I was trekking through downtown Boston with two good photo buddies when we noticed that a significant storm was approaching. The onslaught of clouds plowed through the sky rapidly. Fortunately, I was able to grab this scenic shot of Charlestown before the heavy rain set in.
Canon EOS 40D, 90mm, f/6.3, ISO 100, 1-exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
By Brian Matiash
HDR -- High Dynamic Range -- is a post-processing imaging technique that allows a photographer to display a much wider tonal range from light to dark in a photograph than today's cameras can actually capture. By taking several shots of the same scene at different exposures and then tone mapping them, the result is often a much more dramatic depiction and closer to what the human eye actually sees.
I remember exactly how I discovered HDR: I was browsing through random Flickr photostreams and came across a photographer, "Flying Dutchee". His photostream contained shots with stunning detail and style unlike anything I had ever seen. I noticed the recurring keyword 'HDR' on his shots and decided to write to him. I started to research this technique, a first for someone like me who typically learns by doing, not by studying. It was through this chain of events that I became completely and totally obsessed with HDR.
How do you use this technique? In a nutshell, you shoot the same scene with five different exposures from -2 to +2, and then combine them in your editing software. The result is a photo that captures the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights.
First choose a scene that has a wide range between the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. Shooting with the intent of using HDR processing requires that you either use a tripod or have an extremely steady hand, as any motion in the shot will lead to unwanted ghosting and artifacts.
If your camera allows you to shoot in RAW, you also can process in HDR from a single exposure, creating copies of that one photo in your software with different exposure levels. You would want to process in HDR from a single exposure if there is a lot of movement in your shot, such as people walking or cars in motion, because capturing five shots of the exact same scene would be impossible. About 85% of my HDR shots are derived from a single exposure.
The assumption here is that I am working off of a single 0 (zero) exposure bias (EB) shot. The following is my workflow for a single exposure shot:
1. In Lightroom, I export the 0 EB shot as a 16-bit TIFF file.
2. In Lightroom, I decrease the exposure by one stop to -1 EB and export as a 16-bit TIFF file.
3. I repeat this process for -2, +1, and +2 EB shots. The end result is five unique TIFF files (-2, -1, 0, +1, and +2).
4. I load these five exposures in Photomatix and perform "tone mapping" on the HDR image. Once satisfied, I save the file as a 16-bit TIFF and bring it back into Lightroom.
5. In Lightroom, I'll make some basic modifications, typically to brightness, black levels, saturation, and contrast.
6. If needed, I will bring the image into Photoshop to perform more complex tasks (such as layering and masking) and run the image through a noise-reduction filter (I use Noiseware Pro).
7. Voilà! The end result should be an eye-catching HDR version of the original exposure that you started with.
Created in Adobe Lightroom. Exposure bias from left to right: -2, -1, 0, +1, +2
HDR has been gaining a lot of popularity lately, and there is no shortage of good online material discussing the technique. There is also a growing number of books that focus on HDR available for purchase at Amazon.com or your local bookstore.
A few more HDR shots:
Canon EOS 40D, 10mm, f/3.5, ISO 100, 5 unique exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
Canon EOS 40D, 17mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1-exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, 10mm, f/8, ISO 100, 5 unique exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
Canon EOS 40D, 15mm, f/5.6, ISO 100, 1-exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
Canon EOS 40D, 17mm, f/9, ISO 100, 1-exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
I do not consider myself an academic photographer. I have never taken a class in photographic technique. I learn best by real-world application. I am a good photographer because I surround myself with great photographers.
While my life behind the lens began during my early college days at Syracuse University, my first quantum leap in the medium was made on Oct. 25, 2003. That was the first time I went shooting with my newly purchased Canon Digital Rebel dSLR. Walking around Kennebunkport, Maine with then-girlfriend (now-wife) Lisa, I vividly remember my amazement at how wide I could focus with my kit lens. I was now the master of my lens' aperture, my camera's shutter speed, and could meter off of any specific point within my viewfinder. It was epic. Of course, I had no real idea what I was doing at the time. You can equate it to placing a 5-year-old behind the wheel of a bumper car and letting him go nuts. I had no direction other than to go wild with my shutter release.
Since then, I can remember some important milestones in my development as a photographer. And this is where surrounding myself with great photographers comes into play. I am very fortunate to know such talented people and will always seek out their advice on my shots. From debates over post-processing styles to enlightening conversations about the correlation between aperture and shutter speed, my growth as a photographer can be directly attributed to real-world application and the photographers I surround myself with. Despite having the fortune of knowing such talented artists, the one person who I owe it all to is my loving wife, Lisa. She is my greatest fan and is constantly on the lookout to help me find 'my next shot'. Her patience and support is simply amazing.
Brian was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Framingham with his wife, Lisa, and super-dog, Zilla G. By day, Brian is an Integration Consultant at Omgeo, LLC. He is the founder of the Flickr-based Boston Photo Mob Meetup Group. His work can be seen on his website, Brian Matiash Photography, as well as at his Flickr account. In addition, selected pieces are on display at the Hudson Street Gallery in Boston's Chinatown.
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