High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography – Tips
Learn Photography (HDR)
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography is still in its infancy as an art form but is becoming more and more popular everyday. The reason for its increasing popularity is because never before has an image on your computer ever been able to compete with the imagery in the human brain. Now, of course, I am not saying that this high dynamic range photography is better than being there on the scene with your own eyes and the emotions you feel but it is a step in the right direction. As we explore this high dynamic range process, these images will start to rise those deep memories, emotions and deceiving the mind into much more than just a normal photograph.
What is High Dynamic Range Photography or HDR? Basically, you take multiple photos of the same image with all the different shutter speeds and all of the different exposures or you can use a single raw photo. The next step would be to take those different components and run it through the high dynamic range or HDR algorithm software. Here is a good example of how this is comparable to what we do as humans, only it’s done in a nanosecond. Your eye really isn’t very smart it just captures data. It’s the brain that helps you understand this data. Well, when post-processing high dynamic range photography the camera is your eye and the software or computer is the brain. The final step is to sort of bring that human element back in because if something is too computerized you lose a lot of that emotion. Take for example the music today. Not trying to show my age but come on their voices are even digitalized today. To me that does not reflect someone’s talent or ability. So, during the final cleanup of the image make the shot expressive in the human sense.
High dynamic range photography is not old school compositing where you take a big chunk of one exposure and combine it with another big chunk of exposure. This is happening at a pixel by pixel level and the algorithm runs through and chooses which pixel to show based on the tonal ranges of its nearest neighbors. This is very similar to what your eye does. It builds this image and patches it all together in your mind. High dynamic range or HDR is really about the light. It’s not necessarily about the color.
High Dynamic Range Photography Tips
What are you going to need to take high dynamic range photography? First, you will need a camera that is capable of taking the same image at three different exposures, like aDSLR and also a tripod. You need a tripod because these images need to line up exactly to the same aspect. Now let’s get down to the task at hand. What you want to do before you start taking any images is you want to turn off any image stabilization. If you have a Cannon it’s on the left side of the lens and you also want to be in manual focus. Keep the ISO as low as possible maybe at 100 or 200 and shoot in RAW. Now set it up to the subject you want a picture of and get it in focus. Next you want to turn on bracketing, which is in exposure composition or you can roll the dial all the way out depending on your preference. Put the camera on a 2 second timer that way when you hit the button. The camera will beep and then you can take the three exposures. This gives you time to take your hand away without shaking the camera. You should double check that you have three different images in light, middle and dark exposures. It’s time to get these photos over to photomatrix and start processing them.
Alright now that we are back at the PC it’s time to turn those images into high dynamic range photography masterpiece. Before going into photomatrix you should process the images inphotoshop from the RAWs. I highly recommend you get the pro version rather than the essentials version because you will eventually upgrade when you see how amazing the software is. Now let’s load the three images up into photomatrix. You need to confirm that your source images are aligned, you don’t have any ghosting and you have done all your noise reduction in photoshop but if you do not have photoshop this program does an excellent job at doing all three things just mentioned. Of course we all know there are other software programs out there, I’m just going by what I use, you can use whatever you feel comfortable using. When you hit OK the next screen will be tone mapping. To me tone mapping is a more dramatic look rather than exposure fusion but again it’s your preference on how you want you want your high dynamic photography to look.
At the bottom of the screen you will see several of these presets. I tend to start with enhancer-painterly but click on the one you like. Let’s get to the settings. Strength is how fake or realistic it will look and tends to give a little halo around trees and buildings. Color saturation is pretty much self-explanatory, black and white or a color explosion. The luminosity setting is darker or brighter. Detail contrast is basically more or less contrast. Scroll down a little and you’ll come to lighting adjustments. Now these settings will vary and there is no one correct setting, it’s all about what you think is pleasing to you. Smoothing highlights is another self-explanatory setting. There are many more settings but the main thing to understand is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to this. When you are finally done playing around with the settings and want to share the picture or sell it all you have to do is hit process and remember to save it before exiting.
High dynamic range photography can take an amateur photographer’s pictures and turn them into amazing images. Once you start playing around with this software and your cameras capabilities it will really inspire you to start taking action with your new found knowledge in this HDR realm. The dramatic black and white photos that you will be able to capture is well worth learning more about this subject and perfecting the steps. Don’t forget about the color explosion in the photos, something you would never be able to achieve with regular photography and post processing. To me high dynamic range photography is one of the most enjoyable types photography and I think you will agree with me so get out there and give it go.
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