BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Debbie Crowe
 

HDR Exposure: Please Explain


I am hearing so much about HDR and the pictures I see are really stunning. Am I to understand this is basically not much more than "bracketing"? I saw a post where someone did HDR with 11 exposures and got the "perfect" picture. Can you give me more details on this? Thank you!


To love this question, log in above
8/8/2008 12:07:46 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Yes, glorified bracketing.
To put it in plain language, HDR (high dynamic range) means you make different exposures for all the wide ranges of bright and dark parts of a scene, because a camera can't get what your eyes have the ability to get.
And then you use layers to erase and combine all the parts that hold detail and you can make a picture that shows everything. And you can make it look realistic or unrealistic (some people will say surreal)
You can think of it as reaching your arms out to the side and blocking a hall way. You can't cover wall to wall, you can only cover a certain portion by shifting side to side.
But if you add a separate person and link hand to hand, you can hold on to more of what passes your way.


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2008 12:42:01 PM

 
Debbie Crowe   Thanks Greg. But then after you take all the exposures, do you have to use software to blend into one picture? that sounds kind of complicated. any suggested software if someone wanted to try it? I have photoshop elements 6.0 but I am still learning the very basics on this and would not even attempt in such complicated software.
thank you again.


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2008 1:24:46 PM

 
W.   
Hi Debbie,

you can do it in PSE if it's got 'layers'. I think PSE does. Of course CS3 does too.

Here are 2 short videos that may be interesting to budding HDR togs:

"shooting for HDR": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJS6X-pHTNg

and

Learn High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography : Setup and Shooting Exposures for HDR Photography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdqKL22NUHk
(you may have to turn up the sound on this last one)


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2008 2:12:32 PM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
 
 
BetterPhoto.com Photo Contest SECOND PLACE Winner
 
Remember When
Remember When
Taken at Pinellas County Heritage Village in Largo, FL. 5 images combined into one in Photomatix Pro. 17-40 lens at 17mm f.8
© Donna L. Cuic
Canon EOS 5D Digit...
 
 
HDR is so much more than you can do in Photoshop also. Ben Wilmore has a DVD on it and he has done some pretty spectacular images. And BP's very own Tony Sweet has done some incredible images using HDR, check out his website. HDR is so so so much more, when you tonemap it in Photomatix its incredible what you can do with your several exposures. This image here is a blending 5 exposures -2, -1 - +1 +2 then tonemapped in Photomatix. I am still learning and playing with HDR, not all scenes look good. This pic of this old car is one of my favorites so far.
~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 3:56:00 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  Are the results of HDR basically the same as using GRD filters on your camera? It seems to me that GRD filters would be easier than sitting for hours in front of a computer.


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 7:59:01 AM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Don't know what a GRD filter is, but the photo of the Garage that I attached I probably got every bit of a whole 30 minutes into combining and tonemapping. I don't spend hours on any single photo, I don't have that kind of patience.
~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 8:11:08 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  You gallery is lovely, Donna. It shows that you love what you are doing in Photoshop and while capturing images wherever you are.

A GRD filter is a graduated reduced density filter, which Galen Rowell used in film photography to make his superb images. Many digital photographers use the computer and software to achieve similar results. But, I'm not that knowledgeable as yet. It takes me a lot of repetition to learn new things.

I loved Galen Rowell's work. http://www.mountainlight.com/
But never have had his eyes or level of expertise.

On the other hand, I don't think I ever saw GRD filters used on interiors, so scratch that idea.

