HDR for the Rest of Us

Old Havana, Cuba. This is what most of us associate with HDR imagery; surreal colors and exaggerated saturation. A taste embraced by some and reviled by others.

Whenever I teach an HDR (high dynamic range) photography workshop, the first thing I do is ask my students to type a Google search for 'I hate HDR'. More than a million results pop up, most of them bemoaning the damage that HDR images have wrought on photography. 

I actually think there's a place for surreal HDR imagery and that when it is done well, it's as valid as any other creative approach to photography. I'll be the first to agree, however, that there are plenty of HDR images out there that are an over-sharpened, hyper-saturated mess.

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 15mm fisheye (3x exposures combined)With skillful processing, HDR composite images can take on a much more natural look.

But even photographers who wish to create more traditionally-photographic types of images can benefit greatly from capturing wide dynamic range scenes. After all, we see the world around us in a very wide dynamic range, so why shouldn't we take advantage to photograph it that way as well? And at its core, that's really what HDR photography is about.

In this article, I'll share some of my HDR images that were created using the in-camera processing of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. On the following page I'll  talk about the need to take more control over exposure bracketing and use HDR-specific software. All in the service of creating images that seek to emulate the world we see with our own eyes.

In-camera HDR

My guess is that if I did not tell you, you would not know that the image above is an HDR image, created by merging three exposures (0, +2 and -2) together in the Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the HDR mode set to Art Vivid. The separate exposures used to create the composite are shown below.

Here you see the three raw files used to create the in-camera JPEG using the Canon 5D Mark III.

 You may be wondering why the three shots above are all tilted. Here's why.

To achieve the shooting angle I desired, I had to kneel down in the sand and cold water and shoot very low to the water at an awkward angle. Very cold water was leaking into my boots as I was shooting. Brrrrrrr! But I had to get the shot.

Due to the awkward position I was in, it was obvious the resulting shots would be tilted, so I shot extra wide knowing two things: 1) I'd crop and rotate my picture in Photoshop. 2) When the 5D Mark III merges images together, some image area is lost at the top, bottom, left and right of the frame.

Although the in-camera processing did a reasonably good job, I still brought the image into Photoshop.  After checking the histogram I used a Levels adjustment layer to make sure the blacks were black and whites were white. I then boosted the saturation a bit. Next I  added a blue gradual filter in Nik Software's Color Efex Pro and then as a final step, sharpened the image using Photoshop's Covert to Smart Filter > Unsharp Mask  in order to make selective sharpening edits.

Here is another example of in-camera HDR processing, followed by some additional edits and a crop in Photoshop.

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 17-40mm lens. HDR was needed to capture the entire dynamic range of this scene.

Below is the middle exposure from the three-image sequence used to generate the HDR composite.

Original image with no exposure compensation adjustment. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

Okay. I know what some of you guys are saying. The contrast range in this middle exposure does not look to be too extreme in the first place. And a skilled digital darkroom expert could have simply used a single raw file to pull out the shadow detail and tone down the highlights.

Well, I made another attempt doing just that using Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw 6.7.

ACR 6.7 Basic panel adjustments to recover shadow information and maintain highlight detail.

In ACR, I was able to greatly enhance the image, but to achieve the precise result I envisioned, I knew some Photoshop work was needed. So yes, the image might have looked similar to my HDR composite, but it certainly would have taken more time to create.  And when given a reasonable choice, I prefer to spend my time shooting and not processing. So in-camera HDR can be a time-saver.

Something else to consider, particularly when making more aggressive adjustments, is that noise can become more prominent in shadow areas as you brighten them. With a multi-shot HDR option, you can often end up with a cleaner image with regard to noise.

HDR Panoramas

Oregon coast: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 14mm lens. A four shot HDR panorama created initially from raw files captured at different exposures.

Speaking of saving time, in-camera HDR can sometimes be very helpful when shooting a panorama. Above is an HDR panorama I made from four JPEG files (below). Each JPEG was created from a composite of three raw files captured at different exposures. Below is a screen grab from Adobe Bridge that shows the four files.

