If you're reading this, scratching your head thinking, "What is HDR photography?" then this article is for you. HDR, or High Dynamic range, photography is a technique used to widen the dynamic range of a photograph. That is, to capture detail in both dark shadows and bright highlights. Since cameras have a limited dynamic range it’s not always possible to record detail in the scene if there are areas of extreme brightness and darkness together, in a single exposure. Therefore it’s necessary to take a series of images where the photographs are underexposed (too dark), exposed correctly, and overexposed (too bright) so that detail is captured in all regions of the frame. The underexposed photos will provide detail in brighter sections such as the sky and clouds, overexposed photos will give definition in darker sections and an average middle exposure gives a realistic view of midtone values.
After taking a series of bracketed images the next step is to blend together the regions of the frame that contain useful image detail. For example, taking the detail from the highlights in the underexposed photo, midtones from the middle exposure and definition from the shadows and laying one atop another until a wide dynamic range is achieved in one photograph. Many modern digital cameras now have an HDR mode built-in negating the need to bracket. However, bracketing shots and editing them together in software can provide a more powerful result, especially if shooting in RAW format. Creating HDR photos in this way gives greater control over the final look with the ability to adjust sliders including radius, strength, exposure and detail to name but a few.
Without getting bogged down with the technicalities that come with processing HDR photos the concept of HDR is quite simple. The idea is to overexpose the shadows and underexpose the highlights to record definition in all areas of the image. This is particularly helpful if you’ve forgotten your filters and can’t darken bright skies or lift deep shadows. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can start taking better HDR photographs.
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