HDR is an awesome photo technique so if you haven’t tried it in your architectural photography you should.
I am going to give you the 101 on HDR.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a post-processing method of taking a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.
HDR compensates for this loss of detail of overexposed and underexposed areas in a photo by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and stitching them together to produce a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas in computer software during post-production.
The reason HDR creates such amazingly realistic photos is because a single image uses only one shutter speed and one aperture setting however the human eye does not process images the same way. Your eyes move and adjust the light as required and does a lot to process an image accurately. So even with the best equipment getting an accurate representation of what you saw is difficult. HDR stitches all the images together – a trick to accurately represent and image. Many times HDR is exaggerated in post-production – this effect is no for everyone or appropriate for all pictures so balancing the effect with your desired outcome is where the challenge lies. Some examples of HDR from www.stuckincustoms.com:
What you need:
1. MANUAL CAMERA
A camera which can be put into manual mode, likely a DSLR or SLR, because you will need to be able to adjust your exposure (I have the Canon 4Ti which is an inexpensive camera with lots of features). Most DSLRs have Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) which allows you to set the exposure easily and the photo will take the photos and adjust automatically. If you are not sure check your camera’s manual. Some of the newest cameras have an HDR feature but this does all the work for you and you will have no control over the final output – do a comparison to see if you are happy with the results. Also, I would recommend taking the photos in RAW+JPEG but if you are low on memory or can’t shoot in the RAW it is fine (Shooting in RAW just gives more post production control).
A tripod is important to maintain the exact same shot with different exposures. There are so many tripods out there and the price range is significant the Manfrotto 410 is an awesome tripod because of all the leveling features and stability but there are less expensive tripods on the market. For the purpose of HDR you just need to keep the camera still so a basic tripod and you can adjust and straighten your photo in post-production. It is also recommended to have a camera remote (canon rs-60e3) which prevents the camera from shaking when you press the shoot button. If you are traveling and want to pack light just use the timer on your camera so you press the button and there is a short delay before the camera goes off.
3. POWER & MEMORY
Taking HDR is requires taking multiple shots for every one photo, usually 3 or 5 but if you are very particular or need a really perfect image you can do more with less exposure range between them. Thus you will be going through your batteries and memory 3 or 5 times faster, something to prepare for if you are taking a trip. Note: if you are planning a trip soon try this technique before you go so you don’t miss a great photo.
4. THE SUBJECT
The image should not be in motion, repetitive motion is fine for example a waterfall but people walking will result in ghosting – which can be a cool effect but may not be what you want. If you are shooting architecture this shouldn’t be a problem. Also, you will likely see the most noticeable improvement in photos where the subject has with lots of color, HDR can be used for monochromatic photography however I found the benefits less apparent.
There are a number of software programs available to do the HDR post-production, I always use Adobe Photoshop but this is pretty expensive software, an alternate I have been hearing about is called Photomatrix.
For more research check out this review of HDR software Top 10 Best HDR Software Review 2012
OKAY – now you are ready to begin, it is easy
- Setup your camera on a tripod as you would for any photo
- Using the AEB function set three exposure levels appropriate to your setting with one begin the correct exposure (you can add more exposures as you practice). You can meter the dark and light spots to find the right exposure range. If you do not have AEB you will need to adjust the exposure manually after each shot but be careful not to move the camera.
- Take the photos, depending on your camera you will either press the shot button once or will need to do it for each shot.
- Bring your images into the post-production software and have fun, play around with the features and the light levels. The process will depend on the software you choose, if you are using Photoshop this YouTube video will help you see the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhnd1oNlqCU
+ + =
You will never say
“Well, you really had to be there” again
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