Improve window look

Hi, guys.

I have been playing around with HDR (-2Ev; 0Ev; +2Ev)) in darktable and trying to achieve, without success, a good window look, similar to this.

I have tried to improve the window look with exposures modules.

The dng and xmp files (forget the clutter):

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License .

Any tips? Many thanks in advance.

The dng file does not look HDR to me but simply overexposed. Can you post the original files including one with nor clipping in the window region?

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Sorry, my bad. I updated the folder.

Please assign a license to your files.

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I think the trick is to keep the window view quite bright. Otherwise ist will not look natural. Even in your HDR version there seemed to be clipped parts (sky).

My try.

IMG_1612-hdr.dng.xmp (14.5 KB)


This won’t work because even your darkest photo is heavily overexposed in the window area. That’s where the data is definitively lost.

I would do it again on your place.

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Yes, I pretend to have a HDR with a natural look. Thanks for your approach.

Clipping outside is generally fine. You basically have to bleach it away because it won’t look natural otherwise. As long as there is some detail left it’s usually workable. Saying that most real estate stuff (sales) looks completely through and through unnatural…

If you shoot architecture rather than real estate it’s a super tricky fine line. I’ve not really been happy with my bracketed hdr results. Going on a shoot tomorrow and have been mulling over what to do about the windows :slight_smile: This time it matters because what’s outside the window is critical. Thinking I might go very early to limit the contrast between inside and outside.

edit: for some shots where the dynamic range of my camera (which is pretty good) is enough in one shot I still find I have to over expose the exterior to make it look natural. Because if i lift the interior and leave the exterior as shot you get the effect of your first screenshot.


What did you suggest to improve the HDR “raw”? Take more exposures or increase the “space” between them (-3Ev; 0Ev; +3Ev)? A different approach?

I have no clue.

PS: I have learned a lot from your videos! Thanks!

Yap, there is some unreal real estate pictures. And there is so many tutorials on the internet that I’m a bit lost.

To achieve a good result on your shoot tomorrow, how many exposures do you would take? What’s the approach?

Your camera has pretty good dynamic range and you don’t need more exposures. Just make sure that the darkest photo is not overexposed.

Watch this video. This is about landscape photography, but the principle is the same:

By the way, the second problem with your scene is that this window is the only light source, unlike the video you mentioned above:

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At least take a whole hunch of shots starting at - 10ev and go up in steps of 2 EV till you are at like +6. At least you have room to play later, because if what s7habo said is true, you basically still overexposed all your shots.

It helps to have a laptop on shots like this so you can take a single shot to load directly into a program to show you raw histogram or flag raw over exposure. Go so low as you have to (always sticking to your base ISO) so you don’t clip your raw data.

Since most modern cameras can give you a clean picture if it’s underexposed by - 4ev, I imagine you don’t even need to merge shots to create the look you want. If you want to feel safe, go up by +2ev a couple of times to take extra shots for dark areas.

But it’s really hard to know when you are clipping your sensor, without looking at the data in he raw file. And you thought that what your camera would show as - 2ev would be safe. You were wrong, sorry :(.

You could keep the final result natural by using things like filmic, or go nuts with local contrast. Or mask the windows and use different exposure compensations (one for the whole image minus windows, then one for the windows). This gives you that real estate ‘out of the window look’. (lots of real estate shots just replace the windows or sky even, don’t forget!)


If this is real estate, the photos, at least here in the US, never look real.

My advice for capturing is:

  1. Turn on all room lights
  2. Bring an off camera flash and use it as all fill light
  3. Bracket, as you’ve done, but make sure there is no clipping in the darkest and lightest shot. You may need more shots than 3 at 3EV apart. In that case I’d go to 5 shots at 2-3 EV apart.

Thanks for the video. I was wondering if the darkest picture is overexposure because of the metering mode. It was on spot metering.

For the second problem, should turning on the lights do the trick?

i love “global tonemap” :sweat_smile:

hdr merge + DT 3.6

20210822_0004.dng.xmp (12.5 KB)


Thanks for the tips.

I tried to properly expose an underexposed picture (-4 EV) and ended up with too much noise. I tried to get rid of it with contrast equalizer, since the denoise (profiled) doesn’t recognize the ISO value, but with no success.

Thanks for the tips.

Thanks for your approach.

Yes, follow the suggestions that Mica gave you.

The only problem that could arise would be if the internal light of the lamp has a different color than the light from outside. This could make the white balance more difficult. But that can be corrected.


I’m not sure yet! Will see what the conditions are like.

It’s most important that it doesn’t look tacky though so hopefully I can limit the dynamic range by going early in the morning. I don’t have to do the super bright interior either so I can hopefully achieve a bit of a balance. I’m thinking I pick the time so that the things outside aren’t hit by strong direct sunlight. I’m not sure if it will look to dull though… Then I just do a flat at the other side of the building. Some are above the surrounding city so again I’ll try to pick a view to manage dr. I’m not describing specific flats but the building so it’s a different thing.

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