How To Process Real Estate Photos with Aurora HDR
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 the Prep for Aurora HDR Lightroom Preset
Several yeas ago I created a Lightroom preset that I apply to any photo that I plan to process for HDR. It removes all of Lightroom’s default processing and applies lens corrections.
Once your real estate photos have been imported into Lightroom, select the images you wish to process and then click on the Prep for Aurora HDR preset to apply it.
Scroll to the end of the article to download this preset for FREE!
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 ovehead 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.
6 – Alignment
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 (formerly known as 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 all of the exterior photos of this property to give the shoot a cohesive feel.
Scroll to the end of the article to download this Aurora HDR Look for FREE!
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 all of the interior photos.
Scroll to the end of the article to download this Aurora HDR Look for FREE!
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
Once my edits in Aurora HDR are complete, I’ll return to Lightroom to add a few final edits before sending the images off to the listing agent.
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
- Increase Exposure (+.30)
- Tone down highlights (-49)
In the HSL Panel
- Tone 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.
9 – Export and Delivery of Real Estate Photos
Now that the images are processed and ready to go they need to be resized and sent off to the listing agent for publication on the MLS (multiple listing service).
Please check with your listing agent to find out the exact specifications required. Different listing services may have different upload requirements.
For reference I exported my images according to the specifications for Zillow – a prolific real estate website in the United States.
Lightroom Export Settings:
- Export Location – a new folder titled with the date and street address of the property in Dropbox so I can easily share the images with the listing agent.
- File Naming – Choose “Custom Naming – Sequence” and enter the street address of the property in the Custom Text field. You can also append Exterior or Interior if you are working on those files seperately.
- File Settings – Image Format: JPEG, Color Space: sRGB, Quality: 80,
- Image Sizing – Resize to Fit: Long Edge: 2048 pixels, Resolution 72
- Output Sharpening (optional) – Sharpen for: Screen, Amount: Standard
- Watermarking – None. Most realtors/listing services prefer unwatermarked images
- JPEGMini (optional) – This is a Lightroom plugin that slimis down the files sizes of my images for use online. Learn more here.
Once your images have been exported you can share the unique Dropbox link with the listing agent.
Free Lightroom Preset + Free Aurora HDR Looks!
Ready to process your own real estate photos? Download my Prep for Aurora HDR Lightroom Preset along with my Interior and Exterior Aurora HDR Looks.
Simply enter your name and email address below and you’ll be directed to the download page.
If you have any questions about Lightroom, Aurora HDR, or Real Estate Photography please comment below or reach out to me via email. I’m always happy to help!
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Very professionally done. This is a much appreciated post. Thank you for sharing your beautiful post.
Thank you! I hope it was helpful.
Angela, I am a freelance photographer and I do a bit of work in real estate, I came across this article as I often use Aurora, but I wanted to see how other photographers use it. This process/workflow is a game changer!! I just used it for a client and they absolutely love it!! The images really stand out from regular real estate photographers. I’ll be using this technique for future clients, thanks so much!!
Hi Jaime – I’m so glad the article/workflow is helpful!! Thanks for letting me know! :-)
Nice tips. What Canon camera is best to get the 5 brackets shots?
Hi Matt – Thanks for taking the time to comment! I shoot with a Canon EOS R6 and previously with the Canon 6D. I highly recommend the R6 or R5 depending on your budget. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Canon R and RP are also great choices as they are full-frame with many great options.