What is HDR photography?

March 28, 2015  •  5 Comments

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. 

In photography, a setting with a high dynamic range is one where there is a very wide range of lights to darks. For instance if you are in a home with large windows on a bright sunny day, there is a huge difference between the light coming in from the windows compared to the ambient light given off by fixtures in the home. Our eyes and mind do a terrific job adapting and balancing that range of light. We usually can still see the detail in the room even though there is bright light coming in from the windows. However the sensor on a camera, even some of the most sophisticated cameras in the world, still have a hard time doing what our brain and eyes do. How many pictures in real estate listings have you seen where it looks like a nuclear blast is occurring through the window; or the outside looks fine and the room is almost totally black?

This is where HDR photography can be used effectively to give a good view of the interior and exterior of a home.

The process of HDR involves taking multiple exposures that cover the entire gamut of light and then blending those images  in a specific HDR blending software. Today we have cameras that can do this automatically but I am not aware of one that produces clean, good quality images directly out of camera.

As you can see from the images below the image on the right has more detail inside the home and in the yard. A prospective buyer can see the view from the french doors instead of just bright daylight. 

STANDARD
HDR EXPOSURE FUSION

 


Comments

5.Rob Stathem(non-registered)
Thanks George for helping explain the process of HDR. I think you've explained it much more concisely than what I'm seeing on YouTube.

Much appreciated,
Rob
4.George Crudo Photography
Hi Rob!
Typically HDR is captured by taking 5-7 shots at exposures two stops apart. (sometimes more). Keep your aperture constant and only change your shutter speed. You want to find your middle exposure first. Then go at least four stops under and 4 stops over your even exposure.

Check the histogram to make sure all of the data is captured. By this I mean, the histogram for the brightest image should drop off somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2, left of center and the darkest image should be 1/3 and 1/2 right of center. The number of shots you will need to capture depends on the dynamic range of your subject matter.

I use both Photoshop CS6 and Photomatix Pro to process. For some strange reason the exterior shots come out crisper when I use Photoshop instead of Photomatix. The interior shots look fine in Photomatix, when using the Exposure Fusion option.
In older versions of Photoshop I never liked the way the images looked. However CS6 does a very good job.

I have tried a few other HDR programs in the past but always went back to using Photomatix.

George
3.Rob Stathem(non-registered)
Hi George, I meant to add this at the time of my post, but, just so I understand....HDR is the process of using exposure bracketing (for example, two stops below and two stops above the normal exposure) and then combining and blending ALL three images using Photoshop or other HDR processing tool, correct? I've heard Photoshop can do this, but, others say there are better programs. What program do you prefer?

Thanks,
Rob
2.George Crudo Photography
Yes Rob It's definitely easier but post processing can be a bit tricky to avoid the overdone "HDRish" look

Thanks!

George
1.Rob Stathem(non-registered)
George, Excellent explanation and samples! A good friend of mine (who just got into real estate photography) will find this article very helpful. It sounds like your methods of HDR exposure are a lot easier than bringing all sorts of lighting equipment into the homes.

Cheers,
:) Rob
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