I know a lot of people are in two minds about HDR photography. Frankly, I was too. To be honest though , it’s easy to see why so many people dislike HDR photography. A basic Google search will yield thousands of horribly overworked , badly produced HDR images.
This being said – in amongst all of the thousands of horrible images – you will find some truly amazing images that will most probably blow your mind.
I’m writing this blog in the hope that it will motivate other photographers to try out HDR photography.
Before I get into my 5 reasons why it’s awesome – I think I should just briefly explain what HDR photography is. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically HDR photography is the process of combining multiple images (Usually between 3 and 5) of different exposures to form one image that has a higher dynamic range of tone and detail than a normal single exposure image would have.
So what exactly does that mean. Let me try and explain with a practical example. If you’re like me – then you have probably taken a lot of photos of sunsets in your life. Have you ever noticed that when shooting into the sun most of the time the sun will be over exposed – and the foreground will be very dark. And you will basically only have one area on the photo that is properly exposed. This is because in that situation you’re dealing with a wide range of light and shadow – and the camera can only capture 1 exposure setting at a time.
With HDR photography the photographer takes multiple images at different exposures of that sunset and merge them together. So for instance you would take a photo that properly exposes the foreground but completely blows out the sky. Then you will take a photo that properly exposes the horizon but has a dark foreground and blown out sky. Lastly, you will take a photo that properly exposes the sky – and captures the details of the clouds and sun rays – while completely under exposing the foreground.
I think you probably get the idea.
So, now you might be thinking ” OK that sounds pretty cool, but what is the benefit of doing this”
Herewith my 5 reasons why HDR photography is awesome:
1. More Colour Tone
Combining 3 or more images with different exposures allows you to capture a massive range of colour tone. This essentially means richer colour and a more vivid image.
2. More Detail
Because you’re working with 3 or more images – in essence you have a lot more data that’s being captured. This means more detail.
3. New Opportunities
HDR photography allows you to take photos in conditions where the light would normally not work well or yield a boring flat photo. As a matter of fact – I’ve often found that traditional “bad” light conditions actually work amazingly well for HDR photography. The more extreme the dynamic range of the light and the harsher the contrast – the more dramatic and striking the final HDR render will be.
4. Creativity Unleashed
If you’re like me and you enjoy creating a photo rather than just taking one – then you will love HDR photography. HDR gives you the freedom to really be creative and manipulate your images until they’re exactly how you want them to be. Often when working on a HDR image I feel more like a painter than a photographer. The amount of control you have over the final result is truly amazing.
Last but not at all least, is the fact that I think HDR photography is just plain fun. The process is exciting and there is always an element of surprise when you finally see the HDR image, which is in a way similar to the process of shooting on film and finally seeing your image after it has been developed. HDR photography has become a great motivating factor in getting out there and taking photos. I can’t help it anymore – I see “HDR moments” everywhere I look. It could be the most mundane scene ever – and I would think “Hmmm.. that would look amazing in HDR”.
Isn’t that what photography is truly all about? Seeing the world through different eyes – and expressing it in a way that is unique and true to yourself.
In order to clearly illustrate the power of HDR photography – I have added an example of a HDR image v.s. a normal single exposure image that I took recently.
I hope this posts motivates you to give it a go! Enjoy!
- Stephen Geldenhuys
HDR image using 3 exposures: