HDR Photography is the solution for an annoying problem every amateur or professional photographer encountered at some point – finding the correct lighting in a high-contrast picture.
More than often, we must take photos of scenes with contrasting lights. However, the images are sometimes too dark or too light. This causes the subject of the photo to not appear clearly, due to a loss of quality.
In high contrast situations, this can become very frustrating. Using standard photography techniques makes it almost impossible to find the right lighting combination for your photo. This is where HDR photography comes in. The HDR feature basically allows you to capture the image just as you see it with your own eyes, by using some techniques and photography magic tricks to go around the problem.
Together, we will take a look at what HDR photography is and at what principles stand behind it. Then, we will present the equipment you will need in order to successfully use HDR photography, while also guiding you through every step required for the preparation and execution of an HDR photo shoot. Finally, we will list some editing software you might need and also introduce further tutorials you can watch.
What is HDR Photography?
HDR Photography, where HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, is a photography technique through which you can capture a much wider range of luminosities than normally possible with standard photographic dynamic range. The dynamic range is a ratio representing the amount of light that can be captured when taking a photograph.
In normal photography, the standard dynamic range (SDR) cannot assimilate strong contrasts. If photos containing such contrasts are taken, a part of the photo, or all of it, will appear either too light or too dark. This can happen, for instance, when we take a photo of someone standing in front of a window in broad daylight. The person will appear shadowed and details will be lost, because the camera’s standard dynamic range cannot cope with the contrast between daylight and the person’s shadow
However, our eyes don’t have this problem, because our ocular mechanisms can make incredibly precise and quick adjustments to different light variations. As such, we see in HRD and the camera sees in SDR, this being the key problem. So, how do we make our camera see in HDR? Simple! By taking more than one photo, with different exposures, and then combining them in order to create an incredibly detailed picture, which closely resembles what our eyes actually see. If you use specialized software to work some further magic, the results can be amazing.
How to Do HDR Photography?
While all of this might have sounded a little complicated, the ever-increasing complexity of standard-use devices has made HDR photography accessible to the general public. Whether you’re using a Canon or just your iPhone, you can easily take HDR photos if you follow a few basic steps.
Remember that, basically, an HDR photo is a combination of photos which have different exposure times (camera shutter speed). The different exposure times help capture different luminosities on different objects. While our eyes instantaneously merge all of these together, our cameras will need a little help, namely an HDR photography software. So, let’s get started with the necessary equipment you will need.
What do you need for HDR Photography?
High-quality HDR photography also requires the right tools for the job, of which the most important ones are:
1. A good camera, with integrated AEB
What the AEB(Auto Exposure Bracketing) function basically does is to automatically adjust exposure times. The best part is that it does it for each photo in an HDR photo set. The purpose is to capture all the necessary luminosities for later compiling the final HDR shot.
If your camera doesn’t have an AEB function, you can still adjust it manually between each shot. However, this makes it very likely that you will move the camera. Because the photos in the HDR-set need to be perfectly aligned, moving the camera will result in a blurry final picture.
In addition, manually setting the camera will take time, which increases the chances that the photo’s subject will move. HDR photography and moving subjects simply don’t work because, as we said, the pictures must be aligned to a pixel for optimal effect. If you don’t know whether your camera has AEB, look it up in this list.
2. A Stabilizing Device
A standard tripod would do best here, as it will allow you to keep the camera perfectly steady, a must when compiling an HDR photo. If you take the shots separately, by hand, there is a good chance you will miss the exact same angles. Thus, you will then face difficulties when aligning the photos. So, either way, stability is a key requirement for a good HDR photo.
3. HDR Photography Software
While some devices and cameras have HDR functions which allow you to automatically take HDR shots, the best visual effects require using specialized HDR photography software, which allows you to subtly manipulate every aspect of the HDR photo set in order to obtain a perfect final picture. If you’re looking for a state of the art app for this purpose, check out Photomatix. If you still want to experiment, download Luminance HDR, a free online HDR photography software. Photoshop can also be quite useful when adding the final touches to the final photo.
HDR Photography Tutorial Tips: A Step by Step Approach
1. Find a stable spot and a stable subject. Remember that HDR is about putting more pictures together. It follows that those pictures must be stable in order to achieve a sharp final photo. To do this, choose your location carefully. Make sure that whatever you’re shooting does not move. A moving car, for instance, would not be a good subject. By contrast, a landscape or real estate site would be a great choice.
2. Find areas with strong luminosity contrasts and learn when the contrast is strongest. It is these situations that really make an HDR photo shine, due to the complexity of the entire dynamic range. You couldn’t capture such a range in a single normal photograph.
3. Avoid using JPEG or JPG to shoot your photos, as they use a lot of compression which might reduce the quality of your photos. Use TIFF or RAW instead. Make sure you have a good SD card, with sufficient memory and optimized for photography, such as this one.
Check out a great tutorial for HDR photography here:
HDR Photography – Capture everything Your Eyes Can See
HDR Photography is the best way to capture the entire spectrum of color and natural beauty. Through HDR, you won’t lose any detail to shadows and extra luminosity. From night shots to portraits and from people to wedding events, HDR photography is the perfect way to make stunningly beautiful photos, in terms of color richness and nuances. All this while also capturing the world in pictures which truly reflect our own visual experience.