March 26, 2012

HDR: You’re doing it wrong in Los Gatos

120324-wiki-hdrOne of the things that keep readers engaged with this site are the atrocious listing photos that are supposed to engage potential buyers.  Now, there are a number of ways a photo can fail to attract the people who might otherwise wish to buy a home.  Some are because the agent didn’t bother cleaning up the house, or didn’t notice something in the picture that really shouldn’t have been included, or because there really is nothing attractive about the house no matter what angle you shoot from.

But there can also be photography problems on the higher end of home sales.  High Dynamic Range photography allows more differences in light and dark areas of a photo, to make a picture appear more vivid.  HDR is usually done by taking photos of the same scene at different exposures and having the images rendered together.  If you’d like to learn more about HDR, there’s a nice overview on the subject on Wikipedia, and they’ve included this image of what HDR can achieve.  Then again, the overly saturated colors and the bizarre color shifts between each palm tree make this photo a candidate for I Hate Your HDR.

The problem is when HDR isn’t done with restraint and balance, and that brings us to today’s featured home.  Many thanks to Burbed reader Tracy Tea House for this hella high definition domicile!

Los Gatos, CA 95032


BATHS: 4.5
SQ. FT.: 4,869
$/SQ. FT.: $822
LOT SIZE: 0.88 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: French
VIEW: Valley, City Lights
COMMUNITY: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81203958
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 52 days

Classic French Estate. Outstanding views across Silicon Valley. Extensive landscaping with patios, walkways, custom iron work, & fountains. Fabulous interior custom faux finish with gold leaf. Huge formal living room w/ floor to ceiling windows. Family room kitchen w/ cherry cabinets, slab granite, & stainless appliances. Master w/ fireplace & 2 walk-in closets. 1 bed/bath downstairs. 4 car garage.

120324-cerro-columnsHere’s what Tracy had to say about today’s property:

We did not buy this one, because it did not have a pool.

This is a Classic French Estate.  A pool is so Hollywood.  Then again, a structure built in 2000 that’s just 131 square feet too small to qualify for the “ginormous” tag isn’t a Classic French Estate.  If it were, the city it’s in would have a name more like Les Chats.

120324-cerro-treesIf you’re into megahomes pretending to be Classic French Estates, this isn’t the worst example of the genre.  I mean, heck, it even has MAWBUL KAWLUMS, but not an excessive number of them.  That means break out the Official Burbed Red Arrow Kit, but it would have been more instructive to use them on the crappy HDR job.  First take a look at the photo atop this article, and pay careful attention to the way the sky color gently transitions from a darker to lighter tone (at least as long as there aren’t any palm trees interfering).

120324-cerro-nightContrast (ha ha) the Wikipedia shot with some from today’s house.  The one immediately above with the porch rail suggest these trees are radioactive. And this one at left not only has plants full of radium, someone set us up the bomb inside the house as well.  The fountain looks like it’s in danger of a core meltdown.  You can see the same effect in the sky above the Kawlums.

120324-cerro-livingroomIf you’re having trouble seeing that HDR luminescent glow, don’t worry.  This interior picture at right really punches it up to 11, because the sky is only sky-colored where it doesn’t actually touch a window frame.  Thus you get blue-grey blobs of color surrounded by white when you look out the window.  That is, if you can tear your eyes away from the living room furniture in HDRVision.

Remember, HDR is supposed to be used to heighten shadows and highlights, not to blow out our eyeballs.  Besides, the kind of buyers this photo would attract will be so disappointed by how colorless and flat the actual house is.

Comments (20) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

20 Responses to “HDR: You’re doing it wrong in Los Gatos”

  1. Tracy Tea House Says:

    Some of these shots make me feel a whole lot of 1960 coming on.

  2. very amused Says:

    I didn’t think it was possible to photograph an acid trip.

  3. nomadic Says:

    This house is across the road from another burbed house that I thought was wildly over-priced and sold for $2.4M. However, I’d still wager they’re over-priced by nearly a million dollars. According to Zillow, it was listed for $4.688M last year – it would have been more than a $2M profit for ten years. This ain’t the RBA – it’s the slums of Los Gatos.

  4. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    There used to be these postcards in the 1970s that had local scenes printed on some kind of an aluminum-foil backing, that has a sort of shiny, brushed surface. They were tacky and awful and sold pretty well for a while I guess. That’s exactly what this HDR effect has replicated.

  5. madhaus Says:

    Thanks for noticing that the Amazing Knotty Alder Doors house is in this ‘hood, nomadic. It’s also just a block away from the best street name for underwater homes.

    You know, that picture on top from Wikipedia is becoming as annoying as the ones of today’s house. I like how the #2 picture (on the listing) has that squiggly bush glowing…glowing…glowing. It looks like some kind of mutant worm.

