What is HDR?
If you have found yourself here, you probably have a sense of what HDR photography is. However for those of you who are unfamiliar with the technique, this page should give you a little guidance! HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. Essentially HDR is a photographic technique in which you combine a series of images into one photograph that wouldn’t be possible to create using nothing but traditional photography techniques.
The basic process requires you to take a series of at least three images at various exposures to capture the full range of highlights and shadows of the scene. You can create the images after the fact from a single raw file, or if you are really ambitious, you can use up to 9 different images to create a single HDR image.
Lets see if I can give you an example. Have you ever tried to take a photo of a sunset on the beach, and come up with some awesome looking clouds and sun, but found everything else in the scene to be dark and unrecognizable? Thats because a traditional camera sensor doesn’t have the range to capture that much information. It has to capture the exposure of one aspect of the image. To illustrate this concept see the image below. The image on the left was taken using traditional techniques. The image on the right combined two more photos (one over exposed, one underexposed) with this one to create an HDR image. Notice how there is more detail in the beach, the bushes and the clouds. This is the fundamental idea behind HDR photography.
Many people have used HDR techniques to create very surreal looking images, which some people find to be incredible, while others think its images like that which give HDR a bad name. Personally, I think both can be acceptable if done well and done with a purpose. If you are trying to create a unique piece of art, a surreal image is fine, as long as you still abide by some fundamentals of HDR. However, more often than not the best use of HDR is to create a more realistic image that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible given the constraints of a traditional camera.