for that as well. So here’s an example image. So let’s pull up the HSL slider.

So HSL slider is you can adjust the hue, the saturation and the luminance which is like the brightness of each color. And what we’re going to do is if it’s really orange we’re just going to go in and slide down the saturation.

of the orange or the yellow. Just see how it affects it. See what looks, takes some of it away. You don’t want to take too much away because some things are orange like wood floors or furniture or whatever.

And you don’t want it to just look completely like dead. So just take it down a little bit and that knocks out a lot of the cast and makes it just kind of evens out the picture. So we got that. And then if it’s super orange inside and you’ve got bright sunlight coming through, what happens is the sunlight that’s coming in is more of like a blue color temperature.

So it’ll cast like blue onto like floors or onto whatever it’s hitting. And it just kind of looks unnatural because you’re balancing two different color temperatures. So for that easy fix too, you just slide down the saturation on the blue and you’re usually pretty much good to go.

And I have those in the presets too. So, blue fix and orange fix. This is why for real estate I normally shoot with an off -camera flash to fill in the interiors because it just really makes it to where you can be 100% consistent with your lighting and your colors and stuff because basically you control the color of the light temperature and you can create an atmosphere that is going to look really natural and it’s going to be the correct colors for like furniture and floors and stuff like that.

Let me know if you guys are interested in a tutorial on that and I will do that ASAP. Alright guys that’s about it for this video so I hope this was helpful. If you got any questions or want me to like critique your photos or anything let me know in the comments and I’m definitely glad to help you out.

I know this was pretty simple but if you’re just getting into this this could probably be pretty helpful so I made it. So, make sure to like and subscribe and turn on your notifications and I will see you guys in the next one.