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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.
You can shoot HDR images with any type of camera, but you will definitely have an easier time with some cameras more than others. We are going to cover several different shooting techniques for handling scenes with high dynamic range, but the most popular involves shooting a series of images. Now because we want the images to be as similar to each other as possible, it helps to have a camera with a fast burst rate. In fact, the faster the better. But if your camera can only manage two or three frames per second, you will still be doing okay. Now those multiple frames that you are shooting won't be completely identical; instead their exposures will be bracketed.
That is, each frame will be exposed slightly differently than the previous frame. This is much easier to achieve if your camera has an auto-bracketing feature, which is sometimes referred to as auto-exposure bracketing. You will be using this in conjunction with the camera's burst or drive mode. Though not completely necessary, you ideally want a camera with an aperture priority mode to help ensure that all of the images of your bracket set have the same depth of field. You will get the best results from your HDR work if you have a camera that can shoot in RAW not just JPEG.
Now because I'm usually pretty lazy, I actually do most of my HDR work while hand holding the camera. However, there are times when the only way you can get a good HDR shot is with a tripod, and certainly any HDR image will benefit from the stability provided by a good tripod. If you are really a stickler for sharpness, then you are going to want a remote control to use when tripod mounting. Now for postproduction, you will need a copy of Photoshop CS5. You can get away with an earlier version, but some of the new HDR features that we are going to cover here are only available in CS5.
You will also be looking at Photomatix and NIK software's HDR FX. There are free demo versions of all of these programs and we will look at where you can get those when we get to the postproduction sections. Finally, you'll need a basic understanding of exposure, what aperture and shutter speed and iSO mean, and how to change them on your camera. You can learn more about exposure in the Foundations of Photography: Exposure course. So, if you're still not clear on what kind of camera you need, know that if you have an SLR, you're probably fine.
If you have an advanced point-and- shoot, then you probably have aperture priority mode, exposure bracketing, a burst mode and possibly the ability to shoot RAW, so you're probably okay. If you have a more simple point-and-shoot, don't run out and buy a new camera just yet. It's possible that your camera will be fine, but you will need to do some tests and experiments to be sure.
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