In certain landscapes and locations with high contrast, highlights tend to create white blobs of highly exposed bright light while shadows cause certain scenes to vanish into the dark. This is why the evolution of photography had to funnel in a dynamic invention: HDR photography, also known as high dynamic range.
Basically, HDR allows photographers to include all the details that are darkened by shadows, or accentuate one single shot by merging various different images of different exposures. However, if you don’t know how to perform this slightly sophisticated technique, it can make your image look horribly over processed.
In this article, we will walk you through the basics of HDR photography, and everything you need to get started.
What is HDR photography all about?
The term high dynamic range has been coined to highlight the differences between the lightest and the darkest aspects of a photograph, and areas that have a huge difference between the light and dark aspects often make the highlights too bright or the shadows too dark.
This forces the photographer to make the tough choice between choosing between too much light or too much shadow. When there’s no middle ground, the photographer ends up with an image that is either too dark or too bright. Now, while the eyes can spot these differences, a camera can’t really tell the difference between dark and light.
You can eliminate this challenge with high dynamic range photography because, with HDR, you can take more than one photo. With the simple technique of bracketing, the act of capturing the same image from different exposures, photographers can customize their shots at various exposures, shoot in manual mode and then adjust the exposure in every frame. Most photographers tend to take capture three photos, while others tend to merge even more.
Generally, the first image is to expose the darkness and eliminate the shadows, the second one is focused on the mid-tones, and the third one focuses on the highlights. Then, all three images are merged together to create one high dynamic range photo.
What do you need to get started with HDR photography?
You don’t necessarily have to own millions worth of equipment and high-end sophisticated cameras to create high dynamic range photography. All it takes is talent, skills and a good camera that you know how to use.
Let’s take a look at some equipment that you will find useful:
You need a DSLR or mirrorless camera that has manual modes. If you don’t own one already and are considering to shop for a new one, we strongly recommend you to pick a camera that features Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), which will allow you to take multiple photos.
A tripod is extremely essential to make sure the camera doesn’t move or jitter in between the multiple shots. Shots that are jittery or moved will not line up while you are processing them.
You can use Photoshop, Snapseed, Photomatix and other editing software to make it easier to stitch up your HDR photos with simple and immersive processing tools.
The aperture priority mode is the most essential tool for shooting a great HDR sequence. Just be sure to keep the aperture consistent to maintain the same sharpness across all the photos. You need to select an aperture that you feel works best for your image and keep in mind that the narrower the aperture, the sharper your scene will turn out to be.