Real estate photos are often the first thing a prospective buyer looks at when reviewing a listing. No matter how extravagant or humble the structure, the images marketing the sale of a property should show the space at its best.
I rely on Aurora HDR to process my bracketed images of a property. It helps me bring out all of the pertinent details in the shadows and highlights and provides a realistic and eye-catching result that will maximize the property’s sale potential.
In the workflow below I make use of Lightroom Classic for image management, raw conversion, and finishing touches and Aurora HDR to merge the bracketed exposures into a high dynamic range photo.
Most of what I do in Lightroom (aside from image management) can also be done natively in Aurora HDR, but I find it quicker and easier to make use of Lightroom’s tools for certain steps.
1. Apply RAW adjustments in Lightroom Classic
Once your real estate photos have been imported into Lightroom, remove any default processing (such as sharpening and noise reduction) and apply lens correction, then synchronize those changes across all raw files in the series.
Pro tip: Speed up your workflow by creating a custom preset that removes Lightroom’s default processing and applies lens correction.
2. Adjust white balance
In my exterior photo I made use of the Daylight white balance preset.
The lighting in the interior was a bit more tricky as I was contending with several types of light (natural light from the window, LED overhead lighting, etc.).
To get as close as possible to correct color I made use of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport’s gray card and Lightroom’s White Balance Selector tool to set a custom white balance.
3. Apply the Transform tool
Most real estate photos are captured using wide-angle lenses which will likely show some degree of distortion. Lightroom’s automatic “Upright” tool makes correcting this distortion extremely simple.
Note: You can also correct distortion in Aurora HDR, but the settings require manual adjustment. Lightroom’s Transform Tool greatly speeds up the process.
4. Sync edits
Now that you’ve made the necessary Lightroom edits to your real estate photos, you’ll need to sync those changes across your series of bracketed images. Select all images in your bracketed set and click the Sync … button in the bottom right corner. Click the button to Check All and then click Synchronize.
5. Export to Aurora HDR
Deselect the image with the gray card, and then (with only your bracketed set selected) go to Export > Aurora HDR > Edit a copy with Lightroom Adjustments.
Once the images are loaded in Aurora HDR, tick the box for Auto Alignment (even if you shot on a tripod).
If there were any moving objects in your images, click on the gear wheel to access additional options and add Ghost Reduction.
I often need to utilize Ghost Reduction on my exterior real estate photos to minimize movement in objects such as trees, flags, etc.
Ghost Reduction is a fantastic tool that will minimize artifacts from movement between bracketed frames. The downside can be a reduction in editing flexibility. Artifacts such as halos can become more evident, the stronger the Ghost Reduction effect so use it only when necessary.
Once Ghost Reduction has been applied (if necessary), and the box for Alignment ticked, click the button to Create HDR.
7. Apply an Aurora HDR Look
Aurora HDR Looks (presets) are a quick and easy way to jump-start the editing process.
I will often click through several Looks to find a style that I like, and then modify it if necessary.
For my exterior photos I started with the Sky Enhancer Exterior Look in the Architecture category.
This Look got me close, but I further refined the results by:
- Opening up the shadows a bit more (+50 Shadows in HDR Basic)
- Toning down the saturation (reset Saturation to “0” slider in Color)
- Fine-tuning the colors (Green Saturation -10, Green Luminance -20, Blue Luminance -30 in HSL)
I saved these settings into a custom Look for this property’s exterior that could be applied to all of the exterior photos of this property to give the shoot a cohesive feel.
For the interior of the property, I started with the Realistic Interior Look in the Architecture category.
The only thing I changed in this Look was to reset the Color filter as it was making the light from the window unnaturally blue.
I saved these settings into a custom look for this property’s interior that could be applied to all of the interior photos.
Once satisfied with the processing, click Apply in the upper right corner to commit the changes and return to Lightroom.
8. Finishing touches in Lightroom Classic
Once my edits in Aurora HDR are complete, I’ll return to Lightroom Classic to add a few final edits before sending the images off to the listing agent.
Note: The final touches listed below can all be accomplished in Aurora HDR if you are running it as a standalone application.
When necessary, I’ll make a few final tweaks to the exposure values and/or colors. For this series, the Exterior photos were well exposed and the colors were true, but I felt that the Interior photos could still be brightened up a bit, and the blue light from the window could be further reduced.
In the Basic panel, I increased exposure (+.30) and toned down highlights (-49). In the HSL panel, I toned down the blue saturation (-25).
The final step in processing real estate photos is Sharpening to make sure all of the important details are crisp and clear.
When sharpening, make sure you zoom in to 100% to view the effect as you move the Sharpening amount slider in the Detail panel.
Once you’ve selected the amount, hold down the alt/option key and move the Masking slider. This will give you a black and white view, showing where the sharpening is being applied (white shows sharpened areas, black shows areas excluded from the effect). This is a great way to selectively apply sharpening, only to the edges and areas that need a bit of extra detail.
When a prospective buyer is sorting through hundreds of listings, eye-catching photographs are the first thing they notice. Taking a bit of time to bracket and merge multiple exposures showing detail throughout the dynamic range will show a property at its best, and maximize its sales potential.