Are You Using HDR?

Zachary B., Photography

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(Photo: Bridge taken with HDR)

Knowing about high dynamic range photography, also known as HDR, is a must if you want to take some of your photos to the next level.  What is it?  In short, it’s a method that enables you to blend all of the various ranges of light in a photo together to get crisper more defined details.  This way the bright areas are no longer too bright and the dark areas are no longer too dark or washed out in your photographs.  The good news is you don’t even need to own a fancy camera to take advantage of HDR as some cellphones, such as the iPhone and the Android already include the feature.

HDR typically takes three photos:  an underexposed, a properly exposed, and an overexposed.  It then combines these into a single more dramatic image.  Probably one of the best uses for HDR is a landscape photo.  Pictures with people can be taken in HDR, but if they are moving you may get a slight blurring or halo effect as the images are pieced together.  It’s important to hold the camera steady or consider the use of a tripod to ensure that movement is not an issue.   Another important time to consider using HDR is when there is changing lighting in a scene.  If sunlight is coming through the windows or your scene has several shadows, HDR is going to make the most of that light reducing harshness, glare, and that bright washed out effect.

As far as your cellphones go, HDR has been a feature of the iPhone since the release of the iPhone4 in 2010.  The iPhone 5s even introduced automatic HDR, and when enabled the camera automatically determines if the amount of lighting is sufficient and uses HDR accordingly or not.  Android models as far back 2012 were also shooting with HDR.  While in “shooting mode” on the Android, select the HDR feature, and again, the camera will automatically shoot the scene with three exposures and piece them together.  Finally, while most newer cameras will likely offer a built in HDR mode, you can always use downloadable software programs to stitch together your own HDR photos.  There are several free versions available on the web.  Simply shoot the three scenes yourself with the same three exposures of an automatic camera (underexposed, properly exposed, and overexposed), and allow an HDR processing software to do the work.

Whether your using a professional camera or turning your cell phone camera pro, the HDR tool is certain to help you capture greater dynamic ranges of luminosity in your photographs.  Be sure to check this one out the next time the lighting has too much contrast or variation, in other words extreme brightness or extreme dimness, throughout the scene and find your photos to be that much crisper and detailed.

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