HDR (high dynamic range) imagery has helped professional photographers to record photos other than those that they could capture with a camera. It has opened up the photos so that they can record a great range of lighting detail, and makes photos that would otherwise have very dark tonal areas aesthetically pleasing.
Photoshop has added a new feature, “merge to HDR” which lets photographers combine a series of exposures into a single shot that takes the best tonal detail of all of them. Learning to use this new feature in Photoshop can help photographers, both professional and hobby, make the most of each shot taken with tricky lighting. The only downside to the merge to HDR function is that it sometimes causes decreases in contrast, so part of the learning curve will be balancing that trade-off.
Why is it needed?
Digital cameras have become increasingly more complex, with higher resolutions and smaller pixels, over the last ten years. Dynamic range is the one area that has not been improved by this, and cameras around eight megapixels are quite susceptible to noisy shadow detail and blown highlights. There are some lighting situations that can’t be captured well by digital cameras at all. However, these same cameras can capture a large dynamic range- just not in one single picture. Just by varying the shutter speed, it varies the amount of light let in, and allows the Photoshop HDR photography to create good images put together by multiple exposures.
When to use Photoshop HDR Photography
Of course, many photographs can be successfully taken using a (GND) graduated neutral density filter that extends dynamic range and maintains contrast. GND is especially well suited to landscapes and the dark blend of land and the bright sky. There are other times when GND filters really can’t help too much, and these images can be enhanced with Photoshop HDR photography. Tonal mapping is the name of the technique involved, and it can best be related to our eyes adjusting to what we see, even when there are several different tones and shadows involved in a setting. HDR photography can mimic this for us in our photographs.
Though the inner workings of an HDR file are rather complex, the actual process of learning to use the technique is much simpler. It creates a 32-bit HDR file format that allows for much greater dynamic range. The extra bits allow for an almost infinite brightness range via the use of tonal mapping.
Taking the Shots
A sturdy tripod is imperative to getting an adequate series of identically-positioned exposures to use in creating an HDR image. There is a feature in Photoshop that will attempt to line the images up when the camera moved slightly between shots, but the best results will be gained when this is not depended upon.
Take at least three to five exposures so that you have enough to merge for best results. The Photoshop HDR photography works best when the HDR program has more exposures so that it can tell how your camera captures the light. Be sure that the darkest one doesn’t have any blown highlights, and that the brightest also shows the darker areas so that they are visible. Separating each exposure by one or two stops, set by changing the shutter speed; this will either double (adding 1 stop) or cut in half (subtracting 1 stop) the light that your camera captures in each image. Also, keep in mind that the subject must be static; ocean waves or waving tree branches probably will not work, as those things will have moved considerably between exposures.
Photoshop HDR photography is very new in the field of digital photography. The existing HDR tools will likely improve a lot over time, but there isn’t an automated process to convert images into those which look best. Currently, getting the best HDR conversions takes a lot of work and trial and error to find the most pleasing images. Be careful also not to overdo it. Over-editing with HDR can make the image lose its realism. To learn more about HDR images check out this article. If you want to learn some advanced Photoshop techniques, try this on.
Special Note: Good results with digital backdrops, backgrounds and image editing are often more easily achieved with step by step video tuition rather than trying to absorb a five hundred page book or guide. Why? Because you can actually see what needs to be done and how to do it.
If this takes your interest and you want to try it, this link provides the first of a string of free tuition videos straight after registering your interest. All you have to do is register your email address. Then, after confirming your receipt of a test email, we send the backdrop (background) and image editing videos to your inbox. It all takes a few seconds surprisingly. Later, you will be given an option to join the club but that’s up to you. You will also be informed if the club is closed for new members.
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