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High Dynamic Range

Lesson 6 from: Dramatic Black & White Architecture

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

6. High Dynamic Range

Dramatic lighting conditions usually limit the brightness range where detail can be captured. By bracketing your exposures and then combining them into a single image you can extend the brightness range where detail is rendered.

Lesson Info

High Dynamic Range

Now let's take a look at how we can capture a wider brightness range, then your camera is usually capable of and that's going to allow us to shoot in much more extreme conditions and this is very important if you end up with an interior area that is not well lit and you can see through an opening like a window or an archway or something to a sunlit area. Most of the time when you're shooting with a single exposure, you can decide to either have detail in the highlights causing the background to turn solid black or you do the opposite getting the dark areas to have detail. But then your highlights will end up going solid white. But by capturing more than one exposure of the scene and combined together into what's known as a high dynamic range image, you can get the full brightness range of the scene and here's how mhm. When I'm capturing in this case, I knew we had an extreme brightness. Strange in this is what I could capture if I made sure I did not lose detail in the highlights. I di...

d that by looking at the end result on the back of my camera and I saw a history graham and I made sure there was at least a slight gap on the far right of the history graham that indicates that no areas are solid white. And so I knew I had detail here in my sky. But then up here, this is rendered as solid black and any time you get something anywhere near this dark. If you attempt to brighten it up to show detail there it's going to be extremely noisy if there's any detail at all. So I set my camera into a setting called auto bracketing and the way you do that depends on the brand of camera that you have. But when I did it made it so it took three captures all using the same aperture setting. It just changed the shutter speed ended up with this is my dark shot, then it went to stops brighter and captured this image. But if you look at the dark areas up here at the top and on the side you still pretty much can't see any details. So if I attempt to brighten that version this again would look very noisy. Then it took a third shot that was two stops brighter again and now I just start to see some detail in there. And so if I were to attempt to brighten this, I should be able to start getting some of that detail without getting too much noise. So let me briefly show you how to merge those three exposures together. I would select the three exposures by clicking on the 1st 1, holding on the shift key in clicking on the last. Then if I go to the file menu and tell it to open it in camera raw, you're gonna find that all three images are opening here and they show up his little thumbnails and here I can type command a that's control and windows to select all of those and then if I hover over any one of the three, you'll find three dots and if you click on the three dots you're gonna find a choice of merge to HDR and when I choose that it's going to attempt to combine those three exposures together into a single exposure. And here are the general results. Now here it says a line images and I use that pretty much all the time. And in this particular case this image was actually shot hand held in any time. That's the case. It would be essential to have that turned on. Then here it says apply auto settings and that's what's causing the image to look bright. If you have that turned off it's gonna look like a dull unprocessed image. Then if there's any motion in the scene, like a bird flying by or a flag flapping in the wind or a river where the waves would be in different positions, then you would want to experiment with this because any place that had motion, you're going to see a double or triple image in there known as being ghosted and you can set this to higher and higher settings until that effect was removed. When you have that turned on, there is a show overlay checkbox and that would put red on top of your image to tell it where it's actually attempting to reduce the effects of motion. But in my case I'm going to use this and I'm gonna turn off, apply auto settings and just hit merge when I do, it'll ask me where to save the image and if I'd like to change its name and I'm just gonna come over here and say hdr and put my name at the end. So in case I have another version of it in here, I can find it, you'll see a progress bar below and down here and once that's done then you can process the image and if you were to look at it, it's a DMG file and we should be looking at it right now if you want to get rid of these thumbnails because they're making your image look too small. Just click this little icon here in that toggles, the visibility of the thumbnails and now this image can be processed like any other image that you've ever worked in Photoshop. So in this particular case, um the overall brightness of the image, which would be exposure, I don't mind it, it's the highlights and the shadows that I don't like. So I'm gonna bring the highlights down and you're just going to find, you can do a lot more with this slider because it's using three exposures instead of one, then I can bring the shadows up to decide exactly how much shadow detail I want and I could convert to black and white at any stage and if I want the dramatic look, I'm going to bring D Hayes way up and bring contrast down and I might also adjust things like texture, fine tune it until I'm liking where and let's just say I like it there, click done, move this up with the originals. If HDR is new to you then it's similar to color grading where it will be a novelty at the beginning and you'll overuse it and you'll start to depend on it. If you're not careful know that if there's any motion whatsoever or if you're shooting handheld most of the time, working on a single exposure will often be better and you'd be amazed at how much you can get out of a single frame. So what I say is once you get comfortable doing HDR, try not to rely on it too much and instead go back to your individual exposures after you've done an HDR in process those and see if you can get anything better. Let me show you what I mean. I'll come in here and I'm just going to open the three original images. I suppose I can open our HDR as well so we can compare. Then I can type command are, which is a shortcut for camera raw and I'm just going to process each one. You can even select all three if you want to see when you hit the black and white button, they all go to black and white at the same time. And if there's any setting you like to apply, like you like D Hayes to be up a bit, in contrast to be down a bit, you can do it while you have all of them selected, then you could come down here and click on individual images to work on them one at a time. So in this case, I'm just gonna bring my shadows up to see how much shadow detail can I get? Just be careful. It could be noisy and I might bring my highlights down to see what I can get in there and in this case, increased my contrast, then I'll switch to the next image in in the next image. I'll try to process it as well because oftentimes I find that a single image can be higher quality and it's a matter of comparing, you won't know unless you actually try. In this case, I can't use the brightest one, there's simply not enough in the highlights, there's just, I can't get the detail, so I got to skip the highest, the brightest one, but this medium one and the dark one, they could work. So then I would simply compare them to the HDR, here's HDR, Here's the medium one and here's the dark one. Just if you decide one of the others looks best. Uh if it is a single exposure do zoom up in the shadows and see how noisy it is and you might need to apply noise reduction

Ratings and Reviews

ehab ghobara

Good content Ben. Thanks a lot

Chris Lonardo

Ben's course is concise, practical, and packed with useful info. I've already recommended it to several NYC photographer friends. Well done!

Tom Hackett

Thanks for stressing the position of the photographer (perspective) rather than the focal length of the lens.

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