An Overview of HDR Photography

Photography has been possessed by a new sensation in the past couple of years known as HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. You’ll be wondering what this is and why photographers, both professionals and amateurs are so crazed by it. I’ll try explaining it as briefly as I can.

Photography in the past twenty or so years has progressed at an extraordinary pace with technological advancements being made so ever frequently. Lenses have come leaps and bounds so have the sensors and both these things along with the new age of processors have made photography uncomplicated. They provide the photographer with great control over what he does and wants, and his difficulties are eased with the cleverness and assistance of the inbuilt processors. But despite these great advancements modern day cameras, even the high end professional ones cannot always capture the true reality that our eyes can see. This is because the sensor in the camera acts like our eyes, but with limitations, it cannot capture all the lights and darks of an image, if you focus on a dark space then all of the scene will be captured with the darkness in mind and the picture will be underexposed (too dark) resulting in the brighter parts of the image lacking detail. Similarly Images can be overexposed when the picture has a very bright area as compared to the rest of the scene, this results in a loss of detail in the dark areas.

These two pictures can give you a general idea of the issues of underexposed and overexposed photos. The detail in the cabin is lost because the image was metered with the backdrop in mind. While in the second photo, the turtle was metered this resulted in the ground loosing detail

Now the question arises, what does HDR do? Well the DR in HDR means dynamic range; range is a term that refers to the amount of colors in an image, from the lightest (white) to the darkest (black). So to sum up, an average photograph has a limited dynamic range therefore it cannot capture all the detail in an image, what HDR does is that it enables us to capture photographs with a much wider dynamic range, giving the photograph much more depth and emotion.

This photograph does a great job of illustrating the power of HDR, despite being a bright day the sky hasn’t been able to underexpose the image, in fact HDR has given great depth to the sky which has really stood out. Then the ship has been captured in great detail, Overall this is a very balanced photograph with a wide dynamic range and attractive contrast.

Now another important question arises, where should a person use HDR instead of normal methods and what should the scene contain? Well the main prerequisite for shooting in HDR is that the scene should be a high contrast one with great variation in light to dark tones, this is because the power of HDR is to reveal as many colors as it can, so naturally the more colors you give it the better the outcome will be. Always try to present a story in the photograph, there must a theme and a emotion in the image that the viewer can refer to. HDR on a whole can be used in a variety of scenarios; I’ll show you some examples.

HDR in Landscapes

Landscape photography is one of the most commonly perused branches of photography and is very popular among amateurs. Landscapes usually provide the highest contrast ratio making them for the use of HDR .

The first picture of a landscape on the left is very dull and doesn’t seem very attractive, the photo was underexposed because the sky was bright with allot of clouds. The second shows the transformation that HDR generates. The photo has much more detail to it with dramatic clouds, shadows and sharpness which presents a sense of scale and beauty to the scenery.

HDR in Cityscapes

The following are photographs of two famous landmarks in Liverpool, England, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Canning Dock. Both have been taken in HDR and they have the potential to make any person an avid fan of HDR, they are both very inspiring examples to learn from. Cityscapes provide you with allot of subjects and you can narrate many stories.

HDR in Black and White

Black and White photography can be considered to be one the most powerful forms of art, it is ideal for expressing passion and details are heavily exposed. Black and white photography is normally used when colors aren’t expressing themselves correctly/meaningfully. These are two examples.

Hope you’ve got a sufficient overview, in part 2 I’ll be showing what you’ll need in order to capture HDR images and the techniques required. Thanks and Bye!

4 thoughts on “An Overview of HDR Photography

  1. Nigel

    These pics are lovely! I don’t dabble in photography, but I must say that you make the landscapes come ALIVE. Subscribed and joined your competition. Hopefully you’ll get to your target number of subscribers!

    Will you offer permission to use your images if I ask for your permission before posting them?

    1. Ryan Farmer

      Sure! Just make sure to provide a ping-back or a trackback (link) back to where you go them!
      Thanks!
      And maybe you would like to move to a real blog of your own and not on WordPress.com. Just let me know!

  2. Nigel

    Great! A track-back link is a must. It’s basic courtesy.
    I’ve just got myself a domain btw, still hosted by wordpress though, as I don’t want the hassle of installing everything from the ground up 🙂

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