Home on the High Dynamic Range

HDR Photography – For artistic effect.

The modern age has ushered in a revolution in imagery. Above all else, we are bombarded by images. Look around you now, chances are, you are surrounded by more images than you can count on both hands. Our lives are intertwined with the images we are surrounded by and some of these images are actually several images intertwined. The effect of combining several shots which are all similar but vary in tonal range, produces a picture that encompasses all the information that an exposure can offer in one image. This is known as HDR (High Dynamic Range).

The idea is to capture an image with a lot of natural high contrast. However, even the greatest camera on earth will not capture all the highlights or flat shadows. By combining several images of the same scene, it is possible to produce an image that includes the maximum information as far as tonal range and contrast are concerned.


Would you trust this man to water your plants and tape your favourite shows?

This image (left) is produced by merging three versions of the same photograph. All three versions had a varying contrast. The first reveals the lighter tones, the second reveals the mid-tones and the third the darker tones. In photographic terms, this effect is achieved by setting the stops on your exposure levels. For example -2 stops would produce a darker, under exposed image, +2 would reveal a much lighter and over exposed image. By combining all three images using the program ‘Photomatix’, an image with a higher dynamic range is produced. This can also be done in Photoshop with the Tone-mapping plug-in.

This is my friend Alex (above) and he writes a blog too! Please visit him here and give him some abuse, he loves it!

The three images used to make the HDR style image of Alex were taken on a digital camera. Genuine HDR images require shots to be taken in RAW format. The Jpeg images produced by a basic point and click digital camera are too lossy to produce a genuine HDR image. However, as I have mentioned, there are several programs that allow you to produce HDR images from a none HDR format.

I found this very cool Blog by photographer Trey Ratcliff, which has a tutorial for HDR photography and also contains a lot of other cool stuff such as his portfolio (which is excellent), reviews of the ‘Photomatix’ software, tips on how to create your own online portfolio and recommended equipment. Certainly worth a butchers!

Typically, a HDR image is a scenic composition that reveals a wonderful array of colours and shadows. A skyline or a landmark can be captured in all their glory and then presented in a HDR composite giving them even more detail….

HDR sky

A beautiful example of a typical HDR scenic shot.


However, a more grittier effect can be achieved using alterations in contrast. This can be especially effective when taking portraits of people or animals…

HDR fashion portrait

The combination of contrasting exposures give the image more life and atmosphere.

HDR images may be composites, but the artistic effect they produce is certainly a reflexion of our appetite for higher definition and clarity, the likes of which has not previously been possible. Modern technology has provided photography with its own answer to HD or iMAX in the form of HDR. There’s no denying the impressive appearance of these images and personally, I endeavour to look in to some more tutorials on how to create HDR style images in Photoshop. I guess this is a good place to start… (God bless you You Tube!)

About Roulette Revolver

Currently a first year undergraduate in Film & Media Studies.
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4 Responses to Home on the High Dynamic Range

  1. Thats a really nice result you’ve got on your HDR image there mate, nicely done!


  2. jdower says:

    There is some good software that you can download for free to do HDR photography:
    Photomatix Pro 4
    Luminance HDR
    Picturenaut 3

  3. Pingback: What is Dynamic Range? « Exploring dynamic range

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