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My Quick Take On HDR Imagery

June 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

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For those who are not familiar with HDR images, I have put together a quick explanation on the technique along with why it can be a useful tool when capturing images. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Your camera has a certain dynamic range that it can capture within one image.  The dynamic range refers to the number of tones from pure white to pure black the camera can capture.  HDR images are simply images that contain a larger dynamic range than what your camera could capture in one image without extra equipment or software.  Why would this be important?  While cameras are getting very sophisticated they still cannot always capture an image the same way that your eye can.  The best example is taking a photograph in a dark room with a window while it is sunny outside.  Your eye can easily see the details in both the room and outside the window.  Now take a photograph of the room with the window.  If the dynamic range is too great your camera will either pick up detail in the room or outside the window, but not both.  Using an HDR process can produce an image that allows you to see detail in both the room and outside the window, just like your eye can. 

 

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Exposure set for windows

Exposure set for room

 

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Final HDR image with both the room and windows exposed correctly

 

As you can see in the example above, I could choose to either expose for the windows or for the room.  The color in the windows was too important to me not to capture in this image.  In this case, I chose to expose for both knowing that I could combine the images later to create a HDR image, which produced an image much closer to what I saw. 

Early on, the term “HDR” became synonymous with images produced with dedicated HDR software.  The software produced images that were highly saturated and looked “over processed”.  While many people enjoyed this new look, just as many people stayed away from making HDR images for this reason.  Today, with the advancement of software to create more realistic images and new methods for blending images together, realistic HDR images can be found everywhere. 

From my point of view, methods for creating HDR images are tools that allow you to express your artistic view point.  I must admit that my use of HDR images has dropped over the last couple of years.  As new cameras capture even greater dynamic range and software’s ability to restore details in highlights and shadows increases my need to create HDR images has dropped.  However, there are still numerous times when I can’t capture the entire dynamic range of a scene and must resort to a HDR method to create an image that meets my vision.


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