This is HDR

I remember the first time I saw an HDR image I thought, “Wow, how the heck did they DO that?”  With a little help from gifted artists I learned what all the hype was about and how to achieve it myself…

HDR stands for high dynamic range. Simply put, it is the process of capturing the highest range of color, light, and shadow found in a single scene by processing together multiple images taken at various exposures. The original intention of HDR was to capture a scene more like the human eye sees it, full of color and depth…however the process often makes exaggerated scenes, and depending on the artist can be either quite dramatic, or natural but with a 3-D punch!

Here’s a sample of a a subtle HDR image using 3 exposures…

Exposure values: -1, 0, +1

Exposure values: -1, 0, +1

In the finished image you can see the 3-D result of the HDR processing. The effect is still very natural and yet the colors are brighter and the scene deeper. Many photographers dislike HDR claiming it to be too exaggerated. Yes, It CAN be exaggerated but it can also bring scenes to life… HDR is a process that allows technical expertise to combine with artistic expression and for that I think it is something that every photographer should at least be open-minded about :)

Here are some examples of my HDR work that I think show the range of HDR.

3 Exposure HDR of the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island

Shelter Cove

3 Exposure HDR blended with the 0 exposure for a softer look

3 Exposure handheld HDR from "The Lookout", Vancouver, BC

3 Exposure handheld HDR from "The Lookout", Vancouver, BC

4 images. 3 Exposure HDR + one image of myself processed using Orton

4 images. 3 Exposure HDR + one image of myself processed using Orton

3 Exposure HDR taken on a tripod in Armstrong Woods, Guerneville, CA

3 Exposure HDR taken on a tripod in Armstrong Woods, Guerneville, CA

Fake HDR.  Processed from a single RAW using HDR software

Fake HDR. Processed from a single RAW using HDR software

3 Exposure HDR taken handheld inside a mall in Seattle, WA

3 Exposure HDR taken handheld inside a mall in Seattle, WA

Pensively pink

3 Exposure HDR take by remote on a tripod and extra processed with Lucis and Orton

Fake HDR. Single RAW tonemapped as HDR

Fake HDR of Sonora Pass. Processed from a single RAW using HDR software

Single RAW processed in HDR software

Fake HDR. Processed from a single RAW using HDR software

3 exposure HDR blended with 0 exposure and finished with NIK filters

Fake HDR. Processed from a single RAW using HDR software and blended

I hope you enjoy this page. For an excellent discussion of HDR, check out this blogger’s page on the topic: The Camera Never Lies

If you would like to try your own HDR check out these HDR software programs:

31 Responses to “This is HDR”

  1. interesting…I was curious about that “HDR stuff”

  2. And you are so good at HDR too. I’ve always been impressed by your mastery of it. Very few people come close. :)

  3. That train track shot you did in hdr was just beautiful…

  4. So you use photomatix for HDR? I tried it once with CS4, wasnt very happy…Your right for some reasons we should use it! Im goin to shoot for my boss kitchens and interior stuff we do, i think im gonna try this out. He loves to see all the beautiful details :-)

    Nice Post!

    • Thanks Jakob. Yeah, depending on the scene and settings sometimes the hdr looks horrible. I love hdr, but not all the time…If you keep the light smoothing set to high you usually get a more natural look ;)

  5. Very cool! HDR is so fun to do and can be difficult. I use Photomatix too, but I’m not really good with it… Great thread!

  6. gotta luv hdr :)

  7. Nice work , Amber

  8. You’ve changed my opinion of HDR. The HDR photos I’ve seen are, as you say, exaggerated. Your photos are vibrant and still look real.

    • Thanks so much Julie :) That was exactly my hope. I really feel that hdr can be useful in bringing out the best of depth and color in a scene…if not over used ;)

  9. [...] vast applause….introducing our first guest blogger here at Chez Spud, the fabulous Amber of Aswirly’s Place. Please take a moment to skip over to her place and be wowed by her amazing photography and her [...]

  10. [...] sky, although knowledge of the latter also shockingly scant) but I DO know that our guest blogger Amber is the bee’s knees when it comes to this subject; it’s one of her many areas of real [...]

  11. why only use 3 exposures in most? i find that 5 cones out very nice.
    i really like your pictures

    • Thank you! Well I have found that 3 exposures is generally sufficent to get the range that I want, unless I want to do a nighttime hdr. Then I will most definitly use 5 or more exposures.

  12. So THATS how they make them pics pop! I thought I just didnt have the touch!! Awesome range and perspective. Your definitely out of the box, love it!

  13. I just downloaded the trial version of photomatix and uhmmmmmm any tips you can send my way feel free!!! Your work in it blows me away Amber.

  14. ‘Happy Christmas’ swirls…a lil early I know, but be prepared is what I say :) so anyways, hope life is treating you good,your photography is looking mighty fine…takeitezy!

  15. I’d heard about HDR, but never knew what it stood for (until now). The colours are incredible and the depth! I love the Armstrong Woods.

    • Thank you Keith :) It is a fun technique, especially for architecture and cars and…well, anything where you want that extra pop. It’s not so flattering on people though, or water. Somethings just look nicer soft ;)

  16. I think I’m in love :)))))))))))))) In all seriousness I really like this, great work!

  17. Personally I am a fan of a lot of hdr images that I have seen just this evening I purchased An hdr software program. This weekend I intend to give it a try. Images about are beautiful

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