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Dynamic Range

Lesson 16 from: FAST CLASS: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

16. Dynamic Range

Next Lesson: Exposure Bracketing


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Photographic Characteristics


Camera Types


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Shutter Speed Basics


Camera Settings Overview


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Sensor Size: Basics


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Lesson Info

Dynamic Range

all right. We need to have a little talk here about dynamic range. And this is the range of brightness that your camera can record from light to dark, and it's gonna range from pure black to pure white. And the question is, is how many steps in between can you get between black and white? And we are once again forgetting about color, just thinking about overall brightness here. So let me show you a range of photographs here that fit into something that I would call a high dynamic range. So what is common about these photographs? Just look at him for a moment and think about what's common about all of these photographs. So I will answer for you. Number one is they're all taken outside. I tend to photograph outside a lot so that that happens. But they all include land and sky in some way or another. And so the sky tends to be bright. The ground tends to be a little bit on the darker side. So when you have both of them in there, you're gonna get this wide range of brightness. So let's jus...

t take one of those images here. Uh, this is entering the Gorgo. No crater, in case you're wondering, and this is a pretty wide, dynamic range. We have a really bright sky, and we have your typical ground, which is a little bit darker. Now we can take this into photo shop or any sort of program, and we can say, you know, it's got a really large range here, maybe larger than we want it to have. Can we decrease it? Well, yes, you can. You can take the contrast level and there's a contract, slider, slider. You just slide it off to the side and you reduce the amount of contrast. Don't really help the image. It all doesn't make it look any better at all. And so in postproduction reducing contrast rarely ever makes the photo better. It might be necessary for a reason here and there. But for the most part, it's just not something somebody would do on a regular basis. Doesn't make it any better. And so you have to either. You're gonna have to live with the contrast you have. But making it less really isn't an option. All right, next up, let's look at this series of photos here now these fall into a low, dynamic rage. Now one of things you'll notice is we don't have sky land shots here anymore. We have a little bit more close up shots that we don't have the sky or it's on Lee the sky and so we don't have as wide a range of tonality is and brightness from light to dark in this case. So let's take one of these images, and we look at the history Graham, and that looks pretty good. But we're not fully extended on this. We can take this in, and we can increase the contrast on this. And does increasing the contrast change the photo in a way that you like? Well, that's subjective, but it does make those colors a little bit more vibrant. Makes that picture even seem a little bit sharper so we can take low contrast scenes, and we can add contrast to them. Make the brighter is brighter, and the darker is darker, and that will often improve the photographs. And so photographers like low contrast situations because, well, we can make it high contrast if we want. We just can't take it away later on, and so that's why low contrast situations are easier to deal with than high contrast situations, and we're trying to avoid those situations that are really contrast in like a really bright light in a dark area here are shooting inside outside to really bright sunlight. It's a very challenging situation, cause our sensors and our cameras cannot handle it. Now the sensors in our cameras are constantly getting better, and there is a way of rating by testing them how much dynamic range they can handle. And right now, the king of the Hill is the Nikon D 8 50 at 14.8 stops of exposure value range, closely followed by the Sony A seven or three and then the Pentax K one. I pulled up some numbers for other popular cameras just to see what they have, and just as a reminder for those of you who don't know anything over 12. Exposure value is generally considered to be excellent, but you always want more, because if your camera can capture a wider range, that just means that you can work in a wider range of conditions. Some interesting things. The most expensive camera on this right here is the one with the lowest rating. That's for a variety of reasons, a different thing. The camera excels in different areas. Dynamic range is just one of those things that over the last few years has become increasingly important only because I think they've been ableto test it a little bit more clearly than they have in the past. And so it's good to have a camera with the best dynamic range. But as I say, anything over 12 is probably fine. And if your case I'm wondering where I pulled these numbers from a company called D XO. Mark does testing of cameras that will, boy, if you go into like, a photography party and you start talking about DX so mark Boy, that will get the conversation going because some people like they don't trust them and they don't like their numbers and they're all biased, and I'll know they're using factual data. It's just one of the places that do testing out there on a variety of cameras, and this was their landscape or dynamic range test. How much exposure range that a particular camera can handle. I don't have some brands listed up here because they just don't test certain brands up there. So we've been talking about a lot of different things and exposure. This might be a good time to check in to see and make sure that we've got all our questions answered before we head into the next big section. Great. So I have a couple of people that are asking about this exposed. Is it better to expose to the to the left or exposed to the right? Um, do you have an opinion on that? I usually like to expose the way you're supposed to expose whatever looks good on the final image. There is a general philosophy that is not incorrect, that you should expose to the left which for you guys is over here and so record a photograph a little bit brighter than darker. And that is only gonna work out if you have a very lo dynamic range subject where you could record it middle, lighter or darker. If you record it darker will go the wrong way. You need to brighten it up later on, and that tends to be very hard if you don't record very much light trying to make it brighter, and I'm gonna show you. Ah, couple of examples when we get to the art of editing what it looks like to shoot a dark photograph and just raise the brightness level compared to actually shooting it at the correct brightness. Now there is a theory that if you record it with even more light than you need and reduce it later, you'll reduce the amount of noise. And the benefit to doing that that I have seen is not worth the effort and time it takes to slide the slider back down to make it darker. And so in theory, it's better, and in practice it probably is. But it's not enough that it really changes the way I think most people should chew. I think you should probably just shoot the way you are, But if you're gonna kind of hesitate, should I make it a little lighter or a little bit darker? I would say make it a little bit lighter than average justice so long, and this is very important. Make it lighter so long as you're not overexposing anything important. That's the important thing. And so there's kind of different criteria. Usually, number one is don't over X over expose anything that's important

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