Four HDR JPEGs created from 12 raw files. Processed in-camera with the Canon 5D Mark III.

Click here to continue reading our HDR article...

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 199
12
dark goob
By dark goob (Aug 28, 2012)

Just think, if you had an external HDMI monitor you wouldn't have to bend to the ground. Or a camera with a rotating screen.

Why doesn't Canon put a damn rotating screen on the Mark III? I would buy one if it had it.

5 upvotes
StyleZ7
By StyleZ7 (Aug 28, 2012)

Totally agree!
I see the non-existent swivel screen as the biggest disadvantage for upgrade to 5DIII after using 60D for some time..

It helps a lot!

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Marek Rucinski
By Marek Rucinski (Aug 28, 2012)

Good old solution to this problem is called an angle finder.

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

Why doesn't Canon and all the other DSLR makers, make their own proprietory external monitors?

I can use a cell phone app to connect my smart phone to my DSLR and contro, the camera from the cell phone.Put the camera on a pole with a tripod head and one does not even have to bend over to get close to the ground.

But those apps all have their limitations.

Canon makes cameras with touch screens that allow the user to change seting on the screen. All they need to do is make a larger touch screen that can beconnected to the camera with a cable..or maybe even WiFi.

If the app writers can create an app for this, I'm sure that it is within the technological capability of Canon or Nikon to create an off the camera controller. They could do better than the cell phone apps by replicating all the buttons and dials of the camera on the remote monitor!!

Wouldn't that be cool?

0 upvotes
Mr Fartleberry
By Mr Fartleberry (Aug 28, 2012)

I'd rather see a cheap cable connecting an iPad and a D800.

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Sep 2, 2012)

In certain conditions an iPad is the right tool but in the field I want something smaller, easier to handle that doesn't take up too much space;like the Samsung Note.

But I'd rather have a dedicated device that has physical buttons and dials that mirror the cameras. I don't like the touchscreen shutter releases. The camera controller apps I've looked have certain functions that are not part of the camera system like intervalometer and expanded HDR exposure braketing.Touch screen focus select would be nice.

But there are compatibility issues with apps and phones. My brand new phone would have to be upgraded and rooted for the app to work. That is too complicated and risky.

A dedicated device would not require its own internal operating system, would run off the camera battery, would not have to be replaced when I changed phones and would probabaly be more rugged and materproof than an iPad or smart phone.

I much rather have a dedicated piece of camera hardware.

0 upvotes
liveagain
By liveagain (Aug 28, 2012)

Very nice. I definitely can see the appeals of HDR. Not only does it allow for the capturing of images that are otherwise dull, it opens up a different dimension of expressionism.

1 upvote
giornata
By giornata (Aug 28, 2012)

'...a different dimension of expressionism.' Exactly. Without wishing to spark an Art vs. Photography debate, van Gogh is quite well thought of for distorting reality. To use a camera to only record a subject faithfully, is, I think, to miss out on a lot of exciting possibilities.
I like the Havana picture. It's fun.

1 upvote
Stig Nygaard
By Stig Nygaard (Aug 28, 2012)

The first two examples from Oregon coast looks kind of okay, except they seems over-saturated to my eyes - especially the second one.
But the last panoramic example is clearly over-the-top for me. The clouds are weird, not bright enough, and the ground just much to saturated and contrastful. Looks artificial and not very pretty to me.
I do like the idea of HDR, but it is just so rare I see photos that actually looks nice when people tell the technique was used. If that is because it's actually technically difficult to make it natural looking HDR or if it is the photographers mind that play tricks when editing, I'm still to find out...

Edit: Ups, there's a page 2 too... Sorry, don't like the examples on page 2. They definitely looks unnatural and HDRish in my opinion...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Raffwal
By Raffwal (Aug 28, 2012)

I tend to think that if one sees immediately that a picture is HDR, it has been over-done. HDR at best is done so that one get a more even exposure without even realizing some magic has been applied.

