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The Fotobug's Quick Guide to HDR

The Fotobug's Quick Guide to HDR

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Published by Jim Caldwell
Introduction to HDR photography, how to get started and what software you will need.
Introduction to HDR photography, how to get started and what software you will need.

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Published by: Jim Caldwell on Jan 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Fotobug’s Quick Guide to HDR 
ick up nearly any photo magazine today and you will find an article about HDR Searchout photo galleries online and you will likely see a number of HDR images. Well, whatexactly
HDR?HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a special file format/technique for overcoming the limited dynamic range of luminance values that can be captured by our digital cameras in a single image.
 A Very Brief History of HDR 
 One of the first recorded attempts to use several exposures to cover an extreme range of exposure values was used by Gustave La Gray back in the 1850s to photograph aseascape and retain detail in the sky and the sea. He used one negative for the sky andanother for the ocean and combined them later into one print. (Actually this is more of alayering technique than HDR).
Gustave Le Grey – The Great Wave – 2 negatives combined into a single print - 1857
In the 1930s and 1940s, Charles Wyckoff used a dynamic range imaging technique torecord detailed pictures of nuclear explosions, which appeared on the cover of LIFEmagazine in the 1940s. In 1997 Paul Debevec introduced a digital technique of 
2combining several exposed images into a single image and was presented to the computer graphics community. Paul can be considered to be the father of modern HDR.Motion picture special effect artists have been using HDR images and the techniqueintroduced by Mr. Debevec in order to preserve the "reality" of a scene and I first learnedabout and used HDR images back in the late 1990s in a 3D rendering program calledLightwave 3D. Since HDR images retain such a high dynamic range, when used as a background for 3D modeling, the computer is able to take the luminosity of the HDR  background and apply it to the surface texture and coloring of the computer modelswhich heighten the realism of the final rendering.About ten years ago, photographer Trey Ratcliff was one of the first photographers togain attention on Flickr and his own photo gallery website for his incredible HDR images. One of his images was even picked up by the Smithsonian Museum for a gallerydisplay. Trey also believed in sharing his techniques and methods to capture theseimages, which further increased interest in HDR imaging.
 The basic capture technique is actually quite simple. The photographer essentially takesa series of exposures of the same scene in order to capture the range of light values fromthe darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. Later, these images will be merged into asingle image, similar to what Gustave Le Grey did back in 1857. Except you will beusing computer software and not a darkroom!Since you will be capturing several images of the scene, it is advisable to use a steadytripod. Also, HDR works best for relatively static images, as subject movement withineach frame may be difficult or impossible to resolve later in the digital darkroom. It is possible to do HDR with a hand-held camera, but it isn’t advised.The easiest method to capture multiple frames is to set your camera for exposure bracketing. Most cameras will allow at least three images to be captured this way, andmost Nikons as well as some of the high end Canon DSLRs will permit five to nineimages to be captured. You will also want to put your camera into rapid-fire mode inorder to quickly capture the desired range of exposures. The faster your camera cancapture multiple images, the better, especially if there is any movement in the frame.Even slight movement such as wind-blown leaves can be a problem later. Using thecombination of rapid fire and exposure bracketing, you should be able to capture three tonine images with a single shutter click (depending upon your camera’s capabilities). It isalso advisable to use a shutter release in order to avoid accidentally moving the camera between each frame.Please note that it is possible to capture each frame by manually changing the exposure between each frame – but I would recommend automating as much as you can, if your camera has the capability.

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