There’s been quite a bit of discussion online lately on blogs and forums about the use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography and I reckon it’s fair to say that some people love it, and some people (clearly) hate it. Scott Kelby wrote on his blog recently asking for peoples thoughts on the subject and boy, did some people really let their thoughts be known.
I first became aware of HDR when a Photographer / Photoshop Guru by the name of Ben Willmore began posting HDR images he’d put together during his ongoing journey along Route 66. He’d edited them in such a way that gave them an almost surreal, futuristic look and to be honest it was this look that I associated with HDR and never considered it’s other uses…until fairly recently.
Ultimately HDR enables the photographer to produce images (when not over processed) that capture much more detail in the shadows, midtones and highlight areas and so resulting in a closer interpretation of what can been seen by the human eye:
Over the past couple of months aside from my Portrait work, I’ve been finding myself getting commissioned to photograph interiors of Hotels and Restaurants and rather than adding in bursts of light during longer exposures I’ve opted for HDR for two reasons. One reason being the speed it enables me to work and secondly (& more importantly) it gives me exactly the kind of look I’m after…a definite win, win situation!
To create a HDR image, the process involves photographing a ‘scene’ but rather than taking a single photograph, a number are taken. Five is a generally a good number of photographs to take as the first photograph will be ‘properly’ exposed and then two photographs are taken either side of this exposure each 1 stop apart:
Setting the exposures for each shot can be done manually but by doing this there is always the risk of knocking the camera so that it becomes out of line. Most modern SLR’s and some ‘Point and Shoots’ like the Canon G series, have this facility (known as Bracketing) built into them where you can select the number of exposures you want the camera to take.
Once you have your five photographs, it’s then a case of combining them so that the full range of exposures can be put together to make one final image. I generally combine three of the images together: the ‘properly exposed image plus the image that is 2 stops under exposed and the one that is 2 stops over exposed. Photoshop does have a built in ‘HDR’ creating function but to be honest it still needs a little work, so the software of choice is Photomatix, and I tend to find 99% of the time that the default settings work just fine. Once the images have been combined (tone mapped) I’ll then do a little tweeking in Photoshop just to add some finishing touches.
So, what’s your opinion of HDR? … like it or dislike it? HDR is no magic fix…it wont make a bad shot into a good shot. The old saying of ‘Garbage in Garbage out’ still counts for HDR because you still need to have good quality images to combine in the first place. Personally I think there is defintely a place in the ‘tool kit’ for it but I’d love to hear your thoughts / feelings on the subject so please leave a comment. If you’ve got any examples feel free to send them over and I’ll post some up here in an ‘update’.
Also, if you have any questions about this post or would like to see a video tutorial then just let me know in the comments section below or send me an email, message on Facebook etc… and I’ll ‘get on it’.
Bye for now.