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Fence Line with Sunrise - HDRThis is an example of my work and personal taste. Take it as you will.

There is a backlash against HDRs. Many express their dislike and some their un-dieing hatred. I understand some of this. There are some hellacious HDRs out there, but I would like to see some of the hating stop. HDRs can be beautiful and unobtrusive.  Would you know the image to the left is an HDR if I didn’t tell you?

If you are an experienced photographer then, yes you would. For those who are not, let me explain abit about HDR.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This is the range of light that a camera can capture. The range is expressed in Stops or EVs (exposure values). Your camera can capture 7 – 9 EVs at best quality over 12 at low quality. Your LCD monitor can display 10 EVs and print is around 7EVs. Okay so everything is between 7 and 10 EVs, except your eyes.

Your eyes can see up to 30 EVs! Okay, not at the same time. You are constantly looking around and your eyes are constantly adjusting. But still, the camera can not come close to seeing  as well as you do.

So that is where HDRs come in. With HDRs you take multiple shots at different exposures and combine them to produce an image you are not capable of displaying on your monitor.


The information is in the image, you just have to extract it. “Tone mapping” is generally the way this is done. Bad tone mapping give HDRs a bad name. For example:

Slight Tone Mapping

Agressive Tone Mapping

Now, I know there are people out there who really do like the second picture better then the first. To me it is just an artistic effect, it is heavy tone mapping.

When I create an HDR I want to bring out detail not visible in a non HDR. Time for another example. Below are two pictures taken within 15 minutes of each other. This first one is a normal picture with very little processing. I really like this one.

Non HDR, click for full size

HDR, click for larger image

Okay, I really like the second one too. And yes, I added the stars, they are not real. That is not the point of this post. Notice that the tree line is not a blacked out silhouette . Oh, and yes, the second one was taken first, so there was a little more light left in the day. But to get the tree line that light I would have blown out the sky. What? Blown out any detail in the bright parts. HDR processing was the only way to get this picture.

Am I being clear? HDRs can look normal, they can look nice.

Can you do HDRs? Check this link to see if your camera can shoot in Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB). If you are listed then Yes, you can. If not, then yes you still can, but it is harder. Don’t  worry, I bet your camera is listed.

Do you have the software needed? I use Photoshop’s merge to HDR. Photoshop costs a lot of money. If I had to buy it now I would not be able to (laid off).

Take a look here for some freeware. I recommend Qtpfgui, I have used on my little linux netbook, where Photoshop does not like to go. It  also works with Windows and OSx. It takes some experimenting. For fully automatic processing take a look at Sns-HDR in the flickr HDR group. Not my liking, too automatic.

Anyone interested in a tutorial by me? Ask and I will try.


Written by photogchris

November 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

Posted in Rant

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