Tag Archives: The HDR Image

Do I really need HDR?

Do I really need HDR?

Great question. I always tell people, if you don’t need HDR don’t use it. If you can capture an image correctly without it, do so. But that is the same advice I would give for any photographic tool or accessory. If you don’t need a polarizing filter? take it off, No need for fill flash? don’t use it. Don’t need Photoshop? Print your image SOOC. HDR is just another tool.

There are many ways to do without HDR. The time of day you shoot, and more importantly, your angle to the sun can take away any need to shoot with HDR. When the sun is setting turn your back to the sunset and shoot that way. In a lot of cases not only are you able to capture the dynamic range of a scene, you actually will be capturing something 10 times better than the sunset.

But what about the times when, with conventional photography, you wouldn’t even have attempted the shot because you knew, as good as it looks to your eyes, you are never going to be able to capture that as you saw it on camera. I think this is the perfect time to pull out the best tool for the job and get that image that previously was impossible. In some case that may just be a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. I use them all the time and I do like them and for when I am shooting the ocean they are perfect because of the straight line at the horizon.

But what happens when you have irregular shapes to deal with? A mountain range or, in the case to follow, architectural arches leading to a bright scene. A graduated neutral density filter is useless.

So lets examine this photo made using a 5 Exposure 1 – 1.5 Stop HDR ( Tone mapping: Strength 70, Saturation 70, High Smoothing ,-1.20 Gamma in Photomatix)

This image really portrays the scene as I saw it; Great clouds and blue skies, shadows & light coming through the arches. The back of the arches in the shade but still clearly visible to my eyes as is the tree on the right.

Now suppose we didn’t use HDR, what would the image look like? This is one of the exposure from the 5 I took that gets the most right.

It’s really not too bad, but the problems areas are: the tree to the right is definitely lost to the shadows and the biggest problem is those beautiful blue skies and puffy white clouds have lost all their detail.

So, we could using digital darkroom techniques try to bring some of that back

This was using a heavy dose of Shadows & Highlights in Photoshop

Well, this helped, it did bring back the tree into the image and got a little more detail back into the sky, but it couldn’t do much because there are parts of the clouds that were just completely blown out so there is no detail to recover. The other real problem is that it applied this adjustment globally to the whole image, so some areas that should have stayed in the shadows are now brought up into the mid-tones, making for a “flat” image. Yes we could have tried using a Layer Mask, but that can be a lot of work and time.

In this example I used some  Faux HDR “Lucis Effect”  to bring back some detail which it is quite good at but again,we still are not near where the HDR image is in overall balance and again it acted too globally.

Now what if we started with an image that got the clouds and skies right, could we have adjusted that?

 

This attempt really gave the worst results because you can see, the parts where there still was some detail are now full with ugly noise and again there are some areas that were just totally lost in the shadows wth no information to retrieve.

Now, maybe if I really worked long and hard in the digital darkroom I could have achieved better results  on a standard photograph. Lots of layer masks and adjustments, dodging, burning, sharpening, noise reduction. But do I really want to waste that much time in my studio working? Or…would I rather be out shooting, taking the less than a minute to shoot 5 frames and come back and process the image in a few minutes and have the best results. The answer is clear what I would choose.

Hope that helps!

PT

Anatomy of a shot

I recently took this shot. 

 I like it, I like the drama and the light to it.  So let’s take it apart.

First off, the day I shot, I saw that it would be a gray stormy day with intense clouds. Something we don’t get often in my area but something I knew would add a lot to the shot and also be a perfect candidate for HDRI. Why? well the dynamics are so broad. When you have broken clouds where the sun comes through the dynamic range get pretty high. Also the area on the grounds gets some deep shadow. So knowing that this would be a high Dynamic range day, I knew it would be a great day to shoot.

The next thing I thought of was the water. I wanted to see a lot of drama and movement to the water itself. So how do we show movement in water? A high shutter speed? No, not really, a high shutter speed freezes the water so it tends to “stop” the motion not show it. Really what we want is to use a slow shutter speed. Now granted we are going to take at least three exposure so we know the one exposed for the shadows will be longer than the rest but will it really be slow enough?

To show motion we need at least a couple seconds long shot. Problem is there was still a lot of light. So even at f/22 and ISO 100 the 0 meter shot would be 1/10 of a second. Not even close. So, luckily the Canon5D will go to ISO 50, That gained me one stop of shutter speed. Then it was on to the Auxiliary Equipment. I put a .9 B & W Neutral Density filter on the Canon 17-40mm Lens. The .9 filter is good for 3 more stop of light.

So with that in place I now had a 0 exposure of  f/22 ISO 50 @ .6 seconds, a -2 exposure of 1/6th second and a +2 exposure of…2.5  Seconds. Finally enough to get some movement in the water.

With my camera mounted on a steady tripod, mirror lockup set in the custom function and a wired remote control I snapped off my 3 shots in AV mode Bracketing. Checked my histogram for all three and could see I banged the shadows and the highlight hard enough for a good HDR.

