HDR Photography: Introduction

This article is part 3 of 5 in the series High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography

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DISCLAIMER

This tutorial series is written for those just learning about their cameras.  If you have been using your camera for a number of years, then this tutorial isn’t really geared for you, but please feel free to read, we all learn something new even when reading about things we know.  

I decided to write this for those who really don’t understand or know what exposure is, or that their cameras have a built in light meter, or most other camera functions or photography basics.  This is for those who have used their cameras in the automatic mode and want to learn enough about the art and craft of photography to begin to use their cameras in the other modes available.  

I will have links to those sites that I have used to learn these concepts myself, and many of these sites will typically be a lot more in-depth than I will get.  These sites would be of interest to those with more knowledge and understanding.  Enjoy!

 

I love HDR photography!

I really do.

Many people have been turned off by HDR. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. What turns most people off are many bad HDR images that are produced. Some of the most garish and unreal photographs I have ever seen have been the result of poorly processed HDR images. The compression of the dynamic range in order to get it viewable and printable often leads to halos and overly saturated colors. Don’t worry if you are not sure what this means, you will by the end of this series of articles.

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HDR images can be beautiful and natural if done well. I use HDR as a technique, especially for scenes having great dynamic range. I consider HDR to be one of the tools in my tool box that I can access to create some great photographs!

Graveyard Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  Taken with 5 images processed in Photomatix Pro and Photoshop.

This series of blog articles is my addition to all the books out there on HDR. 

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F.Y.I.

Here is a list of some of the books I have used in my study of HDR Photography:

The HDR Book by Rafael “RC” Concepcion

A World in HDR by Trey Ratcliff

Fine Art Photography: High Dynamic Range by Tony Sweet

The HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch

Practical HDR by David Nightingale

These links will bring you to Amazon. These are not sponsored links, so I do not receive any payment for you clicking and purchasing.  These are just some of the books that I used to learn how to do HDR and I hope that they will help you as you learn.


 

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I found, especially when first starting out trying to do HDR processing, that I had to learn a lot on my own. There are a number of great books, but few which really walked the budding photographer step by step through the process of capture through to the process of post-processing your photographs. This series of blog posts will attempt to fill in that hole that I have found in HDR books to date.

I have split my posts into nine sections, with a fair number of blog articles in each section.  The first two sections will have a lot of blog posts as there is a lot of information to cover.  The following sections will consist of both blog posts along with video tutorials (as if there aren’t enough tutorials out there already!).

I find that we all learn differently, and I hope that my videos will help some of you.  I will also include links to other websites/youtube videos that complement the videos I will present.

So section 1 will discuss just what HDR or High Dynamic Range photography is all about. Here we will discuss the scene and how I figure out how many exposures I need to adequately cover the dynamic range I see before me. This will consist of a number of posts as I discuss concepts such as exposure and the zone system.

Section 2 will discuss the mechanics of capturing the images that will be used to create the HDR photograph. I will go over camera settings, why I set things the way I do, and what my expectations are regarding my images that I capture. This will consist of several posts, one discussing equipment that you should have as well as camera settings – the mechanics of setting up to capture a series of images for the creation of the final HDR image. I will also discuss what kind of scenes lend themselves to HDR, will discuss movement in the scene such as waves, clouds, and swaying trees as all of these are typically problematic when doing HDR processing.

HDR Photograph of a small waterfall in Paris, Maine.  7 images combined into an HDR using Photomatix and Photoshop

Section 3 will discuss my pre-processing of my selected images in Adobe Lightroom. There are certain things I do to prep my images for HDR processing, and I’ll walk you through what I do step by step. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the prep.

Section 4 will discuss processing images in Photomatix Pro. Photomatix Pro is perhaps the most widely used processing software for the creation of HDR images. I will walk step by step and explain the most important settings to get the desired results. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the process.

Section 5 will discuss processing images through Google’s (formerly NIK Software’s) HDR Efx 2.0 software. I like the Google filter suite and I like HDR Efx 2.0. I will walk through the most important settings to get the results I desire. Because of some issues I have found with HDR Efx, I will show you how I pre-process images in Lightroom before importing them into HDR Efx. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the process.

Sunrise beach scene in Virginia Beach. Photograph consists of 5 images processed through HDREfex Pro and worked on in Photoshop.

Section 6 will discuss what I do with my HDR images after the HDR processing. This work is done in Adobe Photoshop and will include blending several images, removal of color casts, and general cleaning up the photograph. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the process.

Section 7 will include a discussion of other HDR processing techniques, such as luminosity masks that can be used to blend several exposures together. In a sense, this is manual HDR, but the results are the most naturalistic of the processing techniques. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the process. I will highlight several photoshop actions from other photographers that will greatly aid you in your work.

Section 8 will be dedicated to having fun with HDR. There are times and situations where going overboard and playing with HDR effects can make the photograph into something special. I will discuss those times when it is  OK to go overboard, and I will show you how I process an image knowing that it will be overboard, but I hope you will agree that the subject matter works with the processing that will be discussed. This section will consist of a single post and will have a video tutorial to walk you through the process.

HDR Photograph I took in Maui of this really neat church.  Took 5 images, processed through Photomatix, and applied Topaz Labs Simplify Filter in Photoshop. I wanted a  fun image that captured the feeling I had when I saw this church and the sign.

Section 9 will be a general discussion of how you can incorporate HDR processing into your workflow and how you can use it according to your tastes. I find that most people, when seeing a tastefully processed HDR photograph don’t realize that it is an HDR photograph. And for me, that is the best compliment on my photographs. This will be a blog post that will be a general discussion of ways you can use HDR to achieve the look that you want to achieve.

Without further ado, let’s begin the journey!

Peace,

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