HDR and how it works
HDR stands for 'high dynamic range', a style of image processing that's become both popular and notorious. It's a technique that's used to capture scenes with a very high brightness range and employs various tools to bring the brightest and darkest parts close enough together that they can both be seen in a single viewable image.
There are two parts to this. The first is capturing a series of exposures (or even a single exposure, maybe with a RAW file) that captures the full range of tones on the scene.
The second part is using 'tonemapping' or HDR software to manipulate the very brightest and darkest areas so that the details in both become clearly visible. Some programs (Lightroom, Affinity Photo) offer HDR merge and tonemapping tools as part of their regular feature set while others (HDR Efex Pro, Aurora HDR) are designed specifically or high dynamic range imaging.
Some photographers try to make HDR images look as natural and 'unmanipulated' as possible. Others revel in the hyper-real colours, contrast and detail afforded by some of the more outlandish HDR tools out there.
Dynamic range is the camera sensor’s ability to capture detail in very bright and very dark parts of a scene. Cameras (or sensors) with a low dynamic range record dark shadows as a solid black or bright highlights as a featureless white.
Bit depth is an important concept in digital imaging if you want the best possible image quality and if you intend to manipulate images heavily.
Usually, HDR images are pretty obvious. The technique is part of the ‘look’. But it’s also possible to use HDR to enhance regular images to add depth and drama, but winding the effect back just a little so that it’s no longer center stage. So for this shot I used DxO PhotoLab and HDR Efex […]
Verdict: 4 stars HDR Efex Pro 2 manages to make HDR relatively easy, and it produces ‘good’ HDR which is dynamic, rich and exciting. It still wraps it up in a bit too much jargon, but it does produce a good variety of ready-made HDR presets so that you don’t have to get caught up in the manual adjustments if you don’t want to.
The Lightroom HDR merge option has been around for a while, so how does it work and how does it compare to a dedicated HDR tool?
Verdict: 4.5 stars Aurora HDR 2019 can create dense, wild and dramatic HDR effects, natural-looking images, and anything in between, and with out the ‘glow’ effects and other artefacts that plague other HDR tools. It also goes way further, with local adjustments, even image layers and masks. Brilliant.
The Aurora HDR 1.2 update announced today brings a number of new features to the Windows version and speed improvements on both Mac and PC. The new version offers RAW support for a number of new cameras and is reportedly much quicker when working with both bracketed shots and single images. New version update: Read […]
Sometimes you get scenes where the brightness range is so great you just can’t bring out all the different tones in the picture. This is lighting problem, not a dynamic range problem. Even if your camera has the dynamic range to capture all the tones in the scene, there’s no way of showing them all. […]
I was recently lucky enough to travel to Norway with Nikon to try out the new D7500 DSLR, and saw this amazing view of the town of Ålesund from the hill of Aksla alongside the town. The sun was low, the sky was bright, so this looked like the ideal candidate for HDR treatment – […]