Friday, February 10, 2017

High Dynamic Range Basics

Our eyes see much more than our camera. The technical term you may have heard of is High Dynamic Range or HDR. This is why cameras have a bracketing feature to capture a range of exposures that our eyes can see and our cameras have trouble capturing. 
With several exposure versions of the same shot, you’ll have several options to guarantee you have the right exposures. Be careful when using the HDR tool in Photoshop. You can push the limits too much making the photo look unreal. This may not be a bad thing if you are going for the dramatic look instead of realistic.

You should take between 3-7 photos when using the bracketing feature in your camera. And of course, unless you are a statue made of concrete, you'll need a tripod to hold your camera steady.
Here is some more information about bracketing.

If you don't use the bracketing feature, try manually adjusting the exposure and take a few shots. Make sure you under expose one,  get a shot with correct exposure, then take a photo that is over exposed. This way, you're sure to get a correct exposure of everything in your shot. You need at least 3 photos.

Next, in Photoshop do the following:
 File > Automate > Merge to HDR Pro. You'll be asked to find and load your photos.
Next you'll get a screen that looks like the following. There is a menu that will allow you to try various settings that Photoshop offers. Feel free to try them all just to see what they do. These settings are just there to get you started. You don't need to let any of these settings be your finished product.
When you find something close to what you want, use the settings menu to make further adjustments to bring out or hide the areas of the photo that you want. As shown below, there are several adjustments that you can make to further tweak for your final results.

Then, after making adjustments, you can take a bunch of average photos and end up with truly dynamic photo that looks like this.

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