HDR photography is one of the latest imaging techniques, being capable of reproducing a more dynamic range of luminosity when compared to the standard photos and images. HDR aims to provide the maximum level of luminance that the human eye is able to see in normal, everyday conditions.
It is not a secret that the human eye can see many more details and greater luminosity in comparison with the images or movies that can be caught on camera. The eye sees 11 types of light, while a normal camera can see only 3 types.
Most HDR photos are created by combining three photos of the same scene. The three pictures will have bright, medium and low light levels; this is usually achieved by limiting the amount of light which goes through the camera lenses. Then, a software application does the rest of the job, combining all the details and light. The end result is a picture with a much higher range, similar with what the human eye is able to see live.
If you thought that HDR is a recent invention, you should think about it again. Back in 1850, Gustave Le Gray was the first photographer that had the idea of using several exposures to capture the best luminance in his photos. Then, in 2005, Adobe Systems introduced the very first elements that led to the creation of the HDR picture technology.
HDR photos can easily be taken by everyone, provided that some simple conditions are met. First of all, you must have a camera, of course. The brand or model aren’t that important these days, when even a smartphone has a camera that would have put to shame top of the line cameras a decade ago.
So don’t obsess over getting the best camera, because that’s not the main element when it comes to creating high quality HDR images. The most appropriate camera is one that’s able to take multiple photos using “Auto bracketing mode” or “Auto exposure mode” or “Exposure bracketing”. These are similar features, coined differently by different companies, but they do the same job. Get one of these cameras and you will be set.
Then, you will want to use a tripod, especially if you intend to take sunset photos, for example.
The most important element is the software that you intend to use. There are some very good applications like Photomatix Pro, but they may be a bit pricey if you don’t earn your paycheck making photos.
Adobe Lightroom is another piece of HDR software, offering a free trial. This gives its potential users the chance of testing the application before purchasing it.
Topaz Adjust is another interesting option, and one that stands out because it can bring sharpness to the final version of the photo. Actually, professionals have been using the entire Topaz suite of applications because it’s one of the best in its industry.
Here are a few more applications that can help you achieve the best quality with your HDR images:
Noiseware Professional is one of the best software programs that can reduce the noise, working well on both Windows and Mac computers. HDR images are known for their extra noise, so an application like this may come in handy.
Adobe Photoshop and its cheaper Adobe Elements version are the most well-known programs that help you work with layers. Both applications can be tested using the free trial versions that are available on Adobe’s site.
If the colors are exaggerated, tone mapping can be used to reduce the dynamic range, or the contrast ratio of the entire image. This operation can be applied to HDR files using different software programs like Adobe Photoshop, Aurora HDR, Dynamic Photo HDR, HDR Photostudio, Luminance HDR or Oloneo PhotoEngine.
Once you have the required device, it is time to go out and take the first pictures. Take more photos of the same scene, and then process them using your favorite HDR software application. You must use different exposures to get the perfect HDR photo. The autobracketing function will allow you to take several photos in a rapid sequence. Simply activate the function on the camera, and then set the desired number of exposures. The aperture priority is the necessary camera mode to use when taking pictures.
Here’s a 40 minutes tutorial that explains several tricks of the trade.
When should you take HDR pictures? The answer is simple: take them every time when you want to have a better looking photo. HDR provides great results especially when you decide to take pictures of landscapes, portraits and low light scenes. As an example, when you photograph a landscape using HDR, the sky will be bright and the land will not be very dark, the way it happens with regular photos. Of course, HDR is also useful when you have darker scenes that need more light to show all their details.
Taken HDR photos is definitely not a good idea when you want to take action photos, or photograph high contrast scenes or vivid colors scenes. When subjects move, you will get blurry photos. For best results, HDR needs to uses three pictures, and when the subjects move, the final picture will look bad. On the other hand, when a photo already has vivid colors, HDR will not help that much, because its main goal is to make the colors look more intense.