There's one self-promoted HDR-guru (not the article writer), whose pictures are almost always just plain terrible. Unnatural plasticky manipulations. Yuck.

But that is just me, YMMV.

6 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Aug 28, 2012)

Hmmm ... what exactly do we learn from this article ?
In overall it says : One has to take a couple of images and then carefully process them to get an HDR picture.

Well I knew that before. Otherwise it doesn't tell anything at all. Not even the term "tonemapping" is found.

One of the poorest article about this subject I've ever seen.

4 upvotes
Rupert Bottomsworth
By Rupert Bottomsworth (Aug 28, 2012)

So it's all about you, is it?

0 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Aug 28, 2012)

LOVE the article
and one of the BEST HDR pics in recent memories

0 upvotes
ennemkay
By ennemkay (Aug 28, 2012)

hmm, yeah i strongly prefer hdr photography that looks realistic. the extreme form of hdr, as in the havana photo above, is clearly computer-generated to anyone who's looking at it, which puts it in a totally separate category from every other type of photography we generally discuss on these forums. hdr for the sole purpose of increasing dynamic range to eliminate the appearance of highlight and shadow clipping is something i'm far more interested in, personally.

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Claudio NC
By Claudio NC (Aug 28, 2012)

Well said!

0 upvotes
CaseyComo
By CaseyComo (Aug 28, 2012)

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the look of a single exposure. If the sky is too bright, expose for the shadows and use a grad ND filter.

2 upvotes
Mike Davis
By Mike Davis (Aug 28, 2012)

Well, I'm almost with you, brother, but I say use HDR with even LESS saturation than the author's finished images. Unfortunately, we are in the minority. Walk into any Wal-Mart or Fry's Electronics, go to the rear of the store and check out how all of the television displays are adjusted: unnaturally saturated. Sometimes I think Joe Consumer has lost the ability to even see color. He wants to be slapped in the face with it.

3 upvotes
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Aug 28, 2012)

Yep, at factory settings modern TVs almost cause reaction to vomit with horrible picture they give you.

Gradient filter has problems because of that gradient being very specific.
So HDR has it's place but it needs to be very well controlled like in that second picture.

Of course also DR of camera's sensor affects to need of it and there cameras using Sony sensors are leading.

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

You can still have the look of a single exposure with HDRI. With HDR capture, we can record more information than we really need, how much of it you use is up to you. Its better to have more information to work with than to be struggling to tame a highlight or open a shadow that has no detail.

The average person now spends hours a day staring at brightly lit TV screens, computer monitors and smart phones. Thats what their eyes are atuned to. Neon colors are even big in fashion.

Many artists think in order to be seen they have to be as bright and garish as everyone else. They may be correct, but that doesn't make them right.

The question is: Who is YOUR target audience? Is it the viewer who appreciates subtleties, or is the the viewer who wants to be dazzled? Its like pop music VS classical. The masses are drawn to the overprocessed HDR images like moths to a candle.

There really is no right or wrong, it is merely a matter of taste.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
gasdive
By gasdive (Aug 28, 2012)

Funny, I feel about grad filters the way most people seem to feel about HDR. I instantly think "Urrrgh Yuck, Lazy photographer, horrible photo, unrealistic image". I've *never* seen a grad filter photo that I've liked. Most HDR photos I don't like either, but I've at least seen *some* I like.

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Sep 2, 2012)

@gasdive:I'm with you on that. I don't like the graduated filter look, they can only used in certain circumstances and you're stuck with whatever you get when you take the shot. I cringe when I watch CSI Miami which overuses an orange grad filter. Makes it look like Miami's got a bad smog problem!

HDR offers more control and flexibility.One can make the image scream "HDR" or one can apply just enough of the effect to balance the tonal values and make the image pop a little more than a straight shot.

