Quick guide to HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography

We've all seen floods of HDR photography on Instagram - they can look impressive, but also seem very technical. We're here to break that myth, and show you just how simple it can be to achieve photographs with an incredible High Dynamic Range.

HDR Image of the Sussex countryside - video guide on how to take HDR photos
Exposing for the sky and the foreground can be hard using conventional camera techniques

So, what is HDR Photography?

The ‘HDR’ in HDR Photography stands for High Dynamic Range. Dynamic range is the range of light intensities from highlights through to shadows. In translation - the amount of detail we can see in the highlights/shadows.

The human eye does a much better job of balancing the amount of detail in highlights and shadows, whereas cameras will struggle to automatically select the appropriate exposure method.

Consider when you take a photo of a sunset – you may capture beautiful warm colours in the sky but have a dark, silhouetted foreground.

Alternatively, you can expose for the foreground and catch lots of detail – but have a burnt-out, overexposed sky as a result.

HDR blends a series of different exposures together, to give you a result that catches the colour in the sky AND detail in the foreground.

Here’s how to do it using Adobe Lightroom. The whole video is 5 minutes long – you’ll be amazed at how simple it can be!

One word of warning - it's easy to overdo this style, which can lead to an 'over-processed' look which ultimately looks unrealistic. Rather like editing pictures in Lightroom and going crazy with the 'clarity' or 'dehaze' functions. This does - of course - come down to personal taste, but we'd advise that subtly is best.

Check out the Park Cameras Youtube channel for more videos. We've also got more blog posts for tips and inspiration - have a look and try out something new today!

If you have any questions, comment below and we'll get back to you!

Image by staff member Gareth Evans


Unknown said...

You only need to use one raw file , no need to shoot more than that. Believe me it works especially shooting moving subjects.

Ashley Luke Laurence said...

HDR requires a blend of 3 different exposures (if not more), so not sure how this could be achieved from just one RAW file?

Sharpshooter said...

Yes it is possible to create a HDR image from a single RAW file. You sinply duplicate the image and in software such as Lightroom make one image darker, one roughly correct and the 3rd brighter. You can then blend/merge them to create 1 image. It is possible due to the broad dynamic range of RAW format. You may get better results from taking 3 or more individual images in camera (darker,neutral,brighter) but if there is any movement in the scene you will get ghosting in the final image.

Ashley Luke Laurence said...

@Sharpshooter you can do this, but (in my opinion) it defeats the point of trying HDR as you'll introduce noise when pulling/pushing shadows/highlights. Whereas the blending technique allows the low light and the highlights all to be captured at their optimum exposure without any noise - therefore giving a smooth blend on the final image that is noise free.

Having said that - as long as the end result works, that is the main goal!

Anonymous said...

Interesting tutorial and nice to have it demonstrated. But you should have got rid of the infuriating low volume background 'music' which, when listening using headphones, I thought was occurring elsewhere in the house and thought the tephone was ringing.

Anonymous said...

I agree previous comment on background music - unecessarily distracting.

Anonymous said...

How do you determine the starting exposure from which you then bracket + and - as required?

Ashley Luke Laurence said...

Thanks for you comments on the music, will feed it back!

Re: the starting exposure level you should expose the image as best / balanced as you can, and then work from there. How you do this depends how you are used to shooting - if shooting on manual mode then adjust A/S until happy then take shots +/- from there. You can of course use the camera's 'P' or Auto mode to take the initial reading, but be aware that this may not give the best results in a back-lit / sunset situation.

There will always be trial and error and best way of learning is getting hands on - give it a go let us know how they turn out?

Dave S said...

Any thoughts on what EV increments to use?

Ashley Luke Laurence said...

Hi Dave S, we just generally use increments of +/- 1

Graham said...

One way to get a starting exposure in Manual is to, point your camera at the ground in front of you, and take a reading, point your camera at the sky, and take a reading, then slit the difference, then depending on how much difference there is between lightest/darkest, vary +/_ increments, hope this helps :)

Ashley Luke Laurence said...

@unknown good shout there with how to gauge your initial exposure

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