Introduction to HDR Photography

Introduction to HDR Photography: A New Kind of Artistic Photography

Photography, which was only once a passion for a few, has become a full-time job for a lot of people today. To help these photography professionals discover new ways to bring out the best effect, more and more styles and new technologies have been introduced to capture subjects from different angles and perspectives perfectly. High-end cameras and advanced equipments now flock the market for photographers of every level to use.

One of the latest developments that took photography to a whole new level today is the HDR.

What is HDR Photography

High Dynamic Range Imaging or simply known as HDR photography is a type of photography that involves the use of a set of methods in photography and imaging, to get the greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest arrange of an image than standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. Images in HDR can capture images in more accurate intensity found in real-life scenes, whether it's under direct sunlight or even in faint starlight, and is often shot through plurality of pictures in different exposure of the same subject.

In layman's term, HDR images show more dynamic range as compared to those images taken by an ordinary digital camera and make high-quality photographs. HDR is a type of photography method that provides higher dynamic range right from the imaging process.

Cameras with no HDR capabilities capture photos using one exposure level and in a limited contrast range. As a result, images are lacking of details both in bright and/or dark areas of the picture, depending on how the camera is set (low or high exposure setting).

HDR addresses this loss taking details in multiple pictures using different exposure levels and joining them all together to come up with one photo that shows both the bright and dark areas of the subject. HDR method usually captures three or more photographs taken in different exposures to make a more beautiful and dramatic final image.

The term HDR is also used to refer images derived from HDR imaging in such a way that it exaggerates the contrast of a subject for the sake of artistic effect.

HDR is actually a relatively new concept, and many people mistake this as more colorful and an unrealistic artistic type of photography. The use of HDR technology is to increase the dynamic range, capture clearer photographs, and overcome all the restrictions there is in standard and ordinary camera.

The Theory Behind HDR Photography

There are actually two theories behind HDR photography, and as the technology develops, so as the discipline. However, if one has to take this genre seriously, then he or she must first understand the concepts and theories that make up this type of photography.

The most basic of all HDR photography theories is to capture multiple shots of the subject at varying levels of exposure. The camera's special program will then combine these images into one single image.

The second theory is with the use of RAW processing software. Photographers need to make various levels of exposure of an image. A lot of compact points-and-shoot digital cameras and mid and high-end Digital SLR cameras in the today allow shots of RAW images. A RAW file is an image captured using the camera's sensor; it's unprocessed, and thus, it doesn't contain color information yet. Photographers then need to maneuver this file, adjust lighting, white balance, and of course, exposure.

Advantages of HDR Photography

Today, this type of photography has become a more popular option for hobbyists and professional photographers. If you're quite new to this style of photography, simply browsing through the samples of HDR images online will easily catch you in awe.

With HDR technology, one can bring together images taken at varying exposures and come up with excellent images in great light detail, which is quite impossible in ordinary cameras. Though you're always free to add various effects to your photos, HDR style will keep your photo realistically beautiful.

If you're into artistic photography but don't have the skill set yet to take excellent still images, then this style will let you pour all your creative juices, as HDR technology will assist in every subject, you wish to capture. But of course, to get a perfect angle of any subject, you should carry a tripod. You can also tweak the photos a bit in your computer and use some special effects.

Collecting Data for HDR Photographs

Taking pictures is the first stage and the most basic way to do HDR photography. A simple compact point-and-shoot camera with HDR capability or a configurable digital SLR camera will do.

Of course, the camera should have configurable exposure settings. Modern mid and high-end digital cameras have this function, while some SLRs use bracketing function allowing photographers to change exposure settings a lot easier.

For beginners, a simple setting of ISO 200 is good enough. Also, set the camera in Aperture Priority Mode. With the use of a tripod, take a picture of a particular angle of a subject in three shots using different exposure settings: use EV 0, EV -2 and EV +2. You can experiment on this as you develop your understanding of your camera, but generally, the more exposure versions you use, the better your final image will get.

Tripod is crucial in HDR photography, as it stabilizes the camera to get the clearest image possible, which is crucial in experimenting in different exposure levels. The best way to snap photos here is through shutter mode. If your camera doesn't have this feature, just make sure you press your shutter button very slightly in taking the photo.

Post Processing HDR Photos

This is the last stage of HDR photography, and this is where your creative sensibility and technical skills merge. This is also the stage where you need the help of photo-editing software. Advanced digital cameras, however, can do the post processing right on the camera.

There are times when those three images you took with varying exposure levels won't be enough, thus your only chance is to post-process the images.

Post-processing of HDR photography is about contrast, brightness, and darkness adjustments. Adjustments in brightness and darkness are the direct digital translation of exposure manipulation in the shooting stage. Basically, you adjust the exposure setting in shooting, while in the post-processing, it's the brightness that you need to adjust.

This process helps photographers exceed the limitations of manually configuring their cameras, as it provides a limitless number of exposure settings.

The most widely used of photo-editing software are Adobe Photoshop, Dynamic Photo HDR, or Photomatix Pro. Images are then merged in the software's HDR feature to come up with a beautiful work of art.

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