There are lots of filter effects that were ok when that was all we had but look dated today.

0 upvotes
CaseyComo
By CaseyComo (Sep 2, 2012)

Thanks all for great comments. Agree, orange grad filter generally no es bueno.

0 upvotes
obeythebeagle
By obeythebeagle (Aug 28, 2012)

Don't take my Kodachrome, or HDR, or B&W, away. It's all fun. HDR is Ansel Adam's brain on LSD.

Comment edited 25 seconds after posting
8 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

They took my Tech Pan film away years ago. Now I need a 46MPX camera to be happy!

0 upvotes
gasdive
By gasdive (Aug 28, 2012)

My Kodachrome is gone too. I have 3 rolls shot but not developed and now it's too late.

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Sep 2, 2012)

I formulated my own developer for Tech Pan. It was difficult to mix but gave far better results than the Kodak Technidol developer. So I can always make my own. But the only Tech Pan I can find is 8 year old stock that been stored at room temp.

I hope that whomever buys Kodaks patents will recognize the qualities of Tech Pan for fine arts photography and start making it.

If that doesn't happen I'll proabably never soot another role or sheet of film. And when Canon gets off its behind and gives us the rumored 46MPX camera, even tech pan will be surpassed.

0 upvotes
ljohnstn
By ljohnstn (Aug 28, 2012)

The subject should dictate the style. I like The Cuba photo and the coast photo. I am just a hobbyist so I don't have to depend on a particular style to make a living. Nikon, Canon, Photo Shop, Photomatrix... It's all good stuff. Peace, love and rock and roll.

3 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Aug 28, 2012)

Hmmm... these examples are not great.

If you really want an extended DR image, better off getting a Nikon, expose for the highlights then do some moderate shadow pulling.

You won't encounter the dramatic shift in tones to balance our at the edge of light and dark.

5 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (Aug 28, 2012)

Better than anything I see in your gallery,,, by a magnitude.

0 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Aug 28, 2012)

My Dpreview Gallery is a collection of technical example images. If actually you wish to critique my work,and are not simply trolling, please feel free to visit www.samwaldron.co.nz

0 upvotes
Claudio NC
By Claudio NC (Aug 28, 2012)

I just had a look at your site, sincerely images are really poor, not for landscapes that are obviously beautiful, but the color rendering of the tones too unnatural, areas that are artificially too bright or too saturated and also too desaturated depending on the colors. Ugly shades/nuances.

Really poor, you can easily see, at first glance, right from the small low-resolution previews of the galleries.
To forget.
Excuse me for my criticism, but that's what I think.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (Aug 28, 2012)

sams images are beautiful in my humble opinion and I have been a professional photographer for 7 years. he ia also quite correct. you dont need a nikon though any dslr should do. nikon will be better d800 better still

0 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Aug 29, 2012)

Thanks Kodachrome! - each to their own, I can appreciate people saying my images are a little too saturated for their tastes, but never quite had that reaction...

Oh well, Claudio's site is very cool, but where the tonality and saturation differs from my work, I cannot quite see - both are a slightly (but not overly) enhanced view of nature.

Peace

0 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (Feb 13, 2013)

Sosua,,my pleasure,,, your <laff> 'work' is derivative, cliched, stolid, pedantic, plodding and frankly,,, to use an adjective you don't need a dictionary to understand,,,crap.

0 upvotes
Francis Sawyer
By Francis Sawyer (Aug 28, 2012)

These aren't HDR. They're LDR. Step one is educating the public about the misused terminology that pervades this fad.

If you see something in a JPEG online, you know it's not HDR. HDR requires a file format that can store it, like EXR. It also can't be viewed on any normal computer monitor.

2 upvotes
SDPharm
By SDPharm (Aug 28, 2012)

>These aren't HDR. They're LDR.

The term HDR as commonly used simply means capturing a range that is wider than the normal dynamic range of the camera, and squeeze that range into the dynamic range of your output (print, LCD display, etc) device. It does not necessarily mean you have to use a super high bit depth output device.

