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Unlocking the Mysteries of HDR Photography

HDR photography is a type of photography where a photographer will combine images taken at different exposures to create an image that better represents the range of lights, values, and hues that is visible to the human eye. By capturing multiple photos with different exposure settings and then layering them together, hdr photography creates stunning and vibrant images with unparalleled detail.

HDR greatly enhances shadow detailing, allowing for the details within dark areas of photos to be seen, whereas photos not taken in hdr are often times too dark and lack clarity due to low light settings. If you are looking for photo editing techniques that will make your photographs look truly unique and dynamic, hdr photography is certainly worth exploring.

What is HDR photography?

First, let’s see what HDR photography is. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. In simple words is a post-processing task to merge images with different light levels.

HDR photography provides an enhanced, breathtaking look at the world around us. Merging multiple images of varying light levels creates a more dynamic and vibrant range than what is usually seen with a single photo from your camera’s auto mode. Put simply, it lets you capture crisper details in both highlights & shadows to bring out maximum intensity.

Capturing a perfect photo can be difficult, especially when attempting to capture dark objects against a bright background. Thankfully, HDR photography offers an effective solution by combining multiple exposures of the same scene together into one image. Achieving this look typically requires three images, one that is underexposed (dark), another overexposed (light), and then finally properly exposed.



Cameras for HDR photography

With the right camera, capturing extraordinary photos has never been easier. Even basic DSLRs will likely come with auto-bracketing features that allow you to take multiple exposures of a subject.

You can also find compact cameras equipped for this technique, plus, if your hands are steady enough, you may not need to use a tripod. For best results though it’s still recommended.

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Software for HDR photography

To create beautiful HDR images we need tools like Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Photomatrix. For great results, a combination of Photoshop and HDR stitching software is recommended.

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Real HDR vs fake

HDR images can truly bring a photo to life with an extended range of luscious tones. However, be wary of the “pseudo-HDR” technique. Third-party plugins and presets may promise vibrant photos, yet they cannot replace real HDR imaging where three or more exposures are needed for true quality results.

Capturing HDR images

HDR photography of stationary objects can be wonderfully effective, adding depth and dimension to the image. However, true HDR shots with moving subjects are much more difficult, they require strong lighting and a quick burst rate in order to capture various exposures which will ultimately create an immersive visual experience.

The first step is to mount the camera on a tripod. Activate AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) on your camera and start shooting. You can quickly take 3 or more shots at different exposures without having to manually change any settings. Most digital cameras will allow you to change the variation between the shots.

A good variation between your three shots is to select a 2 stop-gap. Using +/- 2 stops will give you less noise in the shadows and will produce a higher range.



HDR post-processing workflow

When shooting for HDR, it is important to reduce image noise before you begin the stitching process. The dark shots tend to produce more grain and can affect your final result negatively if not taken care of beforehand.

When merging with software, tone mapping will give you control over corrections like white balance or other imperfections, but make sure not to get too carried away. Strive for a balanced output that looks natural instead of aiming for a dramatic look straight away.

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Further editing

If you’ve ever noticed that HDR images have a familiar look, it’s because they are unedited after the tone-mapping process. Photoshop is here to help create more unique images.

Import your HDR image and reduce any noise with curve adjustment layers. Make sure to also crop for perspective and blend in parts of the original shots if needed, this will lower highlights & shadows accordingly while still maintaining an eye-catching atmosphere.

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Is there an easier way?

Creating real HDR images involves effort at the time of shooting and post-processing. There is no easy way if you want to create real HDR photos. A number of DSLRs and compacts now have a built-in automatic HDR mode. Automation is always good but there is no trophy.

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