If you thought high-dynamic range imaging was just for garnish sunsets and implausibly lit interiors, think again
Photographer, author, and HDR workshop instructor Tony Sweet is well known for his DSLR and iPhone HDR images. The iPhone is his constant companion and the perfect device for spontaneous shots, he says. But its camera has limitations in quality (“an inherently soft lens”) and technology (minimal bracketing), so he uses its HDR mode on “scenes where the dynamic range is not extreme.” He uses True HDR processing software on the iPhone; for print, he also tweaks it slightly (e.g., contrast, sharpness) on the computer.
Sweet considers the iPhone a “great creative tool” and has noticed that HDR shooters “arequickly moving” to the Apple device, though not abandoning DSLRs. He shoots most of his HDR images with the iPhone, but uses his DSLR for his “serious” HDR work, where file size is critical.
But as HDR has become more accessible, the potential for abuse has grown exponentially. All too many HDR photos have exagger- ated and crunchy details as well as punchy, psychedelic colors—a far cry from the basic HDR tenet of expanding tonal range. Refer- ences to Velvet Elvis and other such descriptors abound. With more in-camera HDR, as well as new apps, we’ll probably see an increase in images that mix the good with the bad and the ugly.
But some day, perhaps, a single capture will reproduce the same highlight-to-shadow ratio we see with our eyes. As Adobe’s Hughes says, “If HDR is done right, it just looks like a good exposure.”
Essential Tools to Help You Get the Look
While you can create a faux HDR image with a single shot, the ideal is to capture multiple bracketed frames. You'll need...
A camera with auto bracketing (3 to 9 frames), or you can manually adjust exposure between shots. To extend a DSLR’s capabilities, try Promote Control ($329; www.promotesystems.com).
A tripod to keep frames aligned.
Versions back to CS2 will do, but CS5 has easier and more extensive tools.
NIk HDR Efex Pro
Comes in several different versions: Pro, Light, Plug-in for Aperture, Tone Mapping Plug-in for Photoshop
32 Float, HDR expose, HDR express
Fine Art Photography: High Dynamic Range by Tony Sweet (Stackpole Books)
Practical HDRI, 2nd Edition: High Dynamic Range Imaging Using Photoshop CS5 and Other Tools by Jack Howard (Rocky nook)
FOR MORE HDR CHECK OUT: Anatomy of an HDR Image