Light is Everything!

HDR Tutorial

This is a brief tutorial on making HDR images. There’s zillions of other posts/pages on the information super highway already so you can look up more info there about it. But this is how I do it. Which makes it infinitely better. 8) Just kidding! 😉

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s been around forever conceptually, even since film days. But now, with digital it’s easy and fun. Get a camera and a tripod and find a scene that has loads of contrast: lots of lights and darks. The idea behind this kind of photography is to keep all the detail in the darks and in the light parts of the image. Because the camera currently cannot capture the same amount of dynamic range that the human eye can see, in one camera photo you don’t get as much range as you see with your eye. So, you take 3-7 photos of varied exposure and layer them together with software. I use Nik’s HDR eFex Pro. It’s super slick and comes with many final image presets you can apply to stylize the final image, making it look as surreal or as realistic as you want.

OK, here’s a sunset one I took the other night. And in all truth, it’s not how I typically do it. I was on top of my roof with my 70-300 lens and I did this handheld, which isn’t optimal. Get a tripod so there is no camera movement.

So, the first image: bang. Here it is.The camera meters the scene and determines that this is the best balance of light and dark. We get all that rich colour in the sky & the river. But the valley hills have gone dark and silhouetted the evergreen. This was at ISO 400 f/8 70mm and the shutter was 1/100.

 The next shot speeds the shutter up to 1/200, recording an even darker, more saturated image. This one gives the mad colour, but kills off almost all the detail in the hills.The third image washes out the sky but it lifts the details up out of the hills with a slower shutter speed of 1/50. All three images are 1 stop of light apart from each other.
Now, technically, it would be better to get a couple more images here to further lift the details out of the dark regions. But, as I mentioned, this was handheld. If you have a tripod it’s easy to do.

Then, after feeding the photos into the Nik software (I use it as a plug in with Aperture) you can arrive at the final HDR image. There’s loads of darks and lights, rich colours and highlight detail that otherwise would have been lost. HDR is having your cake and eating it too. 8) When you stylize the image, you can make it look wild with texture, like I did here to make the clouds go boom. But you can also finish them to look realistic too which I did for this photo of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Regina. The light pouring in from that window would have made getting a balanced exposure difficult.

So there you go, a quick tutorial on HDR. Always use your histogram to see if you’ve clipped any highlights or darks in the image. 8)

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