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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.
Starting in the next chapter, we're going to dive into multi-shot tone mapping HDR, the kind of HDR that most people think of when they think HDR. But before we start merging and mapping images, I want to take a moment to discuss organization. If you're out shooting multi-shot HDR, you will inherently be coming back with a tremendous number of images and it's very easy to get overwhelmed after you've dumped them all onto your computer. For every scene that you've shot, you'll have at least three images depending on how much you were bracketing and if you were doing the correct job of a photographer and working your shots, shooting it from lots of different angles, trying and experimenting in lots of different ways, then you'll have three shots for each one of those experiments.
So it's very easy to open up those images that you've just downloaded and go, oh boy, this is a whole a lot of data and not even know where to start and kind of get discouraged. Also, it's easy to lose track of which images go together to create a single HDR set. So I want to talk a little bit about how you stay organized and how you build a functional HDR workflow. I'm here in Bridge, but the things I'm going to show you here will also work in Lightroom or Aperture because both of those applications provide similar features. If you are working on a Photo Mechanic or on another workflow application, I'm sure you can find it corollary to what I'm describing here.
These are the images that we shot on the trestles and I poured them all into one folder. And the first thing I do is I keep the original filenames because I like the sequential numbering, because odds are if I get confused, I can fall back on image numbering to know which images fit together into a set. So you can see here, I've got 14, 26, 27, and 28, those are pretty obviously a set of HDRs. I can see this one is darker than this one, and this one is lighter than the two of them. Sometimes it's going to be harder to tell like these images down here, that are little more evenly exposed.
When that happens, I can fall back on my metadata display. Click on an image to select it in Bridge and if I look over here at the Metadata panel, this little thing right here, these two dashes, indicate that that there is no exposure compensation dialed into this image, unless I was shooting in Manual mode, which I'm not. I can assume that this is how the camera metered the shot. I go to the next image and I see -1. This image has one stop of underexposure and the next one has one stop of overexposure. So this is most likely a bracketed set.
I can even go on and look at the next image just to be sure yeah, it's back to as metered. So I know that this is a single bracketed set of images. Bridge, Lightroom, and Aperture all have a feature called stacking which is a great thing for the HDR photographer because it allows us to group a set of images into a logical entity called a stack. I'm going to select these three that I know are a bracketed set, and go up here to the Stacks menu and choose Group as Stack. I could also hit Command+G or Ctrl+G depending on whether I'm using Mac or Windows, and when I do that those three images collapse down into this thing.
I am going to deselect it here so you can see this is what an unselected stack looks like, a little stack of images. It will never have more than just two layers. And up here in the upper left-hand corner is this little 3 badge which means there are three images in this stack. So the thumbnail shows me the first image and this tells me how many. If I click on it, the stack opens up to reveal all of the images that are inside. If I want, I can rearrange the images. I tend to keep them in bracketed order which means straight numeric order. I can close the stack up again.
So in addition to keeping my images in a stack, I can de-clutter this view by getting rid of a bunch of kind of redundant images. So I'm going to select these. I had clicked the first one, hold down the Shift key, click this one. It selects everything in between. Command+G stacks the images. Another way to do this is with the arrow keys. This is how I usually work. With my first image selected, I'll hold down the Shift key, hit the arrow key to go to the next image, and it gets added to the selection. The next one gets added to the selection, then Command+G groups the images.
Now arrow key to go to the next set. And I can just work through my images here. I'm doing this by eyeball. I'm pretty assured that that's a bracketed set. If I want to double check, again, I can just hit the arrow key to go over here, take a quick glance down here to look at my exposure compensation, look at those three images, and look at the next one. Yup, that's a bracketed set. Shift key to select them and group them. So I can work very quickly here to get my images grouped. Now Aperture has a feature called auto stacking which looks at the timestamp on your images, and tries to figure out automatically which images are part of the bracketed set.
It works pretty well. It doesn't always work, but it's often a good way if you've got a thousand images in a folder, iIt's a good way to quickly get an initial set of stacked images done very, very quickly. I'm going to just stack all these. Now I know that each one of these has a bracketed set. Again, I've de-cluttered my screen here. I'm looking only at basically individual shots, but everything I need to finish the HDR is inside this stack. As we work up the finished HDR as we're going to be generating more files. I'll take those files and throw them back into the same stacks, which is cool because then when I'm done I've got my finished HDR and all the components necessary to build it, all contained in this one logical entity.
So again, staying organized from the beginning is very important step as we move through the rest of our HDR process here, because when you come back from an HDR shoot, you've just got a lot of images to deal with. So let's look at what we do to get them merged.
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