HDR Overload


It’s that time again… time to discuss yet another trend contributing to the ever-growing population of bad MLS photos. Can you guess what it is?

No, we’re not talking about piles of dirty laundry – although that classic listing photo flop probably deserves its own post. Instead, we want to take a moment to caution agents against the overenthusiastic use of HDR.

HDR (high dynamic range) photography is a method in which a photo is taken at multiple exposure levels. Usually one is over exposed, one is under exposed, and one is exposed at normal levels. These photos are then combined to create one master image that theoretically showcases the best parts of each. It can be a very helpful technique in the right situations. In fact, we even wrote a post about it.

But that was then and this is now. Smartphone cameras and photo editing apps have made HDR both more accessible and more misunderstood. HDR is being misused for all sorts of things, including real estate photography.


Does this house come with glowing alien trees and a fuzzy roof? Nope, it’s just the magic of bad HDR.

Common side effects of bad HDR include:

  • Oversaturation
  • Unrealistic colors
  • Hyper-realism
  • Decreased dimension
  • Glow
hdr lovely listing

Wow! This house looks really… um… expressive?

hdr curbed

This interior shot is an offense to eyeballs everywhere!

HDR can make photos look ‘arty’ and, at least in the real estate business, that’s not always a good thing. You don’t want online buyers to get one impression from the listing photos and get an entirely different feeling when they visit the house. Case in point, the home below did not actually come with neon green grass (we know this because one of our own employees actually purchased it after declaring “but it’s soooo much cuter than it looked in the photos” – so maybe that worked out for the agent in a weird way).

HDR point2

Is that real grass? Or is it AstroTurf?

So, how do you stop yourself from committing an HDR crime? First, turn off the HDR setting on your camera phone. It should not be your default mode. Then, whenever you do take an HDR photo of a listing, ask yourself, “Does this make my listing look like it’s from another planet? Or perhaps imaginary?” If the answer to either of these questions is yes, do not pass go.

The moral of this story is: If you can’t take a good picture of your listing using your smartphone, hire a professional photographer. Don’t rely on HDR to help you deal with tricky scenarios – it could go wildly awry!

Want to see more disastrous HDR listing photos? Click here.

Wondering when HDR works for the power of good, instead of evil? Well, we’re not exactly experts, but we think this guy is doing a pretty nice job.


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