Would HDR be the same as Double Processing and Compositing images?
~Bunny


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 8:37:07 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member
PhotoshopCS.com
Richard's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Correcting and Enhancing Images
4-Week Short Course: Looking Good in Print and On the Web: Color Management
  HDR allows you to combine the best parts of various exposures. Though "glorified bracketing" is a bit of a misnomer, the idea is similar. If, for example, you took 3 shots of a scene (one to expose the highlights, one to expose the midtones and one to expose the shadows) each of these would have different detail - especially if the scene was one that exceeded the dynamic range of your captures (things like taking shots of stained glass in an otherwise dark church, where exposing for the shadows would blow out the highlights and exposing for highlights block up the shadows).
In the case of the example, you can combine the highlights from the highlight exposure, midtones from the midtone exposure and shadows from the shadow exposure to see the detail in each, where a single shot of the scene might have favored one range or another.
Photoshop provides an HDR plug-in for combining these images (once you have made the exposures). The combination goes a little beyond just merging the best part of the bracket shot by blending some into surrounding areas. These areas of mixture sometimes make some interesting (surreal or other-worldly) results. You can also get more straight-forward results using some straight-forward techniques for layer blending. But Photoshop does provide a special 32-bit per channel option coming out of the plug-in that lets you combine multiple images into the same file ... and then coming out of 32 bit you have additional options for blending what you have combined.
The goal is to capture more, but don't be deceived ... you have only so many levels of tone to work with in any image, and then in output you have additional limitations. You will get different results than straight exposures, but "different" is not always the equivalent of better. It can sometimes be more artistic, but can just as easily fail depending how you approach it and what you expect as a result.
Certainly it is worth playing with!


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 10:11:49 AM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Great explanation Richard, thank you so much for chiming in. I have not done HDR in PS but have heard that you can. I have done the “Merge to HDR” and then save it and done the tone mapping in Photomatix. I personally have played around with 3 images and also 5 images. I would have to guess that 5 versus 3 is not that great of difference, as long as one of your exposures is underexposed for the highlight and one overexposed for the shadow areas, correct?

Now I do have to say that when you are doing the tone mapping you can make a photo look very unrealistic and artistic and kind of like a drawing or almost dimensional in some instances. But I personally prefer to try to keep the image looking like an image but pull out detail from the shadows and have details in the highlights.

I have noticed that not all instances look good in HDR. I will be on vacation next week and plan to try some other different HDR images. Its been a month or so since I have played with HDR images so I am looking forward to doing some more images.

Thanks again Richard for the great explanation. Bunny, thanks for the kind comments about my gallery, I appreciate it. I have never heard of that filter. Thanks for the link I’ll go check out some of his work.

~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 11:44:01 AM

 
Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
carltonwardphoto.com
  I am going to buy the Photomatrix software today. After hearing its praises from other photographers on my Europe trip and the fact that I took several sets of photos specifically to make HDR images from, I am excited to try this program.
Carlton


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 3:54:32 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery
  The August 2008 Outdoor Photographer magazine, page 68, has an article devoted to Photomatix. I have the software and it's super!


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 5:59:06 PM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Carlton, Its not too expensive I think it was under a hundred. Its pretty cool, I think you'll like playing with it. You can download it for a 30 day trial at www.hdrsoft.com.

Aug. 8 Issue huh, I wonder if that is still in the stores. I gotta find that one. Thanks Ken.

~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 6:20:12 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery
  It's $99 for the stand-alone version, according to their web page.


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 7:37:29 PM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Ken is this the article on page 68?

http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/columns/digital-horizons/expanding-photographys-tonal-range.html


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 8:28:52 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery
  No. The one in the magazine has step by step instructions for using Photomatix, in terms of what to click, and what the various config options are, for the tone mapping.


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 9:06:53 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery
  The title is "HDR for the Landscape" and the author is Rob Sheppard.


To love this comment, log in above
8/12/2008 9:10:42 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Having a program that will do tone mapping for you is great for keeping small details like tree branches and leaves.


To love this comment, log in above
8/13/2008 12:34:48 AM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Thanks Ken. I'll look for that magazine at the store. That in depth stuff and what all those options is just what I have been wanting to know.
~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/13/2008 3:31:59 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  Donna,

You said that you've done “Merge to HDR” in Photoshop. I have CS3, but not CS3 Extension. Where can I find Merge to HDR in CS3?

Thanks.

