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While the human eye and a camera have similarities, how each sees the world is vastly different, particularly when it comes to dynamic range, the tonal difference between the brightest brights and the darkest darks. Because of this, you should adjust a photograph's tonal range prior to interpreting it into a painting. In this chapter, we'll take a look at how both the camera and the eye portrays the world, and how you can modify a photo to look more like how the eye of the artist sees it, a key attribute towards successful interpretation.
What we're looking at here is a photograph, and what I want to show you here is how a camera is essentially a dumb device, and by that I mean it can only see the world by the way that we instruct it, or how some instructions within the camera tell it to look at the world. The human eye, on the other hand, is constantly adjusting. This is one photograph set at one setting, and this setting was designed to expose for the shadows. So that means that the portico in the center of the image is bright enough so that we see the detail in it.
However, because the camera is essentially a dumb device, it can only expose for the shadows, and what happens is all the highlight areas get blown out, so we get this washed-out looking image. Now by comparison, the human eye standing in front of this building and looking at a scene, the iris constantly adjusting. It's always making changes, depending on where we're looking, so that the highlights and shadows are being adjusted. So, what we compose in our mind as we look around is not a scene that looks like this, but one that takes into all of the dynamic changes.
Now, let's just for example, look at the other side of what the camera can do. It can expose for the highlights. So, in this case, the highlights look good, but all of the shadows are now starting to plug up, so that we see no detail in them. High dynamic range photography, also known as HDR, is one way to compensate for this. By taking multiple exposures and sandwiching together these exposures, you can then get all of the highlights, all of the shadows in one shot, and what we'll end up with is this.
And this is more how we perceive an image when we look at it, because the brain is constantly taking all of these different parts, and assembling it into a contiguous whole. And so, what we want to be able to do is not use a photograph straight out of a camera without any of these adjustments, because it's going to look like a photograph. And remember, part of what we're doing throughout this course, is replacing the language of photography with the language of painting. So we want to erase this camera-dumb artifact of only being able to see one exposure setting at a time and combine them so that we get a dynamic range like we see here.
So the idea behind this is that you modify a photograph's dynamic range to more closely resemble the way human vision sees. That means that you're adding another important ingredient to the recipe for successful interpretation into a painting.
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