How to take a photo inside looking out

Clever effect: Capturing the interior and exterior requires some finesse. Photo: Peter BennettsLast week we had an inquiry from a reader with a photographic project problem. She wants to take photographs of rooms in a house and she wants the interior and the exterior, seen through the windows, to all be correctly exposed. She has seen such pictures in magazines and real-estate advertisements and wants to know how it is done.
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The effect is achieved by HDR (high dynamic range) processing, which works like this. Using the ”bracket” and ”burst” functions, usually found in the menus, the camera takes a bracket of three or more images at different exposures. By capturing images that are underexposed and overexposed, the details in shadow and highlight areas are preserved in the set, rather than in a single image. The set of images is then merged into one on a computer and the entire dynamic range is compressed into the single picture. For this we use an HDR processing application.

For Windows, we use Oloneo HDR Engine, but our inquirer is a Mac person, so we tried several HDR applications for the Mac, ranging in price from free to $130, along with the one built into Photoshop.

The one we like best is HDR Expose3 ($US119 from unifiedcolor南京夜网). This produces fine, natural-looking merged images. The interface may be overwhelming at first, but with a little use, it is simple enough to master. A good user manual in PDF comes with the program when it is downloaded. This is much better than having to go backwards and forwards to the Help menu.

The HDR effect presets make adjustment easy. Select the Optimal tone mapping preset and the job is almost done automatically. Fine adjustments to tone and colour can be made in the application itself. A little finishing in iPhoto or Aperture brings out the best in the pictures.

HDR Expose3 is also available for Windows and there is a free trial version.

We couldn’t find a satisfactory free HDR processing app but, with the help of a Mac friend, we did find Bracketeer, ($20.99 from the App Store). Bracketeer produces the best results when it is working with as many images as possible. A tripod is recommended, although Bracketeer does a reasonable job of auto-aligning hand-held exposures. The best way to learn the app is to use it and fiddle with the arcane settings. You can’t break it.

With Bracketeer, you must pay the money before it will do anything. As always, you get what you pay for. HDR Expose3 is worth the extra $100, but only if you intend to use it a lot.

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