HDR UNCLOAKED

This is a very simple guide intended as a basic introduction to those wanting to try HDR without all the ‘frilly’ bits found in other ‘simple’ guides.

Ok, so just so that you know what it stands for (and can casually drop it into the conversation) it’s High Dynamic Range – don’t worry about it.

First there’s light and one of the ways light can vary is ‘intensity’ – it ranges from very dark to very bright – at either of these extremes it’s difficult to see any detail – you cant see what you’re looking at!

The thing is when we look at something with our eyes, the iris (coloured bit) is continually changing the size of the pupil (hole where the light gets in) to make sure the right amount of light enters the eye to give us the best possible vision.

Now the poor old camera can’t do that (yet). When you take a picture the camera is set and the amount of light which enters is fixed. So what, well often nothing – it ‘s ok. BUT sometimes the range of illumination (light intensity) is just too great for that setting to cope with. The dark bits may be too dark or the bright bits may be too bright or both.

Look at this photograph taken inside Walmer Castle in Kent using the ‘correct’ camera setting – so if you point and shoot this could be what you’ll get.

Now, I reckon that the light from the window is way too bright and is fading out the wall colour and making it hard to see the paintings, etc. At the same time, in other areas the shadow is so dark that you can’t make out details; i.e. we’ve got both bits that are too bright and bits that are too dark. We need HDR.

So what we need to do is take at least another two images (identical to the first – SO DON’T MOVE THE CAMERA). One shot should let in less light (under exposed) in order to cope with the bright bits and the other should let in more light (overexposed) to cope with the dark bits. Have a look at the two images below to make sure you understand what I’m going on about.

“Oh yeah but how do I do it?”

Effectively you’re gonna need to take control of your camera – just a teensy bit – really all depends on what camera you’ve got so I don’t want to go into too much detail.

First check whether your camera has an ‘Exposure Bracketing’ function. If it has great, follow the instructions and give it a go.

Personally, if I’m using this function I’ll set the camera to ‘aperture priority’ (av), fix the aperture (size of the hole) to whatever I want and let the camera choose the shutter speed (how long the hole is open). I also tend to use a ‘continuous shooting’ mode but you don’t have to. What you must do is KEEP THE CAMERA STILL. How you do this is up to you.

I’m not gonna go into manual settings here and now as most cameras nowadays have this facility and it works pretty well – if you haven’t and want more specific advice feel free to contact me. It occurs to me that a lot of cameras also have a distinct HDR function setting – I guess you can use this but I’m not sure how much control you’ll have and you’re not gonna learn very much..

There’s all sorts of extra stuff about how many images you should shoot, how much you should under or over expose, how to use histograms, etc. I don’t think this is the time to go into those, I don’t want to put anyone off trying. My advice, when you find a subject you like, try it with different settings – my philosophy has always been personal experience is 100 times more effective than reading how someone else did it.

Ok, so you’ve got your 3 (or more) images, now you need to put them through some suitable software to get your blended image. The final outcome will depend on the original shots, the software you’re using and the type of image you want – they can range from almost natural to totally outrageous – all have their place.

By the way, here’s the HDR image which was used by the client.

There you go, wasn’t too painful I hope. Now you can Google HDR and find out all you’ve ever wanted know without feeling stooopid!

I wish you good shooting.

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