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In this course, photographer Ben Long describes the concepts and techniques behind high dynamic range (HDR) photography, a technique used to create images that have a wider range between the lightest and darkest areas of a scene than a digital camera can typically capture. The course begins with some background on dynamic range, on how camera sensors detect shadows, and on the kinds of subjects that benefit from HDR. Ben then describes and demonstrates several methods of generating HDR images, starting with single-shot HDR, which relies on masking to subtly enhance the dynamic range of a shot. Next, the course covers multi-exposure HDR, which involves shooting several photos of a scene, each at a different exposure, and then combining them using software tools. Ben demonstrates how to use Photoshop and the popular Photomatix software to process HDR images whose appearance ranges from subtle to surreal.
Earlier I mentioned a technique called faux-HDR, which is kind of a phony HDR process and you may have thought about this already. If normally for HDR I need to shoot a normally exposed image, an underexposed image, and an overexposed image, why can't I just take my normally exposed image into my RAW processor, create an underexposed version, save that out, then create an overexposed version, save that out, and pass those three final images off to my HDR merging process? That is actually what the faux-HDR technique is.
It's creating a bracketed set from a single original. And it works pretty well, but it's not actually a full-on substitute for truly shooting a bracketed set. And here's why. If I shoot this image like this, taking it into my RAW converter and darkening it simply does not yield the same information as actually shooting a darker image and truly capturing that different tonal range. So this is a bit of a hack. It's a fake thing. It is again faux-HDR, but it can work very well for certain situations.
Probably the most common place where you would use Faux-HDR is if you are shooting something that's simply doesn't lend itself to a bracketed set,and that's usually something with movement. If you're trying to shoot people or an action scene or if you're shooting a landscape and it's really windy and the trees are blowing and the grass is blowing and the clouds are moving through dramatically and that kind of thing. You're going to have trouble getting good HDR of those, because you're going to have lots of ghosting problems. Faux-HDR can be a workaround for that. Faux-HDR can also be handy for times when you come home with an image and realize, ooh, this was a high-dynamic range scene and I didn't shoot it that way.
You can still maybe save it and get something workable by using a faux-HDR technique. So here's how you do this with Photomatix. I'm going to start with a single image and I'm using my flat exposure, the one that we're shot as the camera chose to expose, and I'm choosing to use this one rather than one of the other two. Now of course normally that's probably all I would have. In this case, just a little theory, I'm choosing this one because the shadow we want is possibly going to be more prone to noise and the overexposed one might have blown highlights. Anyway, normally you would simply have this well exposed image, hopefully, and so that's what you'd use.
I'm going to pick this up and drag it down Photomatix, just like I would with a bracketed set. What I do then I get this RAW Processing Options dialog rather than the Preprocessing Options dialog box that I get with a full set, and when I get here are the noise reduction, chromatic aberration, white balance, and color space tools that you saw in that Preprocessing dialog box before. Obviously I don't have alignment, because I don't need it. These three images that I'm going to end up with are going to register together perfectly, because they're all generated from the same source.
I don't have a ghosting problem because there's no way that I'm going to have ghosts from a single image. So I'm going to hit OK and what Photomatix sets about doing is automatically generating those two extra images, the underexposed and the overexposed from my source. It takes those and the source and then does an HDR merge on them and you can tell it did a pretty good job. I've got a good nice broad data set. If I look into my image here, I see that my highlights are not overexposed, I've got good shadow detail, this looks like an HDR image. This is not a high-dynamic range scene and it's got detail throughout.
Once it's open, I've got all of my normal options over here to play with, all the usual controls and sliders. What you will find though with a faux- HDR scenario over a full bracketed set HDR scenario is that the sliders just don't do as much. They don't have the latitude. They don't yield as big a result, as dramatic an effect, as they would if you have shot with a true HDR bracketed set. So that means I'm not going to be able to push full-on into that really surreal, crunchy, overwrought HDR look, if that's what I'm wanting.
Nevertheless, faux-HDR can be a great solution for those times that I mentioned before: moving subject matter, at times when you just didn't realize you were facing high-dynamic range scene. Once I've got it the way I wanted, I hit the Process button, right out of file and take that into the rest of my workflow and we'll be seeing what the rest of that workflow is later in this course.
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