What is HDR

You will find many websites on the internet explaining what HDR is and how to create your HDR photos. I will try to explain it myself in as simple a form as possible. Consider this a newbie’s guide to HDR.

First HDR stands for “High dynamic range”. The human eye sees alot more then a single photograph can capture. What we do is take multiple photographs of the same picture at different exposure settings. Exposure is like light, so if we took 3 photos at 3 different exposures we would have one lighter one in the middle and one darker.

Exposure settings are measured as 0 for the normal and then steps up and down, so if we took 3 photos at two steps difference we would have a +2 a 0 and a -2.

The difference in exposure captures additional shadows and lighting. We then take those 3 photos and combine them to create a single image using the best of those 3 photos. Voila! you have an HDR photo.

Parish of Mickleham Inside St Michael’s Church. 11th century Church near Boxhill, Surrey. England.

+2 exposure

0 exposure

-2 exposure

Above we have 3 photos of the inside of a church taken at 3 different exposures +2 0 and -2. Taking these 3 images we run them thorugh a program called Photomatix which combines the 3 images taking the best of each to make 1 single image. Of course you have full control over how it makes that 1 image, so it’s not like the computer does it for you. Theres no replacement for a humans eye and I think if you just let the computer decide the resulting image would not be that great.

You can download a free trial version of photomatix from http://www.hdrsoft.com and if you save my images above you can play with creating an HDR image from my photos.

Here is the image I created from photomatix.

Through Photomatix where only looking to get the image roughly looking good. After Photomatix I then take the image into Photoshop and tweak it to get it looking how I want it. With this image in Photoshop I used Nik softwares Color Efex Pro 4 Photoshop plugin and I begin with adjusting the contrast, then the colours and then the lighting and details.

I will also crop and straighten the image at this point and use the Photoshop healing brush for removing small things I dont like.

When creating HDR images you unfortunatly do get some noise added to the picture so after Ive tweaked the photo I then use a noise filter to clean it. I have two that I use which are Noiseware and Topaz Denoise, Noiseware is better at saving details but sometimes I find if I have very bad areas of noise that Topaz Denoise does a better job at cleaning it but does sacrifice a little in fine details.

After this I then usually sharpen the image. I have a couple of sharpening tools like Nik Softwares one and the Topaz one but generally I find the built in Photoshop one is very good. Thats the one called unsharp mask in the filters menu. Sometimes I will also add a border just to finish it off, again I use Nik Softwares border filter which comes with their Color Efex Pro 4 software.

After all my processing in Photoshop this is my final image.

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