Photography Notebook Photography Notebook: High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography combines several images of different exposure values in one image. The result is an image that can display vivid tones, texture, and light qualities.

The very basic idea of HDR is that the brightness, or luminance, of scenes in real life is much, much more than can be captured by current cameras. Luminance, in candelas per square meter, can range from 0.001 for starlight to 100,000 for a sunny sky. An outdoor scene might have a ratio of 100,000:1 in luminance values from the brightest to the darkest. HDR techniques try to capture more of this range by combining several photos of the same scene. In this way, HDR photography aims to more truly represent this reality than single-shot photos which clip off only a limited luminance range for the scene.

Other important ideas are these:

For example, I took these three shots (taken at 0 exposure bias, -2 EV (Exposure Value), and +2 EV):

0 EV for HDR -2 EV for HDR +2 EV for HDR

Then, I combined these three shots in software to produce this single HDR image (some editing was also done using software to balance light, color, and noise reduction):

Lakeshore State Park Bridge Winter Afternoon

My tips for making an HDR image are:

Handheld HDRs

A tripod definitely helps in taking the images for HDRs. However, I've been in situations where I could not have a tripod (inside an art museum) or just didn't have one (on a hike in the woods). But I've gotten some decent results. Here are HDRs made from handheld shots with exposure times of 1/400 seconds and 1/80 seconds for the 0 EV shot:

Windhover Hall Winter Parking

A Bit of HDR Philosophy

Some people don't like HDR images or specific results of HDR work. This is understandable, as the same applies to LDR (Low Dynamic Range) images.

An HDR image does require more post processing than many LDR images. However I don't agree that HDR processing is fundamentally different than the processing done inside the camera by electronics and optics combined with post processing with software like Photoshop or PhotoScape. In other words, I don't believe that a single image directly out of a camera is somehow "pure" and any post processing or merging of multiple images defiles it. Any image can be appreciated, disliked, or criticized on its own merit. Any image might seem over processed or unappealing. HDR images are difficult to prepare, and some HDR work may lead to unappealing results--and I've created many unappealing HDRs in my learning about them. I also have created my HDR showcase to show off some of my HDRs that I like the best.

The HDR Process

[I'm going to add discussions of how I put together HDR images including the software I use.]

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2017-05-16 · John December · Contact · Terms of Use © December Communications, Inc.