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HDR a Beginners Guide


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HDR stand for High Dynamic Range, so what is dynamic range as it relates to digital photography?

The human eye can actually perceive a greater dynamic range than is possible with a camera.
Our eyes can see a range of nearly 24 f-stops of light.

That means your eye can look at a scene with deep shadows and bright highlights and see most of the details in both.
By contrast your digital camera can capture a range of at best, 5 f-stops of light.

So what does that mean as far as HDR?
It means when taking an photograph with deep shadows and bright highlights, both the shadows and highlights will be blown out or clipped.
That is, you will have no detail in the brightest and darkest parts of the image.

The camera just isn't able to capture that extreme luminance range in a single exposure.
What is commonly called "HDR"is a way to capture all the luminance values that human eye can see and compress them down into a single image.

To create an HDR photograph, you need several photographs of the same image at different exposures starting from several f stops under exposed to
several f stops over exposed in specific incremental steps, this is called bracketing.

Capture copy.png

HDR_Pro Ellis.jpg

There are several steps you need to do when making these images.

Use a tripod.
You're final image will have details from all of the images, they need to properly line up.

Use Aperture mode on your camera.
The aperture affects the depth of field and you need all the images to be identical as far as what is in and out of focus.

Stay away from subjects with movement.
For the same reason you use a tripod you should avoid scenes with movement, tree leaves, water, long grass, etc. won't be consistent from shot to shot.

In older versions of Photoshop that support HDR you should be able to select these images in Bridge, then use Tools, Merge to HDR.
You can also open all the images in Photoshop by going to Files|Automate|Merge to HDR and selet the images you want to use.

This will open the images in Photoshop and combine them into a 32 bit per channel image.
In CS4 and earier that was about all Photoshop could do with HDR images, there were a few settings and adjustment you could make but they didn't work well.

You have created an 32 bit HDR image but that's only half the process, tone mapping is the next step.

Tone mapping is a technique used in image processing and computer graphics to map one set of colors to another in order to approximate the appearance of
high dynamic range images in a medium that has a more limited dynamic range.

That meant buying third party software or plugins made by HDRSoft, or other manufacturers.

Photoshop CS5 and CS6 now include HDR Pro a tone mapping plugin.
Open and combining the images are the same as the older version except you use "Merge to HDR Pro", not "Merge to HDR"

Here is a simple video tutorial by Rich Harrington walking you through the steps.



I equate HDR to olde school B&W using the zone system..

Full rich colors in and out of shadows..Most are so deep I cannot print everything, but I love the richness that HDR gives.

Scenics or old buildings really can explode with 5 or 7 images combined


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