I don't think your criteria is a commonly accepted one.

5 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

People often confuse High Dynamic Range Capture and tonemapping.

It is tonemapping that creates the oversaturated and oversharpened images., not the dynamic range of the original scene.

Tonemapping can be applied to single LDR images as well. If the dynamic range of the original scene was within the range of the camera sensor, then the working image file can have as much shadow and highlight information as a high dynamic range scene captured with multiple exposures and rendered as an "HDR" image.

A high dynamic range scene captured via the multi shoot HDR method, can be rendered as a rather conventional looking image. It will simply reveal more highlight and shadow detail than a single shot image would.

SDPharm is correct. HDR refers to the method of capture, not the final loutcome.

Tonemapping is just the methods employed to render the HDR image to the desired result.

The "HDR look" isn't the result of HDR and should be refered to as the "tonemapped look"

0 upvotes
Mike 7
By Mike 7 (Aug 31, 2012)

Thanks for a great article, misunderstood by some & understood by others. My personal opinion is there is certainly a place for HDR. Photography is in itself an art form & what is HDR but another form of art. Thanks again.

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 28, 2012)

Shooting architecture on 4x5 film, I was often faced with the challenge of balancing dark shadows with bright lights and windows, utilizing split exposures, artificial lighting, reflectors, scrims, gobos, diffusers and filters..all in an effort to capture in camera a relatively 'normal' looking image.

Digital photography was a godsend because I could bracket my shots and composite the various componants in Photoshop to create a "normal" image.

So right from the getgo, I saw HDR imaging as a means of bringing out shadow details and taming blown out highlights to create a "normal" image. It's really just one more technique for quality control, as are artificial lighting and Zone System.

One could just as easily create wild and wacky surrealistic images in Photoshop and with film. While it is fun to experiment, it's HDRIs ability to render highlight and shadow detail that I find most useful. I use just enough to make my images pop without looking obviously tonemapped.

1 upvote
love_them_all
By love_them_all (Aug 28, 2012)

I wonder if he did extra pp in the first star fish shot. The HDR shows a deeper blue sky that the three raws images doesn't seem to have. Usually the under exposed ones should have the dark sky to be picked up in the HDR.

0 upvotes
labe
By labe (Aug 28, 2012)

here you go
Although the in-camera processing did a reasonably good job, I still brought the image into Photoshop. After checking the histogram I used a Levels adjustment layer to make sure the blacks were black and whites were white. I then boosted the saturation a bit. Next I added a blue gradual filter in Nik Software's Color Efex Pro and then as a final step, sharpened the image using Photoshop's Covert to Smart Filter > Unsharp Mask in order to make selective sharpening edits

0 upvotes
chkproductions
By chkproductions (Aug 28, 2012)

HDR, when use correctly, is the same intent Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Edward Weston had when developing and using the Zone System - the ability to manipulate exposure, developing times and printing to capture details throughout the range of reflected light of a subject from film that could not otherwise record the scene as those photographers wanted it presented to the viewer.

HDR is the current interpretation of that process and when used correctly, does well at allowing the photographer to present a scene as they want it seen and can also be used well to capture and present a scene in the reality of tonalities as it was seen.

0 upvotes
robonrome
By robonrome (Aug 28, 2012)

While I essentially agree with what you're saying I disagree there is such a thing as using HDR "correctly" ...it's whatever you want it to be

0 upvotes
chkproductions
By chkproductions (Aug 28, 2012)

Agreed. Perhaps it's "to create a realistic look" but even reality is subjective.

