Tuesday, December 1, 2009
High Dynamic Range Done Naturally
Explore the basics of HDR to get details in shadows, highlights and everywhere in between
Combine Exposures For High Dynamic Range
This is the part that gets a little tricky, and you need to make some key decisions at capture and in postprocessing to develop the files. I see many photographers today bracketing exposures to combine images for tone mapping in popular software programs like Photomatix and FDRTools as a way of handling their HDR images. While tone-mapping images can be fun and at times produce great results, it has been my experience that most images tone-mapped in HDR software take on an illustrative and unnatural look. While this is fine, and I’ll be the first to say that creative choices are up to the individual photographer with no right or wrong way of doing any particular technique, I tend to prefer a more natural result for my nature photography.
The way that I approach this problem is to bracket a set of images in the field. Make sure you have your camera locked down on a tripod, as there can be no shift from image to image for this to work. If your camera offers you the ability to auto-bracket, use it. Once I’ve set my base exposure for the midtones in the scene, I’ll usually bracket five frames at one-stop intervals. This will cover the dynamic range of most images, but on occasion, you may need to bracket a little further in one direction or the other. The important thing here is to check the histogram of each image to make sure that you’ve recorded at least two images with sufficient detail in the shadows and the highlights.
Using The RAW Converter
Once I get my images into the computer, I usually choose two shots, one for shadow detail and another for highlight detail. I open up both images in the Adobe Camera Raw converter and apply specific adjustments for each one, including white balance, recovery, fill, curves, tonal adjustments and saturation.
I know this sounds complicated, and at first it can be a challenge to learn, but once you’ve mastered the art of blending images, you won’t look back. It will allow you to create more realistic HDR images of the natural world.
To see more of Joseph Rossbach’s photography, read his photo blog or learn about upcoming workshops, visit www.josephrossbach.com.
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