    You know what would be really awesome? I would love to have an overlay of every house featured on Burbed marked on a Google map, maybe with optional filters for how long ago the house was featured. Just how much work would something like that entail? Is there some kind of toolbox that would make implementing this relatively easier?

  6. nomadic Says:

    It’s also just a block away from the best street name for underwater homes.

    Yes, a block away, but I think it’s also on the other side of the railroad tracks – figuratively speaking. In other words, I’m pretty sure Short Road is within the LG-Saratoga school district rather than the “slums.”

  7. AstroWallaby Says:

    #4: It wasn’t just postcards. There were larger versions that were framed and hung on the wall as “art”. I gleefully disposed of a couple of them a few years ago.

    About the only time HDR does anything for me is in well-done night shots, and even then there has to be a *reason* for it. (Like you’re trying to make the scene resemble a comic book illustration.) Daylight/interior shots just act as sobering reminders of how poor Geordi LaForge is forced every day to experience the world through his magical face barrette.

    (Please, donate generously to your favorite medical research organization now so the next generation of The Next Generation can be spared from this torture. Thank you, Realtors of America, for doing your part to raise awareness. You’ve done your part, now cut it out.)

  8. Crissa Says:

    HDR when done right makes photos look not like photos, but like you were standing there, by filing in shadowy areas with detail that you’d see if you were standing there but could not if you took a normal photo. So most HDR photos look amazingly ‘normal’ to the eye, but are actually replicating photos you can’t normally take because the human eye is better than a photograph.

    So HDR photos are really the way to do it in the future.

    But they shouldn’t look like this – these are just like putting up crappy photos where the color balance makes everything turn blue or whatever other mistake. It’s just a new mistake you can make when taking photos. And it happens because their software is storing the data of the image by taking a shortcut and pretending their jpegs can contain all the data instead of not.

    It’s like how on TVs and computer you can hardly ever get people to reproduce images in their original aspect ratio. Nothing ruins a TV program more to me than a screwed up aspect ratio. You do that, and I turn off your program or network. Bleech.

  9. Crissa Says:

    Gosh, and I forgot to say I thought the house looked pretty awesome, with columns where you’d expect them rather than just tacked on for ostentatious value. Of course, why a person with a 5 million dollar a home – a house worth more than 50 times my spouse’s income – wouldn’t be able to get a real photographer really pisses me off.

    They should fire their realtor, honestly.

  10. SEA Says:

    It would be nice if the focal length was standardized. So often the focal length is either very short or relatively long.

    “But it looks better this way…”

  11. nomadic Says:

    You raise an interesting point, Crissa. Why wouldn’t the sellers see these photos online and demand the realtard fix them? Are they huge Thomas Kinkade fans who think the photos look good? (That’s what bad HDR reminds me of.)

  12. madhaus Says:

    Thomas Kinkade? Check out the virtual tour. The first few shots look straight out of Maxfield Parrish.

    Parrish was too early for LSD, though.

  13. gallileo Says:

    Darn you madhous for showing me this!

    Now I cannot unsee it in nearly every real-estate porn shot–especially for the higher end houses.

    As if the pictures weren’t ugly enough without checking the border between sky and ground. Ugh!

  14. Scott Says:

    Woah! Holy radiation Batman! Looks like the Joker’s palace is up for sale in Los Gatos. Wonder if the Batmobile comes included in the purchase price?

  15. Petsmart groomer Says:

    From the virtual tour:

    Rear patios ar great for entertaining.” – Don’t forget your eye patch, arrrrr!

    In the style of Versilles, custom designed Tromp L’Oreal panels of 5 various marbles, aged doors, window surrounds and crown molding. Gold leaf & antique domed ceiling. Hand painted cherub on inner dome. Schonbeck chandelier.” – Versailles, trompe l’oeil (I guess), Shonbeck.

    Beautiful downstairs power room.” – Nice!

    Custom designed improted French style black wrought iron entry gates. Camera and video access from iphone.” – improted French? That’s dirty.

    And there is more…

    Seriously, $4M and the agent cannot even proofread?!? I agree with Crissa’s conclusion.

  16. mbk Says:

    I think the real offender is Photoshop’s “Shadow/Highlight” filter which induces this bogus HDR look when overapplied.

  17. nomadic Says:

    Tromp L’Oreal

    That has to become a new classic! Is RE the copywriter?

  18. madhaus Says:

    Tromp L’Oreal

    No, no, it all makes sense! Isn’t L’Oreal The Most Expensive Hair Color In The World (Reg TM)? Would have been even better if it had been Tramp L’Oreal.

    Awesome finds in the listing copy, Groomer.

  19. Michael Boltonestater Says:

    I would love a power room. Perfect to play Risk while listening to Snap.

  20. 3 level executive estate in midtown Palo Alto in a cul-de-sac [] Says:

    […] here we thought the misadventure was the .60 FAR or the 11 HDR.  So let’s help this poor spec house.  What is keeping it from generating dozens of […]

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