1st HDR photograph

Mike Grist Uncategorized 8 Comments

HDR imaging is a fascinating sub-branch of photography that I just became aware of. HDR means High Dynamic Range, which basically means you have a photograph with a heck of a lot of information in it, spanning a range of lights through darks impossible to capture in a regular photograph.

Here is my first HDR effort- taken from my 3rd floor balcony.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on HDR– dating it as far back as the 1850’s, with a sailor/photographer taking two shots, one with the sky exposed correctly, the other with the sea. He’d then physically cut the negatives, splice them, and produce a single shot with the sea and sky as balanced as we might see with our eyes.

Apparently a decent HDR technique has been a holy-grail of still-image photographers for a long time- one which they’ve pretty much wholly acquired now, at a commercially viable level- what with everyone going digital, and the software easily distributed over the net. It involves a method similar to the sailors’, except all in a computer program. You take multiple shots of the same still-image at different exposure levels- in the above shot I took one for the sky, and one for the buildings. You plug those images into your HDR tone-mapping program, in my case Photomatix Pro 3.0, which I heard is probably the best, and it produces a composite which you then tweak back and forth until satisfied.

Here are the 2 images I used to create the composite:

Dark foreground, but the sky is well-exposed.

The sky is blown out, but the foreground is at a good light level.

You’ll notice in the final image I also ramped up the color and contrast some- it was a grey day and I neglected to change the filter to accomodate that.

I’ll play around with more digital images in my coming ruins articles, plus more upcoming shots of interesting Tokyo architectures.

Comments 8

  1. Funnily enough, I just came across this type of photography today myself!


    I might have to look into playing around with some of my own photos when I have more time. It makes perfect sense though – my digital camera is not quite good enough for complete tonal range, so taking several shots at different exposures and combining them is a great, albeit labour-intensive way.

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    Hey Al- Yes you can do it with your digital camera, you just need the right HDR post-production software. In this case, Photomatix Pro. I think some cameras can do this kind of thing in camera- which is very cool, but probably only very expensive top-of-the-range models. Photomatix costs $99, but you can get a trial version from their website for free.

    Mike- Yeah I looked at that link- some of the stuff is amazing- though there are some photography purists who look on it as ‘cheating’. I don’t really worry about that though, and am looking forward to giving it a real go at the next haikyo I visit.

  3. Ha, I’m one of those purists! I’m not against HDR and even started to try it myself. I just wouldn’t want it to be called a photograph. I think it should be called an “HDR image.”

    They would be good to use as creative images in various print and online media.

  4. This isn’t going to work for a moving subject- or indeed- for portriature- or is it? Is there a way you can take all your different exposures at once?

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    Jason- Yeah, it’s a fair point- it’s not a conventional photograph, it’s a digital manipulation.

    Tony- With a regular camera I think a moving subject would be impossible, though with portraiture, if you could get the subject to sit totally still- and of course you used a tripod- it’s do-able. I’ve seen one, it looked weird, but not bad. As for all in one shot- Jason who commented above told me about RAW images that higher level cameras can take- which capture much more light vs. dark information than a regular shot- thus allowing you to re-balance things digitally after-wards, much like an HDR shot.

  6. Interesting… I’ve been doing that with some of the pics on my photoblog for a couple of years now, using Photoshop. Didn’t know it had a name – HDR – nor that other people were into it. Cool.

    Tony – you can do a moving subject, but it takes more work. Just focus on the moving subject when he is there. Then take a picture of the background when he is not there, to get those colors right. You’ll need to cut and paste and blend, but it’s doable.

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