HDR image Church

HDR – Photographic marmite


HDR or High Dynamic Range photography is one of those Marmite aspects of photography – you either love it or hate it.

I read on some forums that the web is full of ‘hideous’ over manipulated examples.

That should remind us that art and photography is a subjective beast.

High Dynamic Range photography is one of those Marmite aspects of photography – you either love it or hate it

I love the subjective nature of photography as there is no wrong or right, better or worse – just different.

Some of those ‘hideous’ manipulations may actually be quite appealing to some in the same way that modern art is appealing to some – I will admit I don’t get it, modern art that is, but there you go.

The concept of HDR is to capture the widest range of light within one image.

As you probably know, it is very difficult to get a satisfactory exposure when a scene has extremely bright highlights and deep shadows.

Below are a couple of photos I purposely took  on an extremely bright day that has bright highlights and dark shadows.

The concept of HDR is to capture the widest range of light within one image

church

Church exposure 2 with bright highlights and dark shadows.

Church

Church exposure 1 with bright highlights and dark shadows.

Normally I wouldn’t even consider attempting this type of image in these conditions, but it gave me an opportunity to experiment.

HDR works by taking separate exposures at different exposure levels.

It is usual to take a minimum of 3 photos 1 exposure stop apart. This gives you an image at ‘normal’ exposure, 1 exposure at +1 stop and 1 exposure at -1 stop.

I would recommend taking 5 exposures at 1 stop apart. This gives you a standard exposure plus an image at both -1 and -2 stops and another 2 exposures at +1 stop and +2 stops. This is usually enough to capture enough light range.

So, you have your different exposures what next?

HDR works by taking separate exposures at different exposure levels

The photos need processing by software which will combine the images into a single new image. The processing renders a combined photo that has the detail in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows.

HDR image Church

HDR image 2 processed with a more dramatic effect

HDR image Church

HDR image 1 processed with a more natural slightly painted effect

Here are the results of combining 5 exposures of the earlier scenes. You can see the effect immediately.

They are quick and dirty HDR conversions purely to illustrate two different effects that are achievable with only a little tinkering.

The settings in most HDR applications allow for almost universal adjustments.

You can generate some pretty outrageous images by tinkering with the various settings.

Some really cool images can be generated with a little practice. I use Photomatix but there are other software packages out there from Oloneo, easyHDR and various implementations of Adobe CS packages.

I do not infer any favour either positively or negatively on these products, I simply tried some demos and liked Photomatix.

So what can you do with HDR? Well the answer is almost anything. The obvious application is where there are extremes of bright and dark in your desired scene.

So what can you do with HDR? Well the answer is almost anything

In truth though almost every scene can be HDR manipulated to some extent. As I said, with a little practice you can come up with some really cool images. I was at an aircraft museum recently and saw this beast of a minigun.

mini gun

The average exposure shows no detail in the shadows.

As you can see the ‘average’ exposure recorded almost no detail in the shadows. I thought I would try HDR so took 5 images as described above and, lo and behold, there is a lot of detail pulled from the shadows.

gun HDR

A lot of previously invisible shadow detail is revealed and makes a much more dramatic image

As I said, 5 images taken 1 step apart is usually enough to extract a lot of useful data. To really record every last scrap of lighting you can take either 7 or 9 images one stop apart. If you were to do this you will find some cracking opportunities when processing them.

BUT, there’s always a but, always remember that the exposures are generated by extending or shortening the shutter time. This ensures your depth of field doesn’t change which is what would happen if the aperture was adjusted to obtain the differing exposures.

If you are taking 7 or 9 exposures you are going to get some pretty long exposures. Don’t forget your tripod and cable release!!

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at HDR photography. Let me know your thoughts and I am happy to answer any of your questions on this technique

cheers for now ……..

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One thought on “HDR – Photographic marmite

  1. Pingback: HDR One Forum « Raven Photography UK

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