High Dynamic Range Images – HDR photography tutorial

High Dynamic Range Images – HDR photography tutorial Today I am going to follow up one of the previous tutorials where I have explained the concepts of exposure compensation and […]

High Dynamic Range Images – HDR photography tutorial

Today I am going to follow up one of the previous tutorials where I have explained the concepts of exposure compensation and exposure bracketing. As a food for thought I have tried to find a use for the exposure bracketing camera settings and the HDR or High Dynamic Range came to my mind.

What is HDR

If you are familiar with the basic concept of exposure, you should already know that any click of your camera will give you only one result depending on your camera settings. In the most of the situations, if you have a scene where you have a wide range of elements with various brightness levels, the camera will expose for an average, or if you are experienced enough to control it in the manual mode, you can ask it to give you a certain exposure for a certain element in your picture. The camera will never be able to expose for all elements in the image in teh same time, unlike your own eyes which will provide you with the best HDR image possible. Your brain will compensate the lack of light and it will show you what is in the shadow as well as what is very bright in front of you. Unfortunately your camera is not as smart and it will give you only one single result.

High Dynamic Range is the technique of combining several exposures taken of the same image, with the camera on a tripod, and enable you to see the dark and shadow areas of the image properly exposed in the same time with the very bright areas of the image. It is the post production tool to make an image to show all the information possible.

As a photographer I used to like HDR at the beginning, when I have discovered it and I was really impressed for the first time. However after abusing this for some time, I started to get bored and un-impressed with it as a very limited graphical language. I am sure a complete beginner or someone who does not know anything about it could be really impressed, however this is me and it might not be necessarily applicable to others. It is like one of those songs, so good that will make you listen over and over it again until it becomes void, strapped by meaning and it falls into disgrace.

I also dislike the fact the HDR looses the power of the contrast and flatten everything into something that becomes more like a texture. It loose depth and the strong impact. If you step away enough you cannot see the entire image any more but just flat surfaces. This is not reality, it is a graphic trick.

HDR is something that you either love, or hate.

Why and when use HDR images

Despite the fact I am not personally into it any more, I can see some aesthetic potential and a use for it. If you shoot in high contrast conditions and you want a result to overcome completely under exposed or overexposed parts of the pictures this might help. Images containing old vintage textures might take this HDR technique quite nice. for example industrial rusty images, or old sandstone churches.

Also a business application for HDR imaging is the real estate photography which enhances the external or internal photos of properties on the market. HDR is very useful tool to make properties look better , especially for the untrained eye of people who will see an image batter than in reality.

How to create a High Dynamic Range

This is a very simple question with a very simple answer. No matter what others will tell you, you will need a special software for it. There is nothing else. You need to take a several pictures on a tripod of the same image from the proper exposure level for the darkest element, to the proper exposure of the brightest. You need to take few pictures in between and let the software combine the best parts of every image and give you the entire image properly exposed, but remember, this is a trick and not reality.

You could the exposure bracketing for it, but it does carry the risk of getting it wrong, as you are limited by only 2 stops below and above the recommended exposure which might not be accurate in the first place. I am suggesting that you do it manually by exposing for the darkest area, and start taking individual shots in stop increments until you have the brightest part of the image properly exposed. This way you ensure you have enough exposures of the same image for a good HDR treatment. You can select 3 of even 5 images including the extremes and let the software do the rest.

You definitely need to purchase a software for this and you can do your own research which one will suit your budget and quality requirements.

That is basically about it and see below few images to outline the originals, and the final result. Remember, the best use for this can be turned into a business for real estate photography


see below the samples for the HDR exercise. Excuse the watermark, it was not the intention to purchase the software, but just a short demonstration.

IMG_5244HDR High Dynamic Range IMG_5247HDR High Dynamic Range IMG_5249HDR High Dynamic Range IMG_5244HDR High Dynamic Range_5247HDR High Dynamic Range_5249HD_and_more_easyHDR



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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and