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HDR shooting and processing

From: Shooting and Processing High Dynamic Range Photographs (HDR)

Video: HDR shooting and processing

When people talk about HDR photography, they're usually referring to a process wherein you shoot multiple frames in a particular way and then merge them together using special HD or processing software. Learning that process is going to be the bulk of this course. Here is how it works. You find a scene that you like that has more dynamic range than your camera can capture. You frame your shot and you take a picture according to your camera's normal metering. This picture is probably going to have overexposed highlights and possibly shadows that are too dark. Next, you take a second picture with the exact same framing, but this time underexposed, usually by a full stop.

HDR shooting and processing

When people talk about HDR photography, they're usually referring to a process wherein you shoot multiple frames in a particular way and then merge them together using special HD or processing software. Learning that process is going to be the bulk of this course. Here is how it works. You find a scene that you like that has more dynamic range than your camera can capture. You frame your shot and you take a picture according to your camera's normal metering. This picture is probably going to have overexposed highlights and possibly shadows that are too dark. Next, you take a second picture with the exact same framing, but this time underexposed, usually by a full stop.

This underexposed frame will probably bring those overexposed highlights back into the range of your camera. those areas will now have detail in them. Finally, you take a third frame, this one overexposed usually by one stop. This image will have wildly overexposed highlights, but all of its shadow detail should be much more visible. So we've got three frames. If you want you can shoot more and continue the bracketing outward for example. You could shoot a fourth frame exposed two stops under and a fifth exposure two stops over.

Typically, I find that I only need three and a one stop bracket over and under is all that I need to get a good final result. Now let's think about what we've got here. We have three images. We have one with clear detail on its mid-tones, we have a second with very good detail on its highlight areas, and a third with very good detail in its shadows. In other words, this set of three images covers a much broader dynamic range than any one single shot. Now I'm going to take a second to talk about that term High Dynamic Range, because honestly it's a little misleading.

Your camera like your eyes has a dynamic range that it can capture in a single shot. We can't do anything to expand that. We can only hope that image sensor technology improves and that when that happens the giant ,ultinational corporation that made you camera will feel so bad that you have older technology that they will just give you a new one for free. And as long as we're hoping, let's just go all the way. More importantly than your camera though, and I'm assuming here that you're ultimately going to print your image, a piece of paper has a dynamic range.

The darkest tone that it can hold depends on the black ink that you use and how that ink sits on that particular type of paper. The lightest tone is dependent on the color of the paper itself, because white in a print is just a spot on the page with no ink on it. There's nothing we can do to expand the dynamic range of a piece of paper and paper is always going to have a smaller dynamic range than your camera or your monitor. We can buy better paper, which will have a bigger dynamic range, but it will still be a smaller dynamic range than our cameras.

When we talk about the HDR process, we're not actually talking about a process of expanding dynamic range. That's simply not possible for any chosen device. Instead, we're talking about a process of compressing dynamic range. HDR software starts by taking that bracketed set of images that you took and layering them on top of each other, getting them perfectly registered. Then it intelligently combines them through a process called tone mapping. The result is a final image that has a broader sampling of tones than you could capture with a single shot.

The overall dynamic range though remains the same, the overall dynamic range of your output media. After I print an HDR image, the darkest thing on this piece of paper is no darker than the darkest thing that can be printed from a normal single shot image. Similarly the brightest thing is no brighter than what I can get from a normal single shot. And everything that I'm saying here also applies to your monitor. When you create an HDR image, your monitor cannot suddenly display a darker or brighter tone that it could before. What tone mapping does is it goes to the underexposed image and it looks up the brightest tones and it puts those into a new image. Then it does to the overexposed image and grabs the darkest tones, which are actually much lighter than the same areas of the underexposed image, and it puts those into our final image.

In other words it looks through all three images to cherry-pick tones that are well exposed. It remaps a selection of tones from all of three images to create a single final image that can show detail throughout the entire tonal range. That's a broad overview of the process and for it all to work, you have to take special care when shooting. Also your HDR software will provide you with a lot of control of that tone mapping step. Obviously, this process depends heavily on good post-production, using very specialized tools, but once you've done this all a few times, you should find that overall it's fairly simple procedure.

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Image for Shooting and Processing High Dynamic Range Photographs (HDR)
 
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  1. 6m 46s
    1. Welcome
      2m 0s
    2. What you need for this course
      2m 37s
    3. Using the exercise files
      2m 9s
  2. 24m 55s
    1. Dynamic range defined
      4m 31s
    2. Understanding bit depth
      3m 37s
    3. Image sensor and shadows
      2m 38s
    4. Three methods for capturing more dynamic range
      3m 56s
    5. HDR shooting and processing
      4m 40s
    6. Single-shot HDR
      2m 43s
    7. When to use HDR
      2m 50s
  3. 19m 59s
    1. Finding HDR subject matter
      4m 38s
    2. Shooting HDR
      9m 45s
    3. Workflow and organization
      5m 36s
  4. 17m 52s
    1. Using gradient masks to improve dynamic range
      3m 56s
    2. More dynamic range masking
      8m 57s
    3. Masking with brushes
      4m 59s
  5. 1h 35m
    1. Creating an HDR image in Photoshop
      12m 15s
    2. Creating an HDR image in Photomatix
      22m 5s
    3. Creating an HDR in HDR Efex
      11m 47s
    4. Merging in Photoshop and processing elsewhere
      3m 51s
    5. Using Tone Compressor in Photomatix
      4m 25s
    6. Using Exposure Fusion in Photomatix
      7m 35s
    7. Single-shot HDR images in Photomatix
      4m 18s
    8. Single-shot HDR images in HDR Efex
      1m 3s
    9. Single-shot HDR images in Photoshop
      5m 32s
    10. Ghosting and Photoshop
      2m 51s
    11. Ghosting and HDR Efex
      2m 47s
    12. Ghosting and Photomatix
      6m 36s
    13. Batch processing in Photomatix
      10m 51s
  6. 2h 9m
    1. Reducing noise and correcting chromatic aberrations
      13m 33s
    2. Finishing an image
      8m 42s
    3. Handling HDR images that are "flat"
      13m 37s
    4. Combining HDR and LDR
      19m 40s
    5. Selective editing with HDR Efex Pro
      9m 42s
    6. HDR that doesn't look like HDR
      12m 42s
    7. Tone mapping troubles to watch for
      6m 46s
    8. Why use HDR for black-and-white images?
      5m 26s
    9. Black-and-white HDR
      12m 39s
    10. Panoramic HDR
      12m 3s
    11. HDR time lapse
      4m 24s
    12. Processing the trestle image
      10m 1s
  7. 37s
    1. Goodbye
      37s

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