HDR: High Dynamic Range

(In this image the very light [near the sun] and the very dark [near the shore]
regions were impossible to get without HDR)  

You may have heard about HDR or High Dynamic Range images. In a few words HDR is about maximizing the tonal range of a picture beyond the usual capabilities of a standard camera. In order to achieve this different exposures of the same image (exposure bracketing) are merged together and you get a more realistic view of the scene. It actually matches (if used acurately!) the image more with what you actually see with your eyes, regarding light and darkness. This has simple biological reasons: the human eye can capture way more tonalities than the limited sensor of the camera. You may have experienced this many times when the light conditions have been a bit extreme (to light or too dark). In some cases the light areas were blown up, in the other cases the dark areas got black.
Well, in order to get a solution for this problem the HDR method uses much more tonalities (achieved through the different exposures of the same image) and crunches them back (tonal mapping) to an image. By the way, there is even some development in the video area in order to get HDR for moving images!
There are many different software solutions for this, even Photoshop has got one built in.

One of the most talented Photographers using this method is Trey Ratcliff. Check out his tutorial about HDR at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-tutorial/.

In this video Trey chats a bit about HDR in Photography:


Another one really great Photographer in this topic is Elia Locardi. He has a very nice composed Blog at http://blamethemonkey.com/ where he explains the how´s of his HDR Photography. Check it out!

In Flickr Elia has got some outstanding HDR images, check them out here (and don´t forget to make it fullsize view!):

By the way: HDR is not only limited for still images... there are some developments in this area in order to bring HDR for moving images. Here´s a sample video:

HDR is fun to use and can push up the punchiness of your images. But it has to be used smartly... as many new techniques, when they get fancy, there is the danger of too extreme use of it. I personally use HDR only in those images, where I think I can get some more details of too dark/light regions, i.e. images that were taken under extreme light conditions. And then I use it only with layers & masking. Otherwise the results wont satisfy you. But.. give it a try!

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