A relatively new concept or methodology in the world of photography is that of HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. Let me begin by saying that I am by no means a master of creating HDR photos, but I understand the basic concept and I think it’s worth sharing with those of you who are in the dark, no pun intended.

The main benefit of an HDR image is that it allows you to capture detail in all areas of a high contrast scene such as the one above by Flickrite beforethecoffee. Had he exposed for only the monuments you would not have been able to see the detail in the dark water or the brick wall. If he had exposed the shot for the dark water, the monuments would have been overexposed and blown out. Instead he took a series of (3 to x) photos at different exposures and used software such as Photoshop to blend them together so that you see detail in all areas of the photo without anything being under or overexposed. Pretty cool, huh? Depending on how many exposures you blend together and your skill in doing so, you can end up with a subtle HDR image…

…or a very dramatic one that looks more like a painting than a photo:


If you’re interested in learning more about creating your own HDR photos there are a bazillion tutorials on the web, including one by beforethecoffee himself. Be sure to check out his Flickr stream as well as Oblivious Dude’s for more HDR fun.

8 Comments so far

  1. Okinawa (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 5:55 am

    Actually, that’s a great use of HDR!

  2. GhostBear (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 8:46 am

    Oooooh, more fun with Photoshop! I can get into this…

  3. Don (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 11:20 am

    BeforeTheCoffee’s tutorial uses PhotoMatix, which is fine but has a tendancy towards more hyper-real stuff like that 3rd shot. If you like that kind of thing there’s another HDR tutorial here using PhotoMatix.

    Personally I prefer the Photoshop methodology that (a) doesn’t require even more money out of my pocket and (2) gives a more realistic image, in my not so humble opinion. I’m fond of this tutorial here for Photoshop-based HDR.

  4. KCinDC (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

    There’s also this GIMP HDR tutorial, which I haven’t used but will try some time, since I mainly use Linux and don’t have Photoshop.

  5. Don (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

    For you Linux folks looking for some tutorials here’s

    One on using pfstmo and pfstools, which are command-line tools

    CinePaint has a few plugins for handling HDR and here’s some instructions on using some of those.

  6. Max (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Linux? What’s that? Some sort of bathroom cleaner? :)

    If you guys come up with some good HDR shots, be sure to post them in our DC Metblogs Flickr Group!

  7. KCinDC (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Don. I’m interested in trying HDR, but I fear that with my current SD800 IS and no tripod it’s going to be hard to get matching shots, so it’ll probably have to wait.

  8. Don (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    There’s no reason you can’t manage with that SD800 if you want to. In manual mode the little Canons have an option to do exposure compensation up and down by 2 full stops.

    Stabilization is more difficult but not impossible. Benches and ledges work quite well, and if you’re doing wide angles you’re much less susceptible to shifts.

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