HDR Photography and Tips
Even if you don’t know precisely what HDR is, or even if you’ve never heard of it, I assure you that you know it directly or indirectly because you will have seen it in many images as a good devourer of photos that you are.
The name may sound foreign to you. Normal, because the acronym is for High Dynamic Range or, what is the same, high dynamic range. Do you know what I’m talking about? Don’t worry; it’s very simple; I’ll explain it below.
WE BEGIN BY THE BEGINNING … WHAT IS THE DYNAMIC RANGE?
Dynamic range is the ability to capture detail in the lights and shadows of a scene. Our eye, for example, has a great dynamic range, infinitely better than any camera that exists today. That is, we can easily see detail in both lights and shadows in the same scene.
HDR Photography: On the other hand, cameras have infinitely more difficulties in capturing the details in scenes where there are different lights; surely you will have noticed it, and indeed you will have thought more than once, how can it be that that image that I have in my head is incapable of reproducing it in print?
It is impossible to reproduce reality today, and with the dynamic range, cameras have as good as they are.
Now, we have techniques that help us get very close. One of them is the HDR.
What is the HDR
HDR Photography or high dynamic range said easily, is the ability to have detail in both lights and shadows. A low dynamic range means we will either give up the point in the mornings or do it in the shadows. Instead, a high dynamic range will try to keep it in both.
The HDR, therefore, allows us to get closer to human vision and, therefore, to obtain images, in principle, closer to reality. And I say, in direction, because the HDR should be used to the proper extent.
Abusing too much of it can lead us to the opposite pole, to images far from reality, too retouched and exaggerated. For example, this:
Of course, it is a matter of taste; a while ago, this type of HDR was so fashionable, but it was lost until looking for a more realistic effect, which takes advantage of the detail in lights and shadows without being exaggerated. But what was said about tastes and colors;).
HOW TO GET A GOOD IMAGE HDR STEP BY STEP?
Nowadays, most smartphones have this option automatically, so it is not a mystery, nor do we have to go beyond having it activated or not and, if appropriate, compare the image in HDR Photography and the normal one and choose the one that We like more.
Now, in reflex/mirrorless photography, etc., which interests us, demands work, and gives us the best results, which we love and makes us lose our mind in equal parts … ahem, which deviates.
Popular Types of Photography
As I said, in this type of photography, in which we want the best results and the best quality in our image, the way to achieve an HDR step by step is simply the following:
Look for a preferably static scene because we will take several photos with the same frame. Therefore, a tripod will be indispensable (as you will use it, remember to deactivate the image stabilizer because you no longer need it).
If you have a remote trigger, use it. Set the camera to manual mode.
Set a diaphragm aperture according to the picture you want to take (a lot of depth of field, opening closed and backward). Set the white balance manually and do not change it.
Use an ISO as low as possible.
Try to work in RAW.
Set the focus point, and don’t move it.
We will make a total of 3 identical images in composition and then stack them on top of each other.
Each of these photos will have a different exposure. To do this, adjust the speed of each of them so that:
The first image is correctly exposed for the light zones.
The second image is for the darkest areas of the picture.
The third image is for the intermediate areas of the picture.
If you want more precision, you can combine more exposures, but with 3, it usually works well, at least to start practicing.
With this, what we get at the moment is detail in each type of light separately.
Once we have our images, we overlap them with editing programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Photomatix. Here you can see how to do it step by step with this latest program.
And that’s it; it’s straightforward. It is adding all the information about the different lights results in an image where all the areas of the photograph have detail.
As you have already deduced, the main application of HDR Photography is for scenes with a lot of contrast between lights and shadows, in which we can’t preserve the detail of the different areas through our camera.
This situation occurs and obtains the best results mainly in: Landscapes: one of the most classic applications. It allows us to conserve information about the sky and the ground without renouncing the details of either of the two parts. If the atmosphere has clouds, better than better.
Interiors with an entrance of natural light (interiors illuminated by the light of a window, tunnels with exit to the outside, etc.). The slight difference is also noticeable in these cases, and an HDR will help you.
Macro: this will allow you to reveal and preserve details of the image that would otherwise be lost.
Metal elements: cars, cutlery, and, in general, any metal surface give excellent results in HDR.
TIPS FOR MAKING A REALISTIC HDR
For realistic results, the ideal is not to abuse the editing settings once you have made the HDR Photography. You know that the more an image is retouched, the more artificial it usually seems.
Do not abuse color saturation. If you work in Lightroom, playing a little with the Intensity that saturates the less saturated tones more subtly is preferable.
Be careful when adding texture or clarity to the image. More will result in a more artificial image.
Please do not abuse the contrast; it is preferable to slightly adjust the whites and blacks separately, which generates difference and offers you greater control of the result.
Try to make the colors true to reality; no matter how tempting it is to exaggerate them, it doesn’t usually give good results. It is better to work with the luminance and saturation of each color separately if you work with an editor with this option.
It is simply about trying not to exaggerate in editing and staying true to our vision of the image. It is always good to play with the different settings to find the moment in which the appearance we have in our head and that of our screen coincide.
Now, you can use HDR Photography as another creative function, so research, test, test, and stick with the result you like the most because perhaps you intend precisely to obtain an image far from reality.
This article has been helpful and encourages you to practice this technique as straightforwardly as it is effective. Because you already know that photography goes from that to practice, to learn, to enjoy! Please share this article if you think someone can benefit. Thank you, and see you next time!