After spending a huge amount of time practicing and refining my skills, (I will allow the reader to be the judge by viewing the photos), I firmly believe that HDR photography can be a huge asset when used correctly and believe all photographers should at least try it out.
What is HDR?
To recap, High Dynamic Range Photography or HDR for short is a photographic technique, which involves compiling 3 or more photos, which were shot at different exposures. This allows us to create a photo with a range of light detail that isn’t possible through a single shot. The human eye has an amazing ability to capture scenes much better than a camera does. Our eyes are always moving, our pupils constantly expanding and contracting to allow more light in to pick up details in the shadows, or less light in order to see the details in the highlights. Our brain compiles all these different “exposures” that our eyes are reading and sort of turns our memory of the scene into an HDR image. As I mentioned before, this explains why normal pictures are never as good as the scene we remember. The camera can only capture one exposure of the scene, so it can’t get all the detail that our eye was picking up while checking out the entire scenario.
Well, I decided to take some of my camera gear and head into the mountains late afternoon. After driving around a bit, I found a number of nice areas to enhance my HDR skills. I focused on areas with curves and water! It should be noted that a variety of different types of images can be created using HDR, but primarily it allows you to create a more realistic depiction of how a given scene truly appears. HDR photography also gives you the ability to show your creative side as well. I like some of my HDR Photos to look more like paintings.
Some photographers believe that the ability to create alterations using HDR photography is one of its downfalls, because it allows for a lot of bad images. But if you can use the technique correctly, it can really allow your artistic side to show some very spectacular photos.
How Does it Work?
HDR really comes into its own when photographing landscape photos. Most modern digital cameras have exposure settings, so you should be able to do this with a normal digital point and shoot camera. SLR cameras have a bracketing feature which makes it easier to change the settings automatically. It is important to hold the camera as steady as possible if you are using a point and shoot camera when changing the settings. You should take the photos using the RAW setting on your camera, but I have found that it works well for .JPG images as well. If possible, a tripod will help make sure your images aren’t blurred.
I recommend these settings:
- ISO setting of 200 or 400
- Use the Aperture priority mode on your camera
- 3 exposure settings
* EV 0 – this is a properly exposed image for the first picture
* EV -2 – an underexposed image – will have much better detail in the highlights
* EV +2 – an overexposed image – will show the greatest detail in the shadows
You will combine these three images into one perfectly exposed image. The detail will be beautiful and visible in the highlights and you will have great detail in the shadows. Think about it this way, if you’re trying to take a photo of a person with the sun setting behind a mountain in the background, there’s no way to correctly expose all of the elements of the scene. Either you capture the highlights or shadows, but rarely both. HDR photography allows you to combine a properly exposed, an underexposed and an overexposed image in order to give you an incredible picture that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.
You do need to have the software if you want to create an HDR photo. Photomatix and Photoshop are the two most popular (I recommend Photomatix). Processing the images includes adjusting the tone mapping and the dynamic range. Photomatix can do this automatically for you or you can tweak things to your satisfaction.
I am enjoying experimenting and practicing with HDR photography. The verdict: utilizing HDR photography techniques is a great way to enhance your images! I am sold on it! Happy shooting!