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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HDR Is The Question

When (and when not) to use HDR techniques

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Strong Light Might Be the Right Light
Here’s an example of when strong, direct sunlight can be the right light—again, no HDR required. The shadows in this case, created by late-afternoon light, add definition to the scene. Remember: Light illuminates; shadows define.

Often, we’re tempted to use HDR to open up shadows in a scene. Sometimes that’s a big benefit. At other times, it can cause a shot to fall flat, if not used correctly. However, soft light can be nice, too—as illustrated in the next example.

Soft Light is Nice Light
Here’s another non-HDR image. I took this photograph after sunset of the same scene as the previous image. I love the soft quality of light in this picture.

Due to the low-contrast range in the scene, HDR wouldn’t have done much, perhaps opening up the darker areas of the picture just a little, which is something that’s easily accomplished in Photoshop.

The idea is to keep HDR in mind, but don’t make each and every one of your images an HDR image. In fact, only use HDR when you need it or want to create a special effect.

Always Be Prepared for HDR Photography
Because we often find ourselves in high-contrast situations, we should always be prepared for HDR photography, even if we don’t set out to create HDR images. Being prepared includes toting a tripod and having enough memory cards for all your sets of HDR images. HDR photography sucks up memory because you need to take several images to create one HDR image.

For this HDR image of Lower Antelope Canyon, I took five different exposures and “crunched” them in Photomatix.

In closing, it’s important to keep this expression in mind: To HDR or not HDR? That’s the question.

Rick Sammon is the author of 35 books on photography, digital imaging and nature. His upcoming HDR book—HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers—will be published in April. Visit with Rick at www.ricksammon.com.


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