How to Produce HDR Photography Without Over Doing It
“What is HDR?” some of you may ask. Some of you may already know, but let me still describe it for everyone. A normal photo has its highlights and shadows, there is loss of details in both areas as the image sensor are limited in their ability and thus try to centre on the sensitivity they are set on. High Dynamic Range photo is simply a photo that shows details in both highlight areas and shadows, thereby making it a vivid, beautiful looking, highly detailed work of art!
How it is achieved: There are cameras that do it with built in software, especially in our cellphones but in a very limited way, and the best technique involves taking at least 3 photos of the same scene without moving the camera or the subject. These photos as taken at 3 exposure settings to capture all the details in the low, mid and highly lit areas. Then combine these images in an HDR software to get a HDR image.
The biggest problem with HDR is that people often overdo it, Here is how overdoing and ruining your HDR photo can be avoided:
1.Keep it stable: Although this is a starting step, but it’s extremely important to keep the camera stable while shooting all the shots at different exposure levels. Shaky images can result in excessive chromatic edges and color/contrast bleeds. Use a full tripod, make sure there is no wind, ensure subject stability and shoot as quickly as possible. Also be vary about any lighting conditions that may be changing, although it may not matter that much.
2.Keeping the highlights: Take a sample shot, see if your dark capture is just right. You should just be able to see the texture and detail and not go too deep. If you make it too dark, the natural contrast of the image will be affected. This will not look great, considering how naturally we are inclined to differentiate the contrasts with our eyes. We need to just get a tiny bit of detail in an otherwise over exposed area. Also, light sources like sun will not need any texture or detail. So ignore light sources but focus on the other highlights.
3.Never “expose” the shadows: Do not light the shadows up too much while composing your overexposed shot. Just tune your exposure in the range where you see some detail and not as if the shadows were lit up on their own. This again is helpful in creating a natural photo. This way, beautiful shadow casts can add value, depth and contrast to your photo.
4.Check other regions: takesample shots and zoom in your camera viewer to see if you are doing justice to the other areas and depending upon how much they matter, fine tune your exposure settings. You could also use a touch up brush in your HDR software to create local enhancements in the photo while post processing.
5.Using the HDR software: Each software works with different algorithms and it’s best to use an offline software that uses your computing power to deliver good results. You can also do it in Photoshop and while in PS, you have the flexibility to add layers of contrast and other image specific enhancements. Using layer approach gives you a lot of flexibility and power to enhance specific areas which may not be coming up well despite a great picture otherwise.
6.Halos: Overdoing your HDR in software can induce halo effects and they can be adjusted by fine tuning the software output parameters. Adjust them and see if you get halos. Some software show a real time result.
7.Zoom it: Check your image in 100% zoom to make sure the results look good not just from a distance but up close. The devil is in the details you see!
"The classic problem of a bright sky and a dark land found it's natural solution in HDR besides the graduated density filter"
In essence, our goal while making an ideal HDR is not to flatten the image but keep its contrast, its shadows and highlights intact while giving back the details that an image looses otherwise due to sensor limitation. There will be technology some day that lets us enjoy full HDR in photos and on our monitors. Till then, the method above is good to go! Thank you for reading.
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