0 upvotes
Sdaniella
By Sdaniella (Aug 28, 2012)

suffice it to say, all digital darkroom pp to fix high contrast shots are all forms of HDR tweaking.

any pp is a demonstration that sensors today are incapable of handling high contrast shots in a single capture with NO EXTRA PP/FIXING.

someday, multi-EV-zone handling via multi-ISO capable single exposure only sensors will be made, requiring NO PP whatsoever... we're waiting... it's coming slowly (HDR video resorts to cycling more than one ISO; thus does not yet work with stills; unless pixel-binning is used NOT for resolution, but for 'variable choice ISOs'... hopefully that is easier to do, than a specialized sensor)

0 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (Aug 28, 2012)

I've been working for several years on new sensor tech that is inherently HDR capture. Actually, some car back-up cameras have been capturing HDR using smarter handling of individual pixels for years. In higher-IQ cameras, Sony has been leading the way in increasing dynamic range in their CCD and CMOS sensors. It's just a matter of time until the dynamic range we now call HDR is simply the default that the sensor delivers....

0 upvotes
DaveMarx
By DaveMarx (Aug 28, 2012)

Greater dynamic range than today? Wonderful. Sensors smart enough to avoid clipping on a pixel-by-pixel basis? Wonderful. But dynamic range is a problem that extends beyond recording/measurement - the eye or viewing environment may not be able to encompass the full DR. Extending sensor DR simply kicks the can down the road, from camera to the print medium, exhibit lighting, etc. Eventually, we hit the inability of the human eye to encompass an entire scene without shifting point of focus and adjusting our irises.

HDR and Zone System allow the eye to view a scene as a whole, rather than scanning it piecemeal over an extended period (leave our atmosphere and look at our sun while trying to discern stars, galaxies, etc. in the surrounding "blackness").

A key skill for a photographer is adapting the original subject to the limitations of the playback/display environment, while delivering an audience-pleasing result. It will continue to be about skillful curve-fitting.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (Aug 28, 2012)

the problem with this is these types of looks are achievable with one raw file from a good digital slr. D800 exta especially

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 28, 2012)

oh gee, why of course! anyone can afford a D800!
if you have one of those, you are probably a very good photographer already, and are probably not even in the audience this is aimed to help.

0 upvotes
probert500
By probert500 (Aug 28, 2012)

It's cheaper than the camera the author is using - your point is ?

0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 28, 2012)

While the D800 has more dynamic range than other cameras, it is not some kind of miracle. Most of these images are not that high DR to begin with, but the car interior is way beyond what the D800, or any single exposure can handle.

1 upvote
Kodachrome200
By Kodachrome200 (Aug 28, 2012)

exactly i said D800 espeacailly. Any digital SLR should do ok. The interior shot may well be the exception but most of what i see here could be done in lightroom 4 rendering the technique pointless.

actually the biggest thing you could have is the newest camera raw or lightroom 4 witch are substantially better at achieving such results than any other raw converter i have worked with

1 upvote
inohuri
By inohuri (Aug 28, 2012)

"Okay. I know what some of you guys are saying. The contrast range in this middle exposure does not look to be too extreme in the first place. And a skilled digital darkroom expert could have simply used a single raw file to pull out the shadow detail and tone down the highlights.

Well, I made another attempt doing just that using Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw 6.7."

I would (again) like to have the original raw file to play with. This style of editing is very different from what I do, especially the + contrast on a high contrast image. I did download originalsrgb.jpg and opened it in Camera Raw 6.6. I think it has more potential than is shown with this style of editing from what I did with that diminished file.

Could we have a link to the original raw?

0 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 28, 2012)

You may be missing the whole point. The idea is to illustrate by example and demontrate HDR. Perhaps you could find better examples or criticize the one given - but the point was not to hold a debate on how much THAT pic could have been improved or not - that pic is but a prop. This is all about putting together something informative to help beginners - to get a message across.
What I take away from this is some valuable insight, and good advice. And I very much appreciate this article for the gift that it is.

5 upvotes
inohuri
By inohuri (Aug 28, 2012)

The article is indeed about HDR but also how it is better than single raw alone. One point the author makes is that it is better than editing single raw and then he proceeds to edit a raw file in a way that I believe to be non optimum. This weakens the argument that hdr is superior in this photo to my way of thinking.
Hdr does have its place, I just wonder if it is the best choice for this photo.

