Introduction to HDR Photography

Introduction to HDR Photography

by Gavin Phillips

High Dynamic Range Imaging must be one of the most misunderstood techniques in digital photography. You can get all of the benefits of HDR without overworking your image.

What is High Dynamic Range Imaging? (HDR)
HDR is when you take 3-5 or 7 photos at different exposure settings, and then merge them into a single image using speciality software. What you get are beautiful photos with incredible detail, controlled lighting and accurate color. You cannot reproduce an HDR image manipulating a single JPG or RAW image in Photoshop.

Below is an example of a set of 7 images taken at 1-stop exposure increments. Then merged and tone mapped.


The benefits of HDR
The human eye sees an outdoor or indoor scene quite differently than what can be captured with even top grade professional digital cameras and lenses. Not surprisingly, our eyes are far more complex. Our eyes adjust for harsher light and render colors and detail more accurately than any single RAW file can capture. With HDR you can produce wonderfully crisp images that have excellent detail and control of lighting. You do not need to worry about harsh sunlight or very contrasty scenes.

Below is an example of a regularly exposed single shot compared to a 7-shot HDR version. There is an enormous advantage to using HDR for interior shots. You rarely need any artificial lighting. All my interior shots use only available light.



When would you shoot HDR?
and Commercial
wedding shots (church interior, vows)
wildlife (animals standing still)
Night architectural (need higher ISO 1600+)


HDR in a Nutshell
• Take 3,5 or 7 shots at different exposures
• Merge bracketed sets into 32-bit images
• Tone-map in HDR specific software
• Finish in Photoshop

Gavin Phillips offers HDR webinars and training movies. He also offers custom Photoshop ‘actions’ and Lightroom Presets. See his website for more information.

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