11 January 2024 Valeriano Milo


HDR photographic technique

If you are reading this article, you probably own a tourist accommodation, a b&b, a hotel, a holiday home, and you are wondering how to get more bookings on the major tourist platforms… or else you have a shop or business that you would like to enhance online to attract new potential customers.

Let’s see then how you can best present your accomodation photographically, since, nowadays, you cannot ignore this aspect.

Needless to say, this guide is purely indicative; the best solution is always to entrust yourself to a professional photographer, who has the necessary study and technique behind him/her to handle a photographic genre as complex and full of pitfalls as interior photography.

Let’s start with THE EQUIPMENT you need.

To take good interior photographs, you need essentially three things:

  • a good camera, allowing you to shoot in manual mode, possibly full frame;
  • a tripod;
  • a wide-angle lens.

This is clearly only the basis for using the technique that I will explain in a moment.

You might also want to use off-camera flashes in some cases. I will omit this aspect anyway, because otherwise we would go to a too high level of difficulty.

We can then move on to the TECHNIQUE. Consider that this is the way I do it, no one clearly forbids you to explore and experiment with other possibilities.

Here are the various steps to follow.

  • Place the camera on the tripod. Shoot at ‘child height’, more or less 1.25 metres above the floor, as a reference you can use the height of the door handles. Do not tilt the camera up or down, unless you are photographing details of the room, as you will distort the vertical lines of the structure.
  • Set low ISO, so that the image is as clean as possible, with no noise, in other words.
  • Close the diaphragm, so that everything is in focus, but do not go beyond f/11 – f/13, to avoid the phenomenon of diffraction, which would degrade image quality.
  • Set the shutter speed according to the selected aperture and shutter speed values. The camera will in fact be placed on the tripod, so a long shutter release time will not affect the quality of the photo.

I would also advise you not to use a too extreme wide-angle lens, essentially for two reasons:

  • to avoid the distortion of the architectural lines of the building, which is one of the greatest difficulties you will encounter;
  • to create an image that gives a realistic idea of the size of the room (attracting a potential customer to your bed and breakfast by making him think it is bigger than it actually is will never be a good idea, for instance it might lead to a bad review after the stay).

Easy, isn’t it?! Unfortunately, it’s not really so, because you’ll run into a big problem… managing light, in other words, producing pleasing images of rooms with a big difference between indoor and outdoor exposure.

Look at this picture for example, the mais issue was to get the inside to be bright, correctly exposed, and at the same time make visible what is on the outside of the window.

So you may be wondering how I did it?

To take this photo I used a technique that I am sure you have already heard of, as it is present on the latest generation of smartphones. It is called HDR (“High Dynamic Range”). And no.. unfortunately, your phone won’t be enought.

To do this, you simply have to take several shots, in raw (the way I explained before), and then combine, merge them, using a specific photo editing programme, so that the final output will be a single image with correct exposure of the indoor and outdoor areas. For instance I use Adobe Lightroom, I have just to select the photos to be merged, right-click and select the appropriate option.

But how should these shots be taken? It is not that difficult…leave the camera on the tripod in exactly the same position, and take three photos: one correctly exposed, another underexposed by one stop and another overexposed by one stop. To vary the exposure you will only have to change the shutter speed, never act on the aperture and iso values you initially chose.

If the difference in exposure between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is very large you may decide to take 5 shots instead of 3 (one correctly exposed, two underexposed by one and two stops respectively, and two overexposed by one and two stops respectively).

With this technique you will get more dynamic range, with a correct reading of both lights and shadows.

In addition to this, I would like to give you some more advice:

  • always prefer natural light;
  • shoot medium and long range, using both horizontal and vertical orientations;
  • enhance the details of the room by taking pictures of particularly significant objects, decorations, etc. (in this case you can of course shoot freehand, possibly opening the aperture to create a nice blurred effect in the background);
  • don’t forget to take some photos of the exterior of the building and the facade;
  • for each room, take several photos from different perspectives and try to show how the rooms are connected.

I hope these tips will be useful to you. Anyway, as I explained before, the results that a professional photographer can guarantee you will always be better, as there are so many variables involved and it is not easy to summarise them in a simple article like this.

I’ll leave you with a few more sample photos, taken from a photo shooting of mine a few years ago for the Marriott Hotel in Turin.