How HDR fills the gap between human eye and photography

HDR Amsterdam bridge

Even the world’s best camera is far away from capturing the same amount of light ratio between different areas in a given scene.

In terms of exposure steps (you will be reading more about this in further posts), human eye is able to pick an amount ranging from 10 to 14. On the other hand, camera sensors just make it to 2 or 5 depending on its quality.  What it is to say that with small differences of contrast in a scene, every pixel in your picture is neither too bright nor too dark. Big differences of light in a frame could make good pictures, but always with poor colors. For instance, the next picture is not black and white as it seems. On the contrary, if you take a close look, you could easily perceive it is a view against the light. Just shapes are shown and colors remain hidden.

River Muros and Noia

A few years ago, a new photography technique named HDR (High Dynamic Range), came to light. It mixes a number of differently exposed shots of the same scene in just one picture through an especific software.

Only exposure time changes in these shots, in order to have the same depth of field in every picture and 3, 5, 7, or 9 pictures are normally combined (the more contrast, the more shots required).

bracketing amsterdam
HDR Amsterdam

At this point, it is remarkable that softwares make it possible to arrange pseudo-HDRs with just one taken shot. This feature would be justified when facing a moving object in a given scene (works that usually give quite a hard time). Anyway, unfortunately quality is reduced.

Nowadays, almost all digital cameras have an autobracketing option (aka BKT). If selected, you choose the number of photographs you want to take and the exposure differences between them. Obviously, a tripod comes in handy. If the occasion arises, lighting is looking great and you only have your camera with you; you could also take advantage of the fast continuous shooting mode and test your pulse. Last, but not least: remember to shoot in RAW with the lowest ISO you can (tone mapping multiplies noise).

HDR works best whenever there are metallic elements, large texture and color differences and light facing. Whether a stormy sky might result in an impressive picture, dull skies won’t make the cut.

HDR A Coruña

There are several software programs to process a HDR photography. Just to name a few: Photoshop, Photomatix pro, Artizen HDR, qtpfsgui (yes, there are no mistaping mistakes and this one is free!), Easy HDR, FDR tools, Photogenics HDR, Dynamic-Photo HDR and more to come for sure.

In case you wonder, I use Photomatix Pro although Adobe Photoshop CS6 could be also be my choice.

Like every other novelty, and along with the customary pros and cons, diverse critics do not consider HDR as photography.

What would be your take?

There are 11 comments

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  1. Albertine

    Really liked what you had to say in your post, HDR photography | A World to Travel, thanks for the good read!
    — Albertine

  2. Samuel Jeffery

    Great article on HDR photography. I have to admit it’s not my favourite but I do find it useful/creative in certain situations.

    • Jose Martinez

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s not my fav either but if they are kept natural, it’s another interesting tool to use. Some dramatic HDR skies may have a great comic effect!

    • Inma

      Gracias! Intentaremos traducirlos en cuanto cojamos “momentum” ;)
      Thanks! We will try to translate our posts into spanish as soon as possible :) we know google translator kinda sucks sometimes..

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