Published on November 25, 2011


High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) seems to be the big new thing on the horizon, adopted on the iPhone 4 and becoming prolific on digital stills and camcorders. I thought I would take a look at this medium and try my hand at it for fun.

Basically HDR is a technique where you take many different exposures of the same photograph. This in itself is not new, in fact it’s a traditional technique known as “bracketing” which allows the photographer to choose from a variety of different contrast levels before committing to making a print of that image. However, instead of 2-5 different bracketed images, HDR can use many images, even 11 or 13 images are possible.

When these images are processed in the camera, or with computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, the best parts of each image are chosen to augment the correctly exposed image that was taken at the same time. The photographer can then edit the image further, finessing it to an acceptable final photograph.

Previously, if you had an under-exposed picture the shadows would be intense and areas of the image filled in with darkness, conversely over-exposed images were blown out and overly bright. In difficult compositional settings – a sunset over a mountain range for example – a correctly exposed image would be hard to achieve and could even be boring as the shadows may be weak or the highlights not dazzling. HDR changes that by combining the best shadows and best highlights with a well exposed mid-range – enabling you to take pictures that were not possible before.

The colour range is also much greater, and this can result in surreal and otherworldly pictures that simply can’t be achieved with a camera alone.

On a recent walking weekend in Ambleside, Cumbria, I packed my camera and attempted to take a few of these pictures for myself. I have to be honest though that, whilst the weekend was amazing, the photographs were a bit disappointing. I found that a tripod is a must unless you have a camera with built in technology (mine is older), and more turbulent weather (as always) would have been more exciting.

I did make one picture that I was happy with and I’ll share it with you here. You can see that it’s a lot more dramatic than the standard version I took to compare it with and, whilst the actual weather was positively balmy for November, the HDR version at least looks like we are heading to winter!!

If you are interested in this kind of photography then you may like to look at this article at Smashing Magazine which has some exceptional examples.

André Knott

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