HDR Photography

Many photographers attribute HDR photography to Ansel Adams, a famous American photographer and environmentalist for his black and whites. I’m sure you have seen some of his work on galleries and in department stores. He helped developed a system that determined proper exposure and sharpness from film to print. But what is HDR? For those who don’t know, it stands for high dynamic range. 

How HDR is accomplished is by blending three types of exposures into one. In other words, taking the same shot with a -1, 0 and +1 exposure value.  In a nut shell,  with a -1 exposure value, you capture all the shadows and blacks of your subject. A zero (0) exposure value, you record all the midtones and neutral color of your subject for a more balanced image. Finally, with a +1 exposure value, all the highlights of the subject and scene are recorded only. Therefore, when you blend all three exposures, you get something like this:

There are software applications that can help you achieve HDR. 

Photomatix specializes in HDR imaging. It takes your multi exposure value images and blends them together to create HDR. Once the images are blended, Photomatix will provide you with sliders on a dialogue box. It’s a little challenging at first if you do not know what the sliders mean, but with trial and error and some video tutorials to help you understand, you should be able to process images effectively and in no time. I used Photomatix on the this stock image below.

Nk Software’s HDR Efex Pro is also a helpful application that can also help you achieve HDR. I really like this software because it comes built with HDR presets. HDR Efex Pro allows you to open one image and then choose from a variety of presets to choose from. I think it’s the most easiest software to use because you do not have to do much to achieve HDR. Once you choose the preset you like, you can either adjust some of the sliders to your preference or leave as is. It’s priced well at $159.00. I process the image below using HDR Efex Pro.

Last but not least,we are left with Photoshop CS5 Extended by Adobe. Adobe promised to deliver HDR features in the Photoshop CS5 Extended through its HDR Pro filter. I thinks its okay. I mean, I haven’t seen any great results using it. I have tried to use it about three times and haven’t come up with anything extravagant. I don’t want to sway your decision in any way possible but I would recommend Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. However, if you cannot get Nik Software’s HDR Efex and have Photoshop, use Camera Raw. When you purchase Photoshop, it comes with Bridge and Camera Raw as a plugin. Camera Raw can create faux HDR effects. Through its sliders, Camera Raw can really create convincing HDR images. By cranking up the white and black sliders along with the recovery and contrast, you can easily achive an HDR effect. Increase the clarity slider and add some sharpness and you get something like this:

In conclusion, you can achieve HDR very easily. With all the free resources out there on the web, you can find tutorials on how to process single images and convert them to HDR, all be it, faux. Here are some helpful links to HDR processing.

I will post more links in the upcoming week. My laptop battery is running low and I cannot find the cord.


2 thoughts on “HDR Photography

  1. Wow…really nice. I like the saturation of your colors, it’s like your signature style. And great discussion about different ways to achieve the HDR look. I recently tried Photomatrix with some interesting results…however, your review of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro is convincing.

    • Thanks Cynth. HDR Efex Pro is the way to go. I think it’s affordable it you want to get into processing images into HDR. Also, what makes an AWESOME HDR is if the shot you take has excellent exposure. I may say, this can be difficult to acheive. That is why multiple exposures are needed for the same image to get a nice HDR result.

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