When I set up this shot I wanted just a bit of the sun that was below the clouds to show, just to give a hint of what was lighting the rock and the waves. I finished shooting some other scenes all the way to sunset, when the clouds broke quite a bit but still provided some other great shots as seen here.

Once I headed home I downloaded the images from my card to computer, organized and tagged them in Bridge and then selected what looked to be the best compositions to work on in Photomatix.

I selected the three images from above and merged them in Photomatix, aligning sources by matching features and reducing chromatic aberrations. I then went on to tone mapping them using the Detail Method. My settings were: Strength 75%. Saturation 70%, High Smoothing in light mode and then just a little negative 1.20 Gamma and that was it.

I processed and saved as a 16bit Tiff and brought the image into Photoshop for just some final touch-up. In photoshop I just; cloned out a couple sensor spots and then just set my density endpoints using curves and eyedroppers set to 5 shadows and 245 Highlights.  After that  just a little burning and dodging in a few areas just to touch up and I was done.

 A good successful days shoot even if I did get drenched at the end by a downpour. Luckily I had a big plastic bag that fit over my entire camera and lens and the top of the camera so no harm done even if I had wet feet.

Anatomy of a shot, HDR

I recently took this shot. 

 I like it, I like the drama and the light to it.  So let’s take it apart.

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HDR Lesson – How do I know if the scene is a good candidate for HDR?

How do I know if the scene is a good candidate for HDR?

This is a great question and one that is probably rarely asked. Not every scene in front of us is a good candidate and really if the Dynamic Range of the scene before us is not wider than the dynamic range of a standard image out of our cameras, we really shouldn’t use HDR. Not that you can’t but it really has no purpose and will in the end not look better.

So what is an easy way to determine if there is an excess of dynamic range that we need to switch over to using the HDR process?

 It’s generally accepted ( and argued) that the Human Eye is capable of  seeing a Dynamic range of about 24 f Stops (1 stop is the halving or doubling of light) But that is with the iris adjusting to the light. In one view, the eye is capable of about 10- 14 stops. In theory a high quality camera shot in RAW has a Dynamic range of about 11 stops, but in practice it is really closer to 6-8 stops. A print from that camera is capable of about 5 stops.

But the truth is, I’m not very good at science or math and I don’t want to be pulling out My Texas Instrument calculator or my slide rule and figuring this all out when I am shooting. In fact I really hate even having to think when I shoot. So what is an easy way to determine if the scene before you has enough dynamic range to make it worth the time to set-up and shoot an HDR Image?

We’ll use our meter

Take your camera and set it to manual exposure. Now set the metering mode to either spot or partial. These  are the most precise modes for measuring a small area of your viewfinder. Point your focus point (which also is your meter point) on the brightest area of the scene and adjust your exposure so that it registers +2 on your meter. Now move that meter point over the darkest area of the scene. If the meter hits or pegs past the -2 point, there is enough dynamic range to do an HDR. If your meter reads anywhere in between. There is no need to do an HDR.

Now let me give you one important note on here because I don’t want anyone looking into or pointing their camera directly at the sun and damaging either their eyes or their camera or BOTH!! . IF THE SUN IS IN THE FRAME OF THE IMAGE IMAGE, there is more then enough  Dynamic Range to shoot, Done, Game over, don’t even need to check.

Here are two examples so you can see what I mean from my backyard.

In this image, the light of the scene was very flat and really not much dynamic range. When I measured as above I only got about 1.5 f stops of change from the brightest area to the darkest

Metering for HDR

So this would not be a good candidate to shoot HDR.

But I still made one to show you, It doesn’t look better in fact it look flatter than the standard image above

HDR Poor Dynamic Range

Now the next morning, I had this scene in front of me as the sun rose.

Dynamic Range

As you can see the Dynamic Range is about 6 Stops ( It’s actually closer to 10 total but we won’t go there for now) and it really doesn’t make a good Standard Image at all. The sky is blown out and  shadow areas are too dark and into the noise floor of the image.

Here is a 5 shot HDR of the same scene, as you can see, this one was definitely a candidate for HDR and gave us more of what our eyes would see at that time of morning.

5 shot HDR

Hope that helps!

P

Hello world! Welcome to the HDR Image

Hi everyone! Welcome to The HDR Image. High Dynamic Range as it should be.

Here I will show examples of my work in HDRI ( High Dynamic Range Imagery), show you some How To’s and talk about all things HDR. I hope you enjoy this and maybe learn a few things and most of all have fun with a new and exciting tool to add to your photography.

One note, If you came here to look for or discuss the science of this all you probably came to the wrong place. I’m not a scientist, nor a mathematician. I’m a photographer. Could I understand and follow a conversation about the it? Sure, but I don’t want to. It bores me to tears as it does many photographers that are more artist than technicians.

So even though there is a lot of technology to this, I’m not going into all the numbers and have people turn off and click off. It will be in the most simplest terms I know how to present and how most of my student like to learn.

If you are interested in the tech, I would point you to  Cambridge  in Colour Really a great read

Peter