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DIY High Dynamic Range Photographs: How To – Part 1 of 2

December 27, 2013 2:28 pm

If you’ve ever seen those hyper-real and ultra-contrast photos, you’ve no doubt wondered how they were done. How is all the detail in the scene captured with a normal digital camera? Won’t some parts be over-exposed?

Because the sensor most likely has a low dynamic range, the answer is yes.

So, what’s the solution?

Take three different shots, merge them into a high dynamic range image, then employ some digital trickery to reduce the dynamic range without noticeably losing detail (that’s called tone mapping, by the way). By doing this, you can bring out all the details in a scene while getting that awesome high dynamic range photograph effect!!

Here’s one of two methods for creating a high dynamic range photograph:

Choose your scene (duh). You might want to pick a scene with clouds because HDR makes clouds look awesome!!

Image Credit: http://joelbramleyphotography.blogspot.com/2013/11/rain-clouds.html

Image Credit: http://joelbramleyphotography.blogspot.com/2013/11/rain-clouds.html

Set up your camera (double duh?). 

Put your camera on a tripod if you have one; find a solid surface to rest it on if you don’t. If you have a remote release for your camera, all the better; you could also use a short self-timer if you don’t. Whatever you use, it is very important that the camera does not move between shots. If your camera has automatic exposure bracketing, then use it (this is called AEB on the menus on Canon cameras). Setting AEB to -2/+2 EV is usually okay, but experiment to see what works best for you.

Take your photographs (I mean…TRIPLE DUH.. Is this joke old yet?).

If you have set up AEB on your camera, then just fire off three shots in a row. If you don’t have AEB, then take a photo, adjust the shutter speed one or two stops faster (i.e. if you’re at 1/250 sec, go to 1/500 or 1/1000 sec), take a photo, then adjust it one or two stops slower than your original shutter speed (i.e. if you were at 1/250 sec, then set it to 1/125 or 1/60 sec), and take another photo. You will now have three photographs: one overexposed, one underexposed, and one normal.

Copy the photographs to your computer. Now, all you have to do is create and tone-map an HDR image from the three photographs you took, so stay tuned for Part 2 of 2 for information on how to do just that!!

Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!!

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