Our new series of articles deals with interesting trends of photography and is supposed to provide some basic knowledge about the respective technique. We would like to enable you to try them out yourself – and maybe to become a professional photographer in no time ;-)
The first part of our photography special is about HDR Images.
What is HDRI?
In order to give you a first overview and explain the most important terms, we collected some abbreviations that are related to HDR photography:
1. DRI (Dynamic Range Increase) = method to create a HDR image
2. HDR (High Dynamic Range) = signification of the contrast ratio
3. HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) = photo resulting from this editing
HDR photography makes your photos look like paintings and creates an especially breathtaking effect of differing contrasts (high contrast ratio) and brilliant colours for pictures that feature both, dark and light elements.
What do I need?
If you want to create HDR images, you need a camera that allows you to set the aperture manually and a steady tripod to place it on. Additionally, you might use a delayed-action shutter release or a remote-control release.
Creating HDR images step by step
- Choosing an image
In general, you can turn every photo that does not show any movement into HDR images but you will get the best results if you take images like machines (or parts of machines) or cars, buildings or statues (that are composed of many fine details) as well as churches or cathedrals and beautiful landscapes (contrasting to heaven).
- Preparing your camera
After placing your camera on a steady tripod you still have to make some settings: Choose a middle aperture priority and a high aperture to get a great depth of field. Additionally, you need to select spot metering to be able to correctly measure the exposure time and last but not least make sure to fix the ISO sensibility to avoid automatic camera settings while you take your shots.
- Getting started
The next step is to find out how many levels of exposure the contrast range of your image covers: Measure the shutter speed of the darkest part and the lightest part of your image (by slightly pressing the release) and note down those values. Now that you know the contrast range, you can determine how many single shots you need to take to get good material that you can edit properly. In general, HDR software providers recommend one shot per two levels of exposure which means if your image covers a contrast range of eight levels of exposure, you need to take five photos of various shutter speeds.
- Final settings
Before you can start taking photos, you need to make some last preparing steps:
1. Set the aperture priority of your camera to “manual”.
2. Make sure your camera adopts the settings for aperture and ISO sensitivity you chose before.
3. Turn off the automatic focus and last but not least, you might also determine a value for white balance.
- Taking your photos
The most important thing about taking photos for your final HDR images is to be quick and provide a steady camera because even minimal changes of your image can cause nasty effects for your final result. The best strategy to make sure your camera stands still while you take all necessary shots is to use a remote-control release or as an alternative a delayed-action shutter release. You need to change the shutter speed with every new shot – but keep all other settings the same.
- Combining all shots to an HDRI
If you took all necessary shots, you only need to put them together to an HDRI by using a respective software. You can recently choose from many different providers – but you need to pay for most of their software. EasyHDR BASIC is one of the available freeware for HDR images that is easy to use and enables you to get great results (of the same quality as software that you have to pay for). The software will turn your shots of a low contrast range to one image of enhanced contrast range. But there is still some work to do ;-).
- Preparing HDR images for output devices
After creating HDR images you still need to “tone map” them. With this step you compress their contrast range again to enable the monitor of your computer or TV to show your HDR images correctly. Most HDR software include tips on which settings of your image (saturation, lightness etc.) you need to change to get a perfect result in the end that looks like a painting.
If you like this new photography trend and would like to see more amazing examples that might inspire you for your own HDR images, have a look at this great collection.