High Dynamic Range (HDR)

Posted: June 10, 2008 by ralliart12 in Technopia
Tags: , , , , , , ,


As digital sensors attain progressively higher resolutions, and thereby successively smaller pixel sizes, the one quality of an image which does not benefit is its dynamic range. This is particularly apparent in compact cameras with resolutions near 8 megapixels, as these are more susceptible than ever to blown highlights or noisy shadow detail. Further, some scenes simply contain a greater brightness range than can be captured by current digital cameras– of any type.

The “good news” is that nearly any camera can actually capture a vast dynamic rangejust not in a single photo. By varying the shutter speed alone, most digital cameras can change how much light they let in by a factor of 50,000 or more. High dynamic range imaging attempts to utilize this characteristic by creating images composed of multiple exposures, which can far surpass the dynamic range of a single exposure.


HDR means ‘High Dynamic Range’. Using software like Photomatix you can create images with a more detail in the highlights and shadows than you can with a normal photo from todays digital cameras. Its similar to the old technique of exposure blending. Taking one photo for the sky and one for the ground, then merging them both together in Photoshop. HDR takes it a step further by increase the amount of detail in the image and allows you to create some unique photos. You can use it carefully to create natural looking photos or you can use it creatively to create atmospheric and emotive photos. The choice is yours as to how you process the end result.

High dynamic range images enable photographers to record a greater range of tonal detail than a given camera could capture in a single photo. This opens up a whole new set of lighting possibilities which one might have previously avoided—for purely technical reasons. The new “merge to HDR” feature of Photoshop CS2 allows the photographer to combine a series of bracketed exposures into a single image which encompasses the tonal detail of the entire series. There is no free lunch however; trying to broaden the tonal range will inevitably come at the expense of decreased contrast in some tones. Learning to use the merge to HDR feature in Photoshop CS2 can help you make the most of your dynamic range under tricky lighting—while still balancing this trade-off with contrast.

If you do not understand, or dun give a damn about the whole chunk of text above, just look at the pretty pictures: I’ve gathered some samples which I felt, best illustrates this topic:

I’m very keen on the surreal effect as demonstrated in the images above. Hopefully, with the assistance of my soon-to-be new camera, I will be able to generate some shots of similar caliber, but with a more personal context in the near-future. And to top it off, here’s a very good intro video about HDR:


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