High dynamic range


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
...Read More

High dynamic range

5 Dec 2020 8:18AM   Views : 514 Unique : 325


I have a sneaking feeling I may have blogged about this before Ė but I canít find it. And maybe I havenít: anyway, Iíve spent a while this evening exploring a module of Nik Efex that I havenít played with before, the HDR Efex Pro 2 filters, to be precise. As far as I can see, thereís no facility to combine frames of the same subject with different exposures, so itís important to focus on the word ĎEfexí Ė what the Nik plugin will give you is the effect of HDR, and not the reality. For that, you will need specialist software, such as Photomatix, or the right part of Photoshop.


I decided to play with the results on an old image of my friend Joceline Ė and having found several interesting effects, I realised that nudes arenít quite the thing for a blog on which you canít set an Ď18í filter! But I may post one or two in the main gallery soon.

Instead, I went to some equally-old pictures I took poking a camera over the boundary wall of Whitby Abbey (it was closed on the say that I went there with an old friend and his wife). I managed to get a shot of the Abbey with the sun and an interesting sky behind it, and I tried a couple of filters on it. The top image here is a straight image from the RAW file, without adjustments: the second is the result of adjusting highlights, shadows and contrast Ė Curves users can, Iím sure, achieve a more subtle and nuanced result.


The third image down has the look that many of us associate with ĎHDRí Ė and some of us dread. An overall blue tint, and low contrast Ė the view through an elderly teacherís glasses, perhaps? There are no rich blacks, and thereís a general feeling of being weak and lacking punch. HDR is for controlling excessive dynamic range, not producing an image that lacks contrast.


Other looks are available in the Nik package, of course, and they arenít all awful, but Iím not sure that any of them are particularly worthwhile, for most images. The final version is the result of making two files from the original RAW: one plus two stops exposure, the other minus, and combining them in Photomatix. This sometimes works to bring out shadow and highlight detail in images where the contrast range has defeated the sensor.


But all of this is dodging the real question, about proper, five-image HDR. Iíve been meaning to go out and have a bash at doing that Ė but the weatherís been so grey that the challenge is expanding the contrast range to give impact, not controlling a 16-stop tonal range. And the cold rain has not given me any incentive to put a camera on a tripod to take the necessary repeated shots: a minimum is three images (normal exposure, and plus and minus two stops), and the experts often prefer more images, and sometimes a greater exposure rangeÖ

The tripod is necessary to ensure that the field of view is the same, and Aperture priority is the best option, as depth of field needs to remain constant. When the sun shines, Iíll try it! (And blog again.)


Recent blogs by dudler

Focus scales

If youíve been taking pictures since before autofocus arrived, youíll be very familiar with focus scales Ė they are one of the primary controls on an old-school camera, and just one more of the things that you really needed to get right. With autof...

Posted: 27 Dec 2022 7:01AM

Porcelain processing

People commented on the look in my last post and it seems like a good idea to share the secrets for Christmas. I learned the technique several years ago: a modelís boyfriend told me about it, and a website that described it in detail: I tried it, l...

Posted: 23 Dec 2022 10:47AM

You develop your own films donít you?

If you have your own darkroom, or if you use film cameras regularly, there are always a few people who mention the attic. As in ĎGrandpaís cameras are in the attic. I donít even know if they have film in them!í This leads me to ask if I can have a l...

Posted: 16 Aug 2022 11:17AM

Choose your pond

Thereís an old saying about being a big fish and a little pond. Do you want to be the most important person in a small organisation, or are you content being a relatively small cog in a big machine? Itís the same in photography. With relatively mo...

Posted: 3 Jun 2022 2:25PM

Graduated filters

This is for Hannah, and anyone else who has come across the casual way that a lot of togs talk about one or two types of filter that landscaper photographers use a lot: graduated filters and neutral density filters. A graduated filter is one that i...

Posted: 25 Apr 2022 12:18PM


dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
5 Dec 2020 8:22AM
The essence of this is that the aim of HDR was, originally, to tame excessive contrast ranges, and not rob ordinary scenes of contrast. It's become a sort of special effect, rather than a specific technical solution for difficult light conditions.

Please feel free to argue, and to give me your own HDR adventures and thoughts. The views expressed here are my own, and don't reflect any official EPZ line - though I believe one or two of the other members of the Critique Team may have similar thoughts...
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 28 Scotland
5 Dec 2020 9:32AM
The key to getting it right is to remember that 'Reality is Key'..............we see black and we see white (although most judges appear to differ on that view) se the best images will retain those tomes (if they were there in the first place).
If you can't tell it has been done in the final image you have got it right as far as I am concerned.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
5 Dec 2020 9:58AM
The three most important words when it comes to using HDR - whether the real thing combining several images of varying exposure values, or using software effects, are;
moderation, moderation, moderation.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
5 Dec 2020 10:40AM
I use HDR quite a bit, especially in mixed lighting situations, but, overdone the result can look pants, especially if the tone mapping is pushed to the limit.
I do use Lightroom for the process, it's nice and gentle and with a little work, gives me the result I want.
Photomatix I find can be very harsh.

You can use Nik with several frames, just open them in Photoshop>file>automate>HDR Efex Pro and use 'open images' it's not bad and you get the chance to do a little jiggery pokery before saving the HDR file. It will then appear back in Photoshop and you can continue your processing as you see fit.
3 frames I find enough for me, generally 1 stop apart but to capture even more, 5 frames and 2 stops is probably the 'norm'.

Quote:If you can't tell it has been done in the final image you have got it right as far as I am concerned.

A good way of thinking Roy.

Quote:moderation, moderation, moderation.

Very important.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
5 Dec 2020 11:16AM
Thank you, Janet - I had a memory that the ability to combine images in the HDR module was one of my reasons for buying Nik in the first place, but I never really pursued it. HDR and models don't mix well, on the whole...

Roy - well said.

Malc - moderator, moderator, moderator! Also well said!
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 37 8 England
5 Dec 2020 4:54PM
FYI. You can combine frames of the same subject with different exposures in HDR Efex Pro 2. Go to File - open images - then select the frames you want to use. The images have to be taken with different exposures though. It works with bracketed images or consecutive images taken with different exposures. It doesn't work with copy's of the same image that have been previously edited.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
5 Dec 2020 5:36PM
Cheers, Dave! An important distinction that it won't do the different exposures thing - a trick I learned from Willie, aka banehawi.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
5 Dec 2020 9:05PM

Quote:to tame excessive contrast ranges, and not rob ordinary scenes of contrast. It's become a sort of special effect, rather than a specific technical solution for difficult light conditions

So very true, and there may be many who don't know that's what HDR is all about, to them it's just an effect.

Quote:overdone the result can look pants

The 'fascination' caused by using an 'effect' can make one oblivious of a horrendous result.

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.