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Monday, March 10, 2014

HDR “High Dynamic Range”

Banff National Park Alberta, Canon 5D Markii, 24-105 at 24mm, f16, 1/25sec, ISO 200, HDR 3 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0
  First step before starting with HDR, get a tripod, and a cable release
       Set your camera to AV "Aperture Priority" or Manual,
       Set your Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) for the number of exposures you want, most camera will let you take 3, -1, 0 +1, or -2,0,+2, depending on scene nothing stop you to try both, if you have a more advance camera, you can try different setting up to 9 exposures,  
       Set  ISO  not higher than 200, to prevent noise in the shadows
       WB White Balance to daylight ( WB can be change with most editing programs, but to get the same color temperature for all your exposures when shooting for HDR, you have to get the same WB for all of them, you can use any WB setting except auto WB.  
       Set your camera on Continuous Shooting
       Shoot in RAW  
       Set Auto focusing  to get the subject in focus and turn off your auto focus button before shooting HDR, to insure that the focus will not change during the HDR shooting. 

Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canon 5D Markii, 16-35 at 16mm, f23, 1/15sec, ISO 200, HDR 3 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0 

Kananaskis Country Canmore, Alberta,
Canon 5D Markiii,16-35 at 16mm, f13, 1/80sec,
ISO 200, HDR 5 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0

       High-dynamic-range photographs are generally achieved by capturing multiple standard photographs,  using  exposure bracketing, and then merging them into an HDR image from 3 and up to 9 exposures, depending of the scene and your camera limitation, I am a Canon user and did HDR for many years using only 3 exposures, most camera have this ability, now that I upgraded to 5D Markiii, I am setting my HDR to 5, it's more than enough for me.

       Any camera that allows manual over- or under-exposure of a photo can be used to create HDR images. The best cameras for the job are the one with an auto exposure bracketing (AEB) feature.  

       One thing that  you have to understand is that many scenes don't need HDR, low contrast scenes are fine with most of camera dynamic range, but you can always use bracketing to get the best exposure, by using your camera auto exposure bracketing (AEB), I set mine at -1, 0 +1, this range is more than enough to get the perfect exposure.  It's also ok to have pure black in an image, you don't need to have detail in every shadows or highlights, think about silhouettes image, where is no detail in the shadows, or for some moody image where most of the image is dark. In the old time before the digital era, most photographers make sure their highlights we not overexposed to prevent the lost of detail, lost detail in highlights couldn't be recovered, contrary to lost detail in shadows that could, same story with digital, even with the best program the ability to bring lost detail in highlights is very difficult almost impossible,  a different story with detail in shadows that can be retrieved with most program, especially if you shoot raw file.

 Banff National Park Alberta, Canon 5D Markii, 24-105 at 24mm, f16, 1/25sec, ISO 200, HDR 3 exposures,   Photomatix 5, onOne Perfect Effect BW

       The best way to ensure that you are keeping the detail in the highlights is to expose for them and retrieved the lost detail in shadows with your program, you may end up with grain in the shadows but you'll get quite a bit of details back. To prevent grain problem the best way when you have high contrast scenes it to use your AEB, and used HDR program or manual HDR whatever work best for you.  To learn more on Using the Digital Camera Histogram as a Light Meter, read my next post from School Of Digital Photography 

Banff National Park Alberta, Cascade Mountain, Cascade is my favorite Mountain, it's Banff Town Landmark,  Canon 5D Markii, 24-105 at 67mm, f11, 1/25sec, ISO 200, HDR 3 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0, onOne Perfect Effect 8

        When I am facing a high contrast situation, where I cannot exposed for the shadows without overexposing the highlights, I set my camera to AEB 5 exposures and shoot, knowing that I can work with 5 files to bring back details.

        Our eyes are very adaptive and they are also more sensitive to intensity than color. It is estimated that our eye can see over a dynamic range of nearly 24 f-stops while a digital camera can capture a dynamic range around 6 to 11 f-stops at best.

       This means that when we look at a beautiful scene with a high range of lights we see much more detail.  We can see detail in the shadows as well as clouds in the sky. But for camera to correctly capture the scene with its limited dynamic range is far more difficult. We (or the camera auto metering) can overexposed the image to get detail in the shadows or underexposed the image to get detail in the bright sky but can't get both the same way our eye can.

3 Sisters Mountain Canmore, Alberta, Canon 5D Markii, 24-105 at 82mm, f11, .8sec, ISO 200, HDR 3 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0 
       The good news is that with all the tools we have in the digital world, the quality we can achieve is very good even with small DSLR, and e some point and shoot, just make sure that you have the AEB option, even if it is just for the basic 3 exposures bracketing,

       Shooting indoor exposure problem with lights coming in from windows, skylights, and doors; over exposing the highlights and under exposing the shadows! Using HDR will solve this problem, it's been use a lot in real estate.

Alberta, Canon 5D Markiii,24-105 at 28mm, f22, 1/20sec, ISO 100, HDR 5 exposures,   Photomatix 5.0, onOne Perfect Effect 8

       Popular HDR programs,   Photomatix 5.0 , SNS-HDR and NikHDR Efex Pro

Banff Town Main Street, 5D Markii, 24-105 at 28mm, f4, 1/50 sec, ISO 200, 3 exposures, NikHDR Efex Pro, for this one I didn't want a realistic look, I wanted a bit of grunge.
       I am using all of the above programs, but I also like to do manual hdr, to get a natural look and control  over my image. Depending of what you want to achieve, natural, artistic, painterly, grunge, color or black and white, the choice is yours. On advantage of shooting using AEB 3 to 5 exposures is that not only you can use the files to produce HDR, but also getting the perfect exposure each time. If you want to do a manual HDR you can keep it really sample as per the following post by Post Processing Mastery using only 2 exposures.

5D Markiii, 24-105 at 24mm, f16, 1/2 sec, ISO 200, 5 exposures, NikHDR Efex Pro, onOne Perfect Effect BW
      As you can see on my examples, natural or futurist HDR is a question of taste, you do what you like, and experiment with it, have fun!  As a finishing touch when working on HDR I used onOne Perfect Effect 8 software in combo with Photoshop.

     To get Perfect Effect 4 for Free click on the link on the right of the page.

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