I suppose what I am getting at is how to choose when hdr is appropriate might not be well stated here.

0 upvotes
Jan2009
By Jan2009 (Aug 27, 2012)

Thank you for this article, I am also a big fan of natural looking HDR, I could not stand surreal HDR. I would have like more details and example of reading the histogram.

In your car example, how did you know to use more over exposed shot vs. just the 0, +2 and -2 EV?

3 upvotes
Mike Sandman
By Mike Sandman (Aug 28, 2012)

There are at least two ways to know how to bracket to get the extremes of dark and light. (1) Take shots 1 stop apart. Check the histograms. You need one that has the curve starting in the lower left corner and one that has the curve starting in the lower right corner. (Leave the aperture constant and keep adjusting your shutter time until you cover the full range.) Or: (2) Take your series of shots and look at all of them ion your LCD review screen. If there's a flashing warning on the screen indicating an area that's blown out, or too dark, you need to take at least one more bracket shot. A tripod really, really helps here. I can take three bracketed shots with a single setting using a Canon 20/30/40/50D or 5D Mark II, but often that's not quite enough. Comparable Nikons can take a wider range of bracketed shots (and so can the 5D-III).

0 upvotes
Wildbegonia
By Wildbegonia (Aug 30, 2012)

Like and hello friend

0 upvotes
aris14
By aris14 (Aug 27, 2012)

1. Natural is all about perception, Isn' it? So...
2. In some cases a sole and only one good photo it only needs the appropriate software to HDR (Topaz suite for example)...
3. Realistic lies in the eye of the beholder.

0 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Aug 27, 2012)

Well, this part is wrong: "My guess is that if I did not tell you, you would not know that the image above is an HDR image..."

Nothing against the image. It's nice. So is the Havana image.

1 upvote
eyedo
By eyedo (Aug 27, 2012)

Wrong tool for the job. Any camera with a tilting screen and perhaps longer lens would have aced the shot.

0 upvotes
Ron Poelman
By Ron Poelman (Aug 27, 2012)

Ditto.
A Sony would have provided dry knees !
Swing out screen, in-camera HDR and focus peaking.

6 upvotes
Boerseuntjie
By Boerseuntjie (Aug 27, 2012)

Check out these pictures they look like HDR but they are not, they were taken with Sony a900 one shot no blending just Cokin filters ND8 and GND8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigsleep/

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Roman Korcek
By Roman Korcek (Aug 27, 2012)

Was going to comment on exactly the same thing. "Fortunately" (for Sony perhaps :-) ) Canon does not consider such features useful at all. Just leaves me wondering why people put up with it.

0 upvotes
Joesiv
By Joesiv (Aug 27, 2012)

good article, but didn't really help with the hard part, how to actually do natural HDRs. The tools used mostly for HDR's are the reason why HDR's are often unnatural, as they're hard to use. I would have loved to see some tips for using the software, rather than a bullet point with only 1 arguably useful tip (the rest being obvious), retaining shadows.

And regarding the getting wet shot, I guess those flippy screens + live view have a use :) I wish more dslrs had them.

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
ir Bob
By ir Bob (Aug 28, 2012)

I wholeheartedly agree on this. Please show us how it's done!

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 27, 2012)

A truly remarkable and fantastic HDR image is the one most of the viewers will feel NEVER had an HDR process.

.

15 upvotes
jon404
By jon404 (Aug 27, 2012)

Isn't that the truth.
In Photoshop, you can put your different exposures on separate layers, and then carefully erase parts of a layer to let the others show through, or use layer blend modes like 'Overlay' and 'Multiply' at different strengths. You can cut out parts of the image and sharpen them a little bit, and blur the background a little bit. Increase foreground saturation a bit. Infinite possibilities. The trick -- as the post says -- is to make the changes slowly, carefully, subtly... so no-one will ever notice!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
jezsik
By jezsik (Aug 27, 2012)

I hope there's a follow-up to this article. I already know how to bracket exposure, but that's just the raw material. What I struggle with is how to combine them properly. I can't help but feel that this is like a baking tutorial that focuses only on finding the best ingredients for a recipe.

