A question I often ask myself when taking photographs of a property is whether to use lights, or HDR. The effects can, in some circumstances, be quite similar. However, time to setup and time to process are quite different between the two techniques. Also, it’s probably fair to say a reasonable level of skill is required to manipulate the lights to ensure shadows and reflections are reduced or removed. With HDR, the warmth of the incandescent bulbs are easier to accentuate … they can be lost altogether when using lights. However, problems with windows when using HDR can lead to light bleeding into the window frame as you’ll see in one of the shots below.
To give you some examples of the differences I took a series of shots to process with HDR, and then one with light … just for comparison. 9 shots at 1EV intervals were taken to create the HDR image that was then processed in HDR Efex Pro from Nik Software (or is is Google now?) The light shots were taken with about three strobes on stands reflecting off the corner of walls and ceiling. The intention is not the show how good or bad I am at taking photographs, but to illustrate the differences I notice as I process the images using lights or HDR.
All shots are taken in a vacant property that makes shadows from chairs, ornaments etc. a non-issue!
The first pair of images illustrates the front room. Quite a bright window area and the walls whilst looking warm when in the room, look cooler with lights. You’ll notice also the brightness of the window frame with lights as compared with the effect with HDR. You may also notice an uncorrected bleed of light on the left of the window frame as well as some extra glow and warmth from the ceiling light.
Moving further back now to include the entrance way as well as the front room there’s a distinct difference in warmth between the two. Asking my wife which she prefers I got the answer, “somewhere between the two”.
This bedroom was interesting due to the textures in the wall on image left. With HDR the textures are much more noticeable, and the HDR image seems more grey than the one with flash. Just two flash guns used in this shot. One placed around the corner opposite the window, and one to camera left to illuminate the foreground.
The last couple of shots are in the kitchen. Three lights used for this shot with care taken to avoid reflections in the windows and shadows on the floor. The room looks bright, but perhaps a little “stark”. The HDR blend is also bright, but warmer and softer.