Guide to Using HDR Photography for Panoramas and 360 Virtual Tours
What is HDR?
High dynamic range (or HDR) photography is a technique that allows a photographer to t Virtual Tour ake the same image at different exposures and then blend them together to produce one image that features the best exposed parts from each of the images. For a virtual tour this is particularly useful as most Virtual tours rely on a 360 degree perspective so often you will be shooting both away from and into a light source. Usually this would mean that you would have to compromise between the two and potentially have dark patches that are underexposed on one side and light patches that are over exposed on the other. Using HDR you can shoot at 3 or more exposure levels, low, medium and high and then blend them together to create the perfect panorama.
What are the disadvantages?
Although this technique is very useful it does has its disadvantages: First, processing time: Using HDR imagery effectively triples the amount of images you are dealing with, unless you are using top end equipment (i5+ processors) then this is going to greatly increase time spent during post processing. Second; ghosting. HDR images are 3 or more images taken one after the other. If you have movement in your images (for example trees moving in the wind or someone slipping on a humorously placed banana) then when you come to piecing your images together the differences in the images can cause a grey ghosting effect that can ruin your scene. Finally you will have to work with software that supports HDR imagery; most top end software will but it is still a consideration, especially if you are used to one that does not.
So should I use HDR imagery to create my 360 virtual tours or not?
If you are considering using HDR then my advice is that you should first invest in a tripod and Panohead, the ghosting caused by holding your camera by hand will cause you no end of trouble during post processing and can even make your scene unstitchable. If you do invest in these pieces of equipment then with a bit of experimentation and post production patience you can create some beautiful HDR imagery for you virtual tour. If you are looking to sell the 360 virtual tours you produce HDR is now an industry standard and an essential tool to creating professional, vibrant and well lit panoramas.
To take HDR images technically all you need is a camera where you