Susan


To love this comment, log in above
8/13/2008 9:57:20 PM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Susan I have CS2 and in CS2 its located under File>Automate>Merge to HDR. Not sure if its in the same location in CS3 but look there. After you do that you are not done then you'll need to do the tone mapping, I am not sure how to do that in PS, but that photomatix program seems fairly user friendly. Here is a website by Canon Digital Learning Center that explains alot about HDR. But I haven't found anything to explain Photomatix. I want to get that magazine Ken said it has a very detailed article in there about Photomatix.

~Donna


To love this comment, log in above
8/14/2008 3:26:39 AM

 
Donna L. Cuic
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/5/2003
  Helps if I put the url doesn't it. sorry~ But in the past couple minutes I found another website that has tons of tutorials on it about HDR. I will put a couple links below.

~Donna

http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=1646

http://tutorialblog.org/hdr-tutorials-roundup/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/03/10/35-fantastic-hdr-pictures/


To love this comment, log in above
8/14/2008 3:42:00 AM

 
W.   
"in CS2 [“Merge to HDR” is] located under File>Automate>Merge to HDR. Not sure if its in the same location in CS3"

Yes, it is.


To love this comment, log in above
8/14/2008 10:07:09 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  I looked under File in CS3, but could not find Automate, much less merge to HDR. I think I have to have CS3 Extension to be able to use HDR, or else get Photomatix.


To love this comment, log in above
8/16/2008 9:25:24 PM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  I see it. I see it! Wow! Just did not look far enough. However, do I need to shoot one image using AEB? Or, can I do the same as I would with double processing, and have one image exposed for the shadows, and one exposed for the highlights in ACR to make it work?


To love this comment, log in above
8/16/2008 9:46:37 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery
  Bunny, I often do a double-processing, then use Photomatix (HDR). I would think CS3 would behave the same way. Just try it and see...


To love this comment, log in above
8/17/2008 6:08:40 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  Thank you, Ken.

A couple of questions, which I hope does not sound lame.

I assume to up the size of the 8 gig to 16 to 32, I would need up upgrade my memory and possibly the size of my computer. Is this correct?

I generally save along the way as I acquire more and more layers, and occasionally forget to eliminate the large saved PSDs, which makes my computer freeze.

About how much memory is needed in order that double-processing and HDR be accomplished?

Thanking you in advance.


To love this comment, log in above
8/18/2008 12:09:16 PM

 
W.   
"I assume to up the size of the 8 gig to 16 to 32"

What is "8 gig", bunny?

What computer have you got now? With how much RAM? And what operating system?


To love this comment, log in above
8/18/2008 12:19:36 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member
PhotoshopCS.com
Richard's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Correcting and Enhancing Images
4-Week Short Course: Looking Good in Print and On the Web: Color Management
  WS, I think Bunny meant 8 bit (16-bit, 32-bit). However your questions are right on!

Bunny, I don't know if you need to upgrade your computer without knowing what you have, and answering the questions WS has asked. However, just to work with 32 bit images should not require an upgrade unless you have an aging computer (4+ years old). While 32-bit images are larger, they will only be about 4 times the size of an 8-bit image while holding substantially more information (on the order of 16 million times). That said, the more space you have open on your hard drive and the more RAM you have, the better your performance will likely be.

There is no set formula for how much memory you will need, but be sure to well more than meet the basic needs of the Photoshop or Elements program that you are using as per Adobe's recommendations, keeping in mind their recommendations are minimal for base performance.

I hope that helps!

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
8/18/2008 1:53:51 PM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  Misspoke. Meant to say bits rather than gigs. I'm obviously not a technology person.

In RAW, I convert my images to 16 bits to work and then reduce them back to 8 bits when saved. But, I save as PSD's or TIFFs while they are being worked in case the electricity goes off or just as a safeguard. These large files tend to fill my machine quickly.

I have a e-machine computer, Microsoft XP, CS3 Photoshop. Where do I go to find the amount of RAM I have? My husband generally takes care of this, but he's out of state right now.


To love this comment, log in above
8/18/2008 2:56:38 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.