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How Can Real Estate Photographers Speed up Bracket Processing?

Published: 20/02/2017

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Tod in Virginia says:

In the past, I've worked mainly on my own but I'm going to work (as a contractor) for a small boutique-ish staging and photography group.  It's all good and the pay is nice, the only possible drawback is I do all the post processing myself  I love Lightroom, but for my own work, I don't shoot brackets.

I'm at a loss as to how to proceed!  If I do 4-5 shoots a day, shooting 3-5 bracketed images per photo, that's a heck of a lot of photos to process when I get home. Doing 1 HDR image via LR or NIK HDR EFX can take a long time. There must be something out there that I'm not aware of?

Any suggestions or advice on how to speed up the process would be greatly appreciated.

That's the problem when you work for someone else and they want you to use their whole process. I assume they are insisting on using HDR so the look of all the work they deliver looks consistent.

The reality is when you shoot brackets it just takes more time in post processing than if you use small flash. Work on convincing them to let you shoot with small flash.

But if you must shoot brackets here are some ways to make post processing go as fast as possible:

  1. You can get by most of the time shooting just 3 brackets. Don't be shooting more brackets than necessary.
  2. For your bracket processing use either LR/Enfuse or Photomatix for processing because they both have batch processing features. The majority of real estate photographers that use bracketing use LR/Enfuse plus a single flash to help control wonky color effects. There's no way to batch process images using the Lightroom HDR Merge feature or NIK HDR-EFX.
  3. Make use of Lightroom Presets to speed up the repetitive parts of your workflow.

See Simon Maxwell's book for details on all three of these.

I will never forget Dan Achatz in Seattle describing to me how he processes his HDR images with the Photomatix batch feature while he drives between shoots. He told me this in 2008 and I'll bet he is still doing it. When he gets home at the end of the day his post processing is mostly done.

Larry Lohrman

24 comments on “How Can Real Estate Photographers Speed up Bracket Processing?”

  1. Funny - I actually have my Mac Book Air (plugged into the back plug of my SUV) ( Apple Store told me that this MAC was not really made for what I do with it, but it works) merge photos in Photomatix while I drive from one house to the next. I do add a flash on the brackets to get better color casts and colors. So by the time I get home all the photos are merged, I go into to Photoshop camera raw and use I preset that I made and just do line corrects and it's done. With doing on average 3 homes per day 6 days a week and video and drone on most, it's a huge life saver for me since I edit all my own photos and most of my videos. It works and in my area the price of our product and service keeps us working and paying the mortgage, college and bills!

  2. Don't you need to at least correct white balance before HER processing? How can you Do that in your car?. I also bracket and processing 600- to 1000(5/pic) photos can be real time consuming. I just learned that you can run 2 sessions of photonic at a time if your computer can handle the CPU demand . This has cut my photmatix run times by about 40%. This is a substantial time savings for me.

  3. Hi John - I just merge the photos in Photomatix in my car. At home I use photoshop and do the white balance correction and other corrections at home.

  4. For a while, I was using Photomatix and also used Enfuse. Being a Sony shooter, I found though that both of those required exporting or saving as TIFs first because neither of those programs would properly process Sony RAW files. Then I found Machinery HDR Effects ( . Not only is this a great HDR program, with all of the adjustments available (and the ability to save presets) it, with its built in Explorer program, will do great batch processing and save the results where and how you want. I've also started shooting drone aerials on my higher end jobs. I can quickly set up a batch job in Machinery, let that run in the background for the stills, and swap over to running my Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus program (great for the video I get with the GoPro on the 3DR Solo drone) to process the aerial video. Then I finish up the stills in Capture One Pro 10 (which, IMHO, sure beats Lightroom in general and is surely the best I've found for keystone correction, great for presets, color correction, etc.). Also, with Capture One, I don't worry about flash to correct color cast. Capture One, with its color editor features, can handle it all.

    LR still seems best for processing the stills from the GoPro with its preset lens correction but, otherwise, I shoot 3 shot brackets RAW, straight into Machinery and on to Capture One. Using Machinery has cut my processing time (over using Photomatix or Enfuse) dramatically and I also like the results much better than either of the other programs.

    No, I have nothing to do with Machinery or Capture One. But, I've learned a lot on this forum and want to give something back so strongly suggesting these programs may help somebody here like me, esp Sony shooters, and that's a good thing.

  5. When I first started doing RE photos ten years ago, I used HDR. After two years, I switched to using a bounce flash off a wall and one frame. That cut my time down from six hours per house to three. Then I got a Sony A6000 in 2014 and it cut an additional hour off that and the images looked even better. One reason for the cut is the camera has a great shadow capture and the other reason is it was so much easier to move the camera and tripod from room to room. I'm sure the newer 6000s have even better shadow detail.

  6. I find that it takes me about the same amount of time on a job to use a fusion workflow or flash workflow. Fusion takes less time in the field and more time in post where flash tends to be the opposite. Since I prefer the look of images shot with flash, I use that workflow for most of my compositions. There are times where using exposure fusion is easier such as with large open spaces that don't have good places to hide a flash. I also find that it looks better from a business perspective to spend more time on site. Customers feel like they are getting their money's worth since they don't see me spending hours on the computer to finish their images.

