Is HDR all the rage? Why? How to?

Posted on: September 14th, 2010

Well there is a reason for it; once reserved to pros, it’s now possible to get some gorgeous photos.

“What is HDR?”

A scene with a high dynamic range is one with a very big difference between the lightest or brightest part and the darkest or shadow part: this difference makes it impossible or very difficult for the camera (any camera) to record all the brightness information accurately.
Basically, if the dark areas are accurately recorded, the highlights become too bright – completely white. And if we record the brighter areas properly, the shadows become completely black. So the trick is to combine low-exposure images with high-exposure images.
We identified at least three submitted photos using this technique, along with tone-mapping. See by yourself.


The above photo was shot by Julia Schulze, Vancouver, British Columbia, and
submitted on July 31, 2010, titled : “Unforgettable moments, May 2010, Jasper National Park, Alberta.”


This other one was shot by Tim Harpur, Waterdown, Ontario, submitted on July 26, 2010, and
titled: “My wife and I took a trip up highway 93 towards Jasper. This is just one of the many amazing views along the way.

On September 20, 2010, Tim wrote us, let’s see what’s his take on HDR technique(s):

“I use two principle techniques for my photos. First, if it is a landscape or other non-moving scene – I use a tripod and set the camera to take an exposure bracketed shot at + and – 2 stops. I then process the three images in Photomatix to get an HDR which I then tone map. I then take this tone mapped image and layer it over the ‘normal’ mid exposure from the three shots. I blend it to get the desired level of effect – it all depends on the scene and what effect I’m going for. If I’m shooting a moving target (such as wildlife) exposure bracketing is not an option so I take a single RAW image – then do a ‘simulated HDR’ which I tone map (this is not as good a true HDR but it does help to bring out some details). When I do this single shot I blend it back in with the source image also but usually at a much lower weighting. For the record, every image I submitted used one or the other technique – I almost always post process with Photomatix to at least some degree.”
~Tim Harpur


This last example is quite interesting, was shot by Ken Balaz, Lethbridge, Alberta, submitted on June 9, 2010, with some intriguing title: “This is a simulated HDR effect of the Prince of Wales in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. It was shot while on a family picnic at the park.“. Intriguing is the fact he’s mentioning simulated HDR effect…We don’t know what he means there. Does he mean he didn’t go through the full process. Still it’s a pretty nice shot!

See in the “comments” section (at the end of this post) what Ken thinks about the technique he’s been using with success.

If you’re like me, you’d probably like to see a before and after shot., or more accurately what were the original shots used to produce the final HDR one. Here is one example taken from this company’s website, photomatix. This company is actually proposing a software helping you throughout the process. They’ve got a trial version as well, time to give it a shot!


“How can I do the same, improve my shots?”

We found this “plain English” video tutorial, enjoy!

“Would you prefer a written tutorial?”

This step-by-step one is clear, written by a Photoshop© pro, a little lengthy though.

“Want to know more about HDR?”

To Wikipedia and Sony (UK)
Don’t forget to have fun, but submit your HDR photos to our photos contest...
before March 2011!
Another piece of advice from the National Geographic Director of photography we posted on May 12, 2010. Watch it here.

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