Writing with Light

To HDR or Not To HDR

Project 52 – Entry #7

Last week I posted a sunset picture that I made reference too as being a HDR image and I thought I should probably get into that a little bit more this week. Now there’s a lot of debate out there as to whether HDR photography is realistic or not. Well that depends on the picture and who you ask. Some HDR images are processed in such a way as to have a very “grungy” look and that works in certain situations and for specific subjects. HDR  is also used in difficult lighting conditions where metering for one area may leave another either underexposed or overexposed (such as my 3rd photo below where the interior was quite dark but outside it was a bright sunny day).

So what is HDR?

Distillery District, TorontoCanon Xti, Sigma 10 – 20mm, f/14, 1/200, 14mm                                                                                                                   

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range imaging. It’s a technique that gives a photograph a greater dynamic range of shadows, midtones and highlights or the darker and lighter part of an image. In some instances what the eye actually sees is not interpreted in the same way through the lens. DSLRs will pick up a lot of detail in a scene but not the full dynamic range.

I’m not going to write a whole tutorial on the subject but I did want to give you some insight to what HDR is all about.

A HDR image is made up of anywhere from 3 to 9 bracketed exposures (yes I’ve seen some photographers use 9 but let’s stick with the low-end of the spectrum for now). By the way “bracketed exposures” are a sequence of images taken at different exposures that are then merged in post-production using software such as Photoshop or HDRsoft’s Photomatix Pro.

A few key things to remember when shooting your brackets:

  1. always use a tripod (although I’m bad because I’ve found myself in situations where I didn’t have my tripod with me. It’s amazing how one learns to hold one’s

    Canon Xti, Sigma 18 - 200mm, f/5.6, 18mm

    breath in these situations.)

  2. Use a consistent aperture, ISO & focus. I always stick with 100 ISO so   I don’t have a lot of noise in my final image.
  3. If you can, use a remote shutter release to avoid even the slightest camera shake

Now that you’ve taken your shots, downloaded and merged your brackets you’re now ready for tonemapping. What you thought you were finished? This is where the hard work comes in but I’ll tackle that in another post.

If you’re interested in learning more about HDR Photography then you need to check out Trey Ratcliff from StuckInCustoms.com who just released a new HDR Video Tutorial which is awesome!  Click here to see Stuck In Customs.

Canon Xti, Sigma 18 - 200mm, f/9, 1/125, 28mm

12 responses

  1. Nice work 🙂 I like the light coming from the street lamps.


    June 14, 2011 at 11:18 pm

  2. Jan Winther

    Great post Edith. I like HDR a lot, but I’m not so much into the garish kind, like over sharp, over saturated where you get weird unrealistic colors and halos. I will say that some types of images, looks amazing when they are “overcooked” – it just doesn’t fit everything. But I think you posted some very good examples on how to use HDR responsibly and with out going overboard. My preferred taste in HDR is pretty much within the range represented by all your shots.
    Nice post. Look forward to next week. 🙂


    June 15, 2011 at 6:20 am

  3. Sammy Brown

    I really love these pictures, GREAT job Edith, keep em coming


    June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am

  4. Charles Dastodd

    nice write up, Edith! I have to admit that I am not always a big fan of HDR, although I do frequently use it in certain settings. 🙂


    June 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  5. Edith, The blue image with the lampposts is fantastic!


    June 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  6. Rob

    Cool write up on HDR that comprises the spectrum from eye peeling vibrant colors to a realistic approach. I tend to favor the realistic look, but your first image is awesome. It has a n interesting feel to it.


    June 20, 2011 at 10:41 am

    • Thanks so much for your comments Rob. I do tend to favor the realistic look as well but it is fun experimenting.


      June 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

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