Saturday, October 9, 2010

101 Essential DSLR Photography Tips: High Dynamic Range (HDR)

It has been awhile I did not post in our blog, all due to too many public holidays in a month plus my increasing work load. Long story cut short, since there’s a request of HDR, here we go.

What is HDR? HDR stand for High Dynamic Range. Dynamic range is the difference of brightest (highlight) and darkest (shadow) part of an image and yet reveals highlight and shadow details. HDR photography involves producing image with much greater light range than it normally possible that the DSLR camera sensor able to capture. It is always close to how human eyes capture a scene and it is possible beyond it with HDR photography. HDR photography works perfectly for great contrast scenes like sunrise, sunset and scenes with bright skies and its darker surrounding subjects.

The methodology to create HDR image is fairly simple, software & post processing play a vital role here. First you must get yourself a software eg. Photoshop, Photomatix or any others HDR software and secondly, a tripod is required or recommended.

Step 1 Find a scene suitable for HDR image you want to capture and take several shots at varying exposure levels eg. -2 EV, 0 EV, +2 EV and so on. If your DSLR camera has the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function, use it instead of manually varying the exposure.

Step 2 Back home in front of your computer download these images and merge it by Photoshop or Photomatix into an HDR image that reveals highlight and shadow details.

Step 3 Adjust the settings to get the result that you want; good patience is required here to achieve the desired end results. The HDR image can be from natural-looking to oil-painting feel by adjusting color balance, contrast, saturation and hue of the image to suit your personal taste.

I travelled to Siem Reap in October 2009 and was in Angkar Wat, waiting with bated breath for sunset, expecting to shoot some stunning sunset image but apparently luck was not on my side that day. The sky was dull and cloudy as well but a sudden thought popped into my mind; that maybe with the aide of HDR, I might able to produce some good images. The results proved to be very rewarding.

I used my NIKON D90 mounted on my BENRO tripod, captured three shots with the exposure value of -2 stop, 0 stop and +2 stop which I think was good enough to cover the whole light range of this scene. Below was the original images I took before processing. Not impress at all with these images right?
But after I processed with Photomatix by merging the above three images, with some fine tuning and adjustments, below was the result I got and this is why I love HDR!

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