My Mom grew up in the small town of Victor, Idaho. When I was growing up, we visited her hometown every summer to visit my grandma. Located on the other side of the mountain range from tourist-centric Jackson Hole, Victor didn’t have much entertainment to offer. However, I fondly recall the beautiful Homecoming Queens waiving from the bed of a potato truck in the 4th of July parades (we called them potato princesses). Holiday events gathered community, most of whom worked hard cultivating their land nestled within a breathtaking backdrop: the Grand Tetons.

Our hiking expeditions around the Grand Tetons taught me a valuable lesson: How do you know when you’ve reached the top of a mountain? When there’s no more mountain to climb. It may seem obvious, but have you ever been on a hike or climb where you thought that the peak just ahead of you was the top, only to be reminded that there was another, higher peak? The realization that your stopping point was just another starting point likely caused you various emotions. Maybe the sight of a new peak excited you with renewed adrenaline. Or maybe the new peak jolted your senses into a sudden awareness of your noodle legs, burning lungs, and cottonmouth so much that you turned around and headed to your car that was 50 feet below you in the parking lot. (FTR, I’ve experienced both…with a heavy emphasis on the latter!)


The point is, just like climbing a mountain, many times just when we think we know, we don’t. We realize that we thought we knew, but somehow, someway, we see there’s more. Perhaps more accurately, as our understanding increases, we continually create new peaks. This constant progression in understanding also suggests we are all scattered along the mountain with various viewpoints. But if we all think we are climbing the Grand Teton only to discover that we’ve actually been climbing the adjacent Table Mountain, then we are deceived.

In the mobile “smartphone” revolution, we have misconstrued a couple of major concepts:

  1. First, the smartphone is actually a phone. It’s a misnomer to call these devices a phone, but we’ve generally accepted the misnomer. Plenty of data shows that the actual “phone” part of the device contributes to a very small percentage of the overall device’s use. If you want to see for yourself, just check the battery usage of your “phone” and it will surprise you how little you use it as a phone. It’s really a computer with an amazing camera. This first point merely illustrates how comfortable we can be with misnomers.
  2. Second, all High Dymanic Range (HDR) is the same. The auto-HDR setting, whether in smartphones or dSLRs, is a hack (by definition, a hack is a strategy of doing something more efficiently). But if you really compare HDR photos completed with the auto-HDR setting vs. manual HDR, you will see a vast quality difference.

What is AEB?

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is the automated method used by cameras to produce HDR images. AEB technology exists in phone cameras and dSLRs, and it was designed to make images look more appealing. It does this by creating multiple exposures of an image (dark, balanced, and bright exposures) and blending them together in one image.

Difference between HDR and AEB

HDR is the technique of blending multiple exposures together. This technique can be produced manually or automatically (AEB). If manually performed, the photographer can ensure that the full dynamic range of lights and darks is captured. If automatically performed through auto-HDR settings, you rely on the camera’s static sensor parameters.

Why does AEB matter?

When you can’t control the range of darks and lights, you cannot consistently capture a premium real estate photo. The unique aspect to real estate photography, and the primary reason why manual HDR technique produces a superior image to automated HDR techniques, deals with light. Specifically, whether it is the bright sun glaring through differing sized windows or varying light types within the scene (incandescent vs. fluorescent, etc.), the more contrast there is from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, the more auto-HDR fails.


If auto-HDR via AEB has done anything, it has one, highlighted the superiority of manual HDR for real estate and two, demonstrated that “HDR” is a loosely-used, often misunderstood term that does not guarantee quality. Maybe there is a difference between a heist by Oceans 11 vs. Lucky Logan. Maybe not, since both heists were successful. Whether it’s cosmetologists, plumbers, painters, etc., certainly diplomas, certifications, and equipment do not solely determine the difference between an amateur and a professional (though measuring and discerning talent might be an art in itself!) As your understanding of HDR grows you will soon see new peaks, and hopefully, this new perspective gives you the confidence in sourcing knowledge from those who can motivate you to explore more vistas ahead.