Achieving views out the windows are the Holy Grail for photographers. It can be the most difficult aspect of interior photography. Of course, the key is to match the intensity of the light indoors with that of the outdoors, which only usually happens on a very cloudy day or when the outside light is fading at sunset.
For most all Realtors who take their own photos, it is nearly impossible to do as taking just one shot typically will not yield the sought after results. The end result is known as ‘white-out’ referring the window view that is simply a blob of glaring white light. So how do you achieve the impossible?
1. Use a flash or multiple flashes to raise the interior light level to match the exterior. Of course, this requires trial and error in bouncing light around the room to fill the dark areas and not create strong hard edged shadows. The downside is that it takes more time to setup and shoot each room. I’ve found that Realtors value their time and would prefer that the shoot take no more than an hour. Mine typically average 40-50 minutes tops. In addition, the homeowner has worked very hard to prepare their home, is usually tired and anxious to get past the ‘keep the home in perfect condition for photos” stage.
2. Shoot with exposure bracketing (some call it HDR but I avoid that term due to extreme artistic rendering of homes that belong on a canvas, not in MLS). Shooting multiple exposures (3-9 photos) is basically underexposing to capture the bright window views and overexposing so that the dark areas of the room are lighter. Of course exposures in between help to balance out the exposures when blended together.
3. Layer your final photo with one of the underexposed photos, erasing the windows allowing the windows view to show through.
4. Darken the window views using the brush tool. I use Lightroom and have gotten quite good at darkening the window views, reducing highlights, exposure, increasing colors and adjusting the temperature of the light.
The last step is quicker, but doesn’t always present a realistic image looking out the window. I go back and forth between the methods finding what works for each photo. Why take the time to drastically improve the window views? I’ve found that a view out the window greatly enhances a photo, not distracting the eye with a blown out window but actually drawing the user in to pause and appreciate the overall beauty of a good view out the window.
Great photos with attention to detail will grow your business. Realtors are very careful where their marketing dollars are spent to list a home. Not knowing whether a home will sell or not means needing to be sure that every dollar spent increases the chances of selling the home. Realtors will appreciate photos that get attention and showings. Time and again I’ve had reports back to me of multiple showings due to great photos. I’ve even heard of people out of state buying a style home that they thought they didn’t want until they saw the photos.
If you photograph Real Estate as a business, then put the effort into getting good at window views. If you are a Realtor and cannot get results that generate showings, then hire someone who can do that.