How to Photograph in High Dynamic Resolution

How to Photograph in HDR

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

HDR is a photographic term which is used to refer to high dynamic range. This is almost exclusive of the digital realm of image manipulation.

"High dynamic range imaging (HDRI or HDR) is a set of methods used in imaging and photography, to allow a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. HDR images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.

In simpler terms, HDR is a range of methods to provide higher dynamic range from the imaging process. Non-HDR cameras take pictures at one exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture, depending on whether the camera had a low or high exposure setting. HDR compensates for this loss of detail by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and intelligently stitching them together to produce a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas." Wikipedia

You have seen images that appear to come alive with bright areas that look as if they were just painted and are therefore brighter and richer than other parts of the image, especially water images or any reflective subject within a general scene. This effect is what HDR photography was developed for.

In a nutshell, in the real world anything that you look at can sometimes exceed a dynamic range of over 50,000:1 ratio. Our modern technology even with the best digital cameras can only approximate a 300:1 dynamic range. Range is used here to refer to a measured ratio between high and lower extremes. More commonly known or referred to as contrast.

Creating images that approximate the real world dynamic range is called photo realism. One of the earliest techniques for producing images that approximated HDR was to capture three images of the same subject onto black and white film with each image being exposed while the camera had a red, blue or green filter; one filter per exposure of the same frame, then combining them into one main final image.

Another more recent technique is to take three images of the same subject. One underexposed by about 2 f-stops, one normal exposure, and one overexposed by about 2 f-stops and digitally combining them. You will need a tripod as movement may not allow a digital program to properly combine or align them.

Photo editing software programs like Photoshop can now produce HDR results with ease giving the final image the sensation of "jumping out" at you. With a digital camera the photographer is aware that it can be set or calibrated to capture more details in shadows and highlights that what can be captured with film. However the image capturing device must do so at around 16 bits minimum.

In Photoshop you will nee to work with a RAW format or convert the image into a high quality JPG. This will allow you to take one image and then using the RAW format to make three separate replicas of the same image.

You will then load the image from the capture device (camera) into the editing program and set the exposure level to number 2 negative and save this image. This is how to create an HDR image with Photoshop;

1. Open the three images in the Bridge program of Photoshop CS2.

2. Open all three images in the DNG sub program.

3. Select RAW files and turn off all automatic exposure settings.

4. Select synchronize.

5. Select save images and then close the DNG program.

6. Select file-automation-merge onto HDR.

7. Open the browser and choose the images that you want to merge.

8. Click the check box to align images.

9. Adjust slider bar for histogram for whitepoint.

10.You should now have a pop up for HDR, move the sliders until you are satisfied with the image. You can get more creative results with the toning feature. See Photoshop for more detailed instructions.

Who uses HDR imagery, well many fashion publications use it to bring to life a product's look, feel and detail, making them appear as vivid as possible. Food photography publications and manufacturers use it to bring food to life and to appear as if you could reach out and take a bite. Art galleries use to it showcase images that seem as if just "painted". Finally some portrait and wedding photographers use it to highlight the wedding dress and other detailed aspects of the wedding and of the bride. Greeting card companies make a lot of use of these images in their holiday issues. Car manufacturers also used it to showcase their new models, almost making them like computerized images.

Want to see hundreds more photography articles?


CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source
CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source
CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

High Dynamic Range photography is yet another technique used in photography to make images seem richer and with vivid colors than what can normally be captured with film or a normal digital device.

With some practice and a judicious subject selection process you can produce images that will look and "feel" like no other image.

They will approximate what you would normally see in bright light where the entire subject is basking in sunshine but with more vivid colors.

A similar effect is obtained when using good quality haze and glare eliminating sunglasses. More redder reds, bluer blues and brighter highlights similar to what the human eye can distinguish will be captured and represented in a high dynamic range image.

This technique does not appeal to everyone, especially purists, since the images edited in this fashion have a look and feel very closely matching images composed entirely by computerized creating programs. A technique very commonly used in the making of animated movie productions.

Liked this technique?

See results without voting
Public Domain
Public Domain | Source
Normal/HDR CC BY 3.0
Normal/HDR CC BY 3.0 | Source

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

More by this Author


Comments 6 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Another winner.....I appreciate all the work you put into your hubs....they only make the rest of us better....voted up and useful


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Hi Luis, this is my favorite yet. I am addicted to color and these photos are happening.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This isn't an aspect of photography that I know much about. Nice tutorial!


bloggering profile image

bloggering 5 years ago from Southern California

Absolutely beautiful!!


DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

DRG Da Real Grinc 5 years ago from All over the USA

It was awesome to have learned this. Also TY for letting me know my photoshop did HDR.


vivekananda profile image

vivekananda 4 years ago from India

This is a good photographic technique. Nice hub. Thanks for sharing the info.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working