Photoblog by a proud citizen of planet earth

Why HDR?


I’ve been asked lately about the HDRs that I do and how I do them, instead of responding to the individual e-mails and comments I figured I’d do a series of posts over time and this is the first instalment. First off, let’s be honest over here: I’m not a professional and I don’t think I’m that good; I do think that I’ve improved a lot over time though πŸ™‚ I do appreciate all the kind comments so with all the humility I figured I’d share the knowledge. But as the saying goes: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”, I don’t want this to be a recipe type of “knowledge sharing” so its only appropriate to start with why use the technique to begin with.

Why HDR?
First you must realize that the human eye is an amazing “sensor” compared to any other camera made to man. The dynamic range (area going from really bright to really dark) covered by the human eye is almost twice of that of a top of the line camera sensor. The image above is the complete HDR which is more representative of what it really looked like that day; I remember the green grass, the blue skies, the orange sunset thats what my eyes were seeing. If you get your camera out, set the aperture and shutter speed to a “correct” exposure chances are you going to get something like below:

The sky is pretty much completely blown out, the details in the trees are completely gone but I do remember the clouds and I do remember the flowers. The histogram of 0 EV bias shows that we have blown out areas (right side) and clipping (left side) :


This is one of the best times to apply the HDR technique to capture the scene and the whole idea is to take multiple exposures that will capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. Over time you’ll build the experience to determine how many exposures you need and what range to capture in the meantime just use the histogram, its there for a reason πŸ™‚ The idea is not to have anything blown out in the most underexposed image and not to have any clipping in the most overexposed image.

I will get into more of the technicals in a future post if people find this helpful but I think its key that you understand why HDR is needed so you know when to use it. Which leads me to my 2 lessons that I learned as a beginner and I’m sharing with anyone starting out with HDR:
1- If you want to do HDR Photography don’t forget the photography piece which means composition… its all about that, HDR is just a technique.
2- Not everything needs to be an HDR, and I think specially if there isn’t that much variance in the dynamic range or texture.

For the image above I had to take 6 exposures from -3 EV to +2 EV and I took them at 1 EV interval. Here is a slideshow of the brackets, unfortunately I’m not sure how to sort them but they go in the following order: 0,+1,+2,-1,-2,-3 EV

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you found this helpful, if you follow this blog regularly you know I don’t write more than a few sentences a day so this was quite a stretch for me πŸ™‚

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11 responses

  1. Very informative post! I’m one of the many of your followers who’s interested on learning this HDR technique. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge. I’m looking forward for your further tutorial πŸ˜‰ Cheers Mate! πŸ™‚

    July 3, 2012 at 2:47 am

  2. Excellent post. I think you’ve covered the “why” of HDR very well.

    July 3, 2012 at 3:52 am

  3. Awesome post! Interesting tidbit about the human eye, as opposed to the camera sensor. Glad you are doing this series. I’m curious about the process for this technique in general, and also about your process as a photographer. Neat-o, dude. πŸ™‚

    July 3, 2012 at 4:09 am

  4. Great shots ! Well taken! =)

    July 3, 2012 at 4:41 am

  5. Interesting to read how other people use HDR. I’m a bit of an HDR cheat who does it off one RAW shot but you might inspire me to try it out properly with the bracketed exposures!

    July 3, 2012 at 4:51 am

  6. Enjoyed your post; Very informative. It’s good to see “natural” HDR images.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

  7. You’ve been so consistently successful at bringing your stuff on the table like it’s a the most delicious food for devouring. Actually, I tried to bring something like your photos but I just can’t. So, I just accepted the reality that your gift and camera is different from mine.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:23 am

  8. Great start….. and, thank you!

    July 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm

  9. This is a fantastic blog post! It is very informative and to be honest I can clearly see why especially for this image why you would use the HDR technique. Without it the beautiful blue sky would be over saturated and you would not be able to make out sun at all much less the red leaves in the bush. I have only played with HDR photography just once in the past and I did like the outcome of photograph. Amazingly I did not really think about the entire process much less the reasons why people use the technique until I read this post and viewed the example images. This may sound like a silly question but I am curious to know how a portrait of a person in black and white & color would turn out after you processed them. I do have some HDR software at home but the particular name escapes me at the moment but if you ever have the time or inkling to try it I would love to see it.

    July 5, 2012 at 8:14 am

  10. dianne

    well done.. : )

    July 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

  11. Thanks for sharing…

    July 6, 2012 at 11:53 am