    There are some little known features in LR that can make a fusion workflow go faster. Images can be grouped by capture time. If you fire off a bracket quickly and have a pause between brackets, you can set LR to put those sequences into groups automatically (with adjustments). Presets speed up any workflow. If you find yourself always doing the same thing to every image such as lens corrections, make a preset to apply those adjustments with just a button push. When importing, all of my images have a lens correction applied, some noise reduction and a touch of sharpness along with conversion to .dng. On a busy day, I could take my laptop along and let it ingest the images to a catalog and apply the presets while I'm driving and working on the next job. I could also have it group bracketed images so when I get back to my office, all I have to do is copy the files over and start editing.

  7. Enfuse GUI is not only the fastest, but also the most realistic. Primarily a panoramic photographer, it's essential to my workflow (as is ptgui).

  8. @Blair - But in the context of this discussion (real estate photography), the speed that is important is processing a whole shoot that may have 30 or more images each with 3 to 5 brackets the ability to organize all the images from the shoot and fire off a batch process that processes the whole shoot while you are driving to the next shoot is huge. You can't do that with Enfuse GUI!

  9. @Bob Curious as to what issues you are having with the Sony files? I've been shooting an A7ii for 14-15 months now and have never had an issue running my files through Enfuse.

  10. @KenBrown
    Ken - are you saying there's a way to have LR automatically stack images taken in a sequence so that they can then be enfused? If so, can you share the steps to automate this as it'd be a real time saver.

  11. I'm shooting 3-4 homes per day (as I did today)... batch processing all three homes in Enfuse takes 30-40 minutes MAX. Then each home group take 20 minutes to make final corrections (color corrections, photoshop edits, etc). The whole process to edit 3 homes takes me an hour and a half... two hours on a bad day. However, while I'm waiting for Enfuse to do the initial process I simply do my admin work (create invoices, set up folders and file management, track expenses and mileage).

    The difference for me may be that I'm running a new, fast MacBook Pro (my old 2011 Macbook was so slow) and I'm NOT using the Auto-Align option in most situations. Using a solid tripod and head along with not touching the camera or walking around while shooting helps. Auto-Align can easily triple the processing time.

  12. It seems odd that the hack MagicLantern isn't mentioned much, or maybe I haven't paid attention. Using ML and my Canon 5DMII on site I use 1-2 bounced flash exposures finishing up with ambient exposures determined by ML using the camera's exposure system. However, the number of exposures can vary, which means allowing LR to batch brackets doesn't work. But it requires no more than 60 seconds to manually stack each bracketed set.

    I totally agree that presets in LR make my job much easier and faster. George is right, while LR/Enfuse is processing, I edit my exteriors, and other admin stuff, but Enfuse typically will finish a 30 photo set in 10 min or less. If you shoot with a Canon I highly recommend looking into MagicLantern as it saves a ton of time when shooting as there is no adjustments required for different exposures.

  13. @Terry - The reason you are the first one here to talk about Magic Lantern is that relatively few real estate photographers are up to the technical challenges of loading non-Canon firmware on their camera that they make their living with to save some time. In 10 years I think you are the 3rd or 4th person to bring it up. Yes, it does a lot of great things but the whole concept scares many.

  14. @Scott DuBose, thanks for digging out that link.

    @Terry Iverson, I've played with Magic Lantern a couple of times and never found the interface very efficient. With CamRanger and other remote applications, Magic Lantern has lost its appeal for me. Like Larry, mucking with the firmware of the camera is scary. I've never had any issue and I don't know anybody who has, but the warnings are ominous.

  15. The single biggest factor for me has been a move from Enfuse/SNR/Photomatix to luminosity masks. Not only have I managed far better blends but many can be done with a few clicks when using panels like Ray Pro. No nasty artefacts around window frames, horrible halos etc.

    Transformed my processing both in quality and time.

  16. One idea, from Scott DuBose, is that if you are going to shoot brackets, shoot the entire property using the same bracket spread. If you want to shoot 5 shot .7ev brackets then do every shot for with that setup. Then batching the groups together becomes much easier for LR grouping and for Enfuse / Photomatix auto setups.

  17. In my busy season I can shoot 6-7 homes per day and we have about a 2 week waiting list. Last year I shot over 1100 homes, so I am always trying to save time. I love the idea of processing while driving between appointments. Today I purchased a laptop for my car and I am going to set up a processing center in the back of my Kia Soul. I am going to try running the photos through Photomatix between appointments and then upload them to OneDrive which will be shared with our admin person. She can do the Lightroom editing before I even get back to the office and then I can review and send to the agents later that evening. I will let you know how it works.

  18. @Wanda Richards, uploading a whole job full of bracketed compositions is going to max out whatever mobile internet service you use and may not upload (especially after your link is throttled) before you get back to your home base. If you have an external SSD where you can offload your memory cards whether directly or through LR, that might be a great way to speed things up. It might also be possible to meet with your admin person at some point around mid-day for a hand off of your work.

    I don't haul my laptop with me most days unless I know I'm going to be especially busy. I will then use it to import photos from the memory cards and apply my standard preset in LR. Once I'm back at the office, I can import the catalog using the laptop configured as an external hard drive (Target mode on a Mac). That shaves a bunch of time off my processing. If I'm only doing a job or two, I'll import the photos onto my desktop while I put batteries in chargers, prep my gear for the next day and make a cup of tea.

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