The Essential Guide To High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography
HDR Photography is pure fun. You can make the same world around you look different and enhanced using HDR or we can say High Dynamic Range Photography. HDR is all about colors, brightness, and stark contrasts.
A camera is a great tool but it does have some shortfalls. A camera is not like a human eye being able to adjust the vision for the shadow or highlights in a scene. When a scene has high contrast, sometimes the shadow details are lost in the dark and sometimes highlights get overexposed and the bright areas appear as white blobs.
So, what is the solution? Well, HDR Photography is the answer. Using HDR Photography you can reveal all the lost details either of the shadow or the highlights in one single shot by merging multiple images all taken in varied exposures and then merged to create one image.
The technique needs to be learned and then used. If done wrong, the images can look as if they have been over processes. But if you do it in the right manner, HDR can make ordinary subjects look extraordinary and give them a wow factor.
In this article, you will learn how to do HDR Photography and give your images a higher appeal. This article will cover all the significant aspects which you need to learn for creating stunning photographs using the HDR technique.
How to choose a location:
Every photographer has at one point of time come across a dilemma for choosing the location or subject. HDR is a challenging technique and in order to perfect it as a beginner, you need to choose varied locations or subjects.
As a beginner, you should stick to architectures and landscapes only. You can try out the high contrast sunsets or some old monuments as your primary subject for HDR Photography. You may also choose a night scene where different colored lights are available.
Types of equipment required:
In HDR photography we capture three, five, seven or sometimes nine photos using different exposure levels and merge them using software for creating the final HDR picture. The number of photos depends on the difference between shadows and highlights of the subject. Initially, it’s better to stick with 3 shots HDR.
Now day’s camera sensors are improving rapidly in term of dynamic range so you can get all the details you required in just three shots. Dynamic range means the darkest and the lightest tones in the image.
Before you go out for your mission to create HDR images, we recommend you to gather the following equipment.
1. Camera with “Auto Exposure Bracketing” (AEB) function. AEB function is not mandatory but if this is not present, then you have to manually adjust the camera settings in between every shot. This will delay the capture and you will have difficulty if you have moving subjects in the scene
2. A wide angle lens is recommended. It’s not necessary but usually, wide-angle photos look good in HDR.
3. A tripod is must, because you’ll take at least three shots with different exposure and if your camera is moved in between, it won’t merge properly.
4. You also need a remote shutter release cable so you don’t move your camera accidentally.
5. A photo blending software for merging the images. Some free software are available on the internet for HDR blending but they have limited features. For more control and better result, go for professional software.
1. Be friends with your camera manual first. To achieve great skill in HDR Photography or any other photography, you have to first get accustomed to all the other settings of your camera.
2. Find Auto Exposure Bracketing, an essential tool for HDR images. A simple bracketed sequence looks like -2, 0, +2. It means one exposure will be two stops underexposed, second with the right exposure and third exposure will be two stops overexposed.
3. Set Camera in AV mode and Set Aperture after this. The Av Mode or Aperture priority mode is the only one which will work for HDR. As you set the aperture, the camera sets the shutter speed. Always set a narrow aperture so you get deeper depth of field.
4. Determine the Metering mode which is one of the most complex areas of the camera. It is how the camera samples the light for determining the right exposure for the scene. So, first the camera has to scene the scene, analyze and finalize the settings. Evaluative Metering (Canon) will be working just fine for you. In Nikon, it’s called "Matrix" and "Multi" in Sony cameras.
5. Set the White Balance as it is important for the overall color balance of the image. The entire image will be off if the white balance is not proper. Auto White Balance is not recommended for HDR image as the camera may measure different WB settings for different shots and pictures will be different in terms of colors.
6. Change focus to manual and focus manually. Autofocus is not good for HDR photography, if the focus is different in different shots, it won’t merge properly.
7. Use remote shutter or self-timer of the camera to avoid all movements in the camera.
8. When everything is set, take the HDR Shots.
MIOPS Smart can be very useful for taking HDR shots. All you need to do is set the correct exposure value, the number of frames (3, 5 or 7) and exposure difference between all the shots (1/3 stops, 1/2 stops, 1 stop or 2 stops), set your camera on Bulb mode and just press a button. It’ll take all the required shots automatically and save you from all the hassles.
Things to remember:
1. Avoid moving subjects: A moving subject will not translate appropriately into HDR. For HDR we capture more than one shot and merge them, if you have a moving subject in your frame, it will also move in between the first and the last captured shot and create ghost effect in the final image.
2. Don’t use it to fix bad photos: HDR is a good tool but it doesn’t mean that you use it everywhere. Not all subjects are appropriate for HDR so use it wherever needed. Also, don’t use it to make bad photos looking good.
About the Author
Ramakant Sharda is an author, iOS App publisher, passionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.