1 upvote
Lan
By Lan (Aug 27, 2012)

I wrote a tutorial about this a few years back:
http://www.adrianwarren.com/tutorials/HDR/

Look at the two output images at the bottom of the page - both are HDR, but one looks completely natural.

I also have natural (and some completely unnatural ones) in my Flickr photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrianw/tags/hdr/

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
Mike Davis
By Mike Davis (Aug 28, 2012)

Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! The one at bottom right (at your first link) is wonderfully natural, but without HDR, you couldn't have captured that with a single exposure. Nice example! Thanks!

1 upvote
mytake
By mytake (Aug 28, 2012)

Thanks for the tips Lan...a useful post.

1 upvote
mytake
By mytake (Aug 28, 2012)

Lan...I only had time to browse the HDR tutorial this morning. Your pics are amazing, thanks for sharing...

1 upvote
koper57
By koper57 (Aug 29, 2012)

Nice example

0 upvotes
BadScience
By BadScience (Aug 27, 2012)

hmm, "without rich shadows, the images look flat".

That is true, so it's strange the photographer ignores his own advice.

The interior of the car - of the original exposures, the top left exposure looks better than the final HDR.

Ditto with the hotel in Havana. All trace of atmosphere has been lost by using HDR. Again, the original exposure is the best.

Although, these images do not have the overt tone mapped look to them, they still feel very artificial. I'd be very tempted to overlay the original exposure on top of the HDR and set the opacity to 90%. So there is just a hint of the extra dynamic range, without the plastic look.

If you want to acheive natural HDR images, you will know you have succeeded when people do not realise that the image is HDR. If this was the aim here, it has failed.

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
ipribadi
By ipribadi (Aug 27, 2012)

I don't think the goal was to avoid anyone knowing it was an HDR shot, but to retain a mostly realistic look to HDR shots.

The car HDR is meets my taste for HDR, the hotel, a bit over colored, but still pleasing.

0 upvotes
Jen Yates
By Jen Yates (Aug 27, 2012)

I think you're wrong. These examples demonstrate exposure bracketing / exposure blending at it's best, and that is how to capture a subject with high dynamic range and produce an image with a compressed dynamic range without rendering the entire image in that washed out / strange light / plastic HDR look.

0 upvotes
StevenE
By StevenE (Aug 28, 2012)

I read an HDR article a year or two ago that did just what you suggest. I tried it and it works very well.

You take 3 photos -2, 0, +2. Then create the HDR image, and then import all four images into photoshop. Copy them as layers into the same file. Overlay them and selectively erase through the layers, with eraser strength set between 5 and 30 %.

It takes some practice, but it can give very good results.

0 upvotes
koper57
By koper57 (Aug 28, 2012)

HDR-high dynamic range by definition
good hdr is picture done well, looks like ordinary photo with high dynamic range exposure

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Bullsnapper
By Bullsnapper (Aug 27, 2012)

At last, natural looking HDR pictures. Excellent article, thanks. I will read and absorb.

3 upvotes
Gesture
By Gesture (Aug 27, 2012)

Great topic. Thanks.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
ianp5a
By ianp5a (Aug 28, 2012)

I would add, in the case of 'handheld' multiple exposures, avoid "horizon-tilt" between shots. Rest the camera on some edge.
Differences in horizon-tilt means pixels cannot be simply aligned. Any corrective rotation will smear the pixels.

0 upvotes
koper57
By koper57 (Aug 28, 2012)

pentax k 5 has the in-camera processing
i use this program
if you use it in right situations you recive good pictures
nobody notice the hdr procecing

1 upvote
Total comments: 199
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