Reducing Dynamic Range and What It Does for You - Dreamstime

In new advertisements for cameras, the latest and greatest from Nikon and Canon, a lot reference to the high dynamic range of the camera and how great it is because of this. I'm not saying that a high dynamic range is a bad thing, in fact it is amazing the new capability that new cameras have, however I am suggesting that reducing the dynamic range can give an entirely different feel to an image, usually for the better.

For many years I have wondered how the simple compact cameras of my friends could produce a very meaningful and interesting image whereas images from my expensive high-end SLR looked dull. The difference was the dynamic range. In the cheaper cameras, the dynamic range is low, resulting in dark shadows and blown out highlights.The more expensive cameras use larger sensors, being able to capture a larger range of contrast from dark to light.

Well, by now, I'm hoping that you believe me and are edging to try reducing the dynamic range of your own images. The process of reducing the dynamic range is very simple, all you need is Photoshop.

To adjust the range, we will be using one of Photoshop's most powerful tools, 'Curves'. Open your image and navigate to Image>Adjustments>Curves. With the curve , create a 'S', increasing highlights and darkening the shadows. Of course, like any tutorial the exact adjustments will vary so use your intuition to make it look right.

You may be thinking this could be done with a simple contrast adjustment, however using curves opens up a new world of possibility to how the image can turn out. There is a reason Curves is regarded as one of the most powerful tools ever.

Let me know how it turns out.

View the original article accompanied by images on my website here.

Spectrum Studios Photography

Photo credits: Mihai Zaharia.

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July 29, 2011


Hello and good day to all.Thanks for the info

July 06, 2011


Interesting information.

July 05, 2011


Well you are not really reducing DR by adding a slight "S" shape to the tone curve, you are compressing the highlight and shadows. If you reduced DR most likely you would clip the extremes which is hardly ever a good thing. To do this kind of treatment successfully it's best to be shooting in RAW as jpg has already added it's adjustments. Adding a slight "S" to the tone curve by adjusting the toe and shoulder often improves the look of an image. If you look at the curves of film they have always had this shape.

July 04, 2011


Very nice article.

July 04, 2011


Thanks for sharing!!!

July 04, 2011


Thanks very much! Well worth giving a try.

July 04, 2011


Thanks for sharing!

July 04, 2011


Very interesting idea behind this blog, I almost always use a curves adjustment in all of my images and never really considered it as reducing the dynamic range of an image... For me it is a more accurate way of managing contrast and compressing some of the tones at the extreme ends of the dark and light end of the spectrum or the reverse if as is sometimes the case I have too much contrast.

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