What is HDR (High Dynamic Range)?

By now a lot of people know what HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery is about or have at least been exposed knowingly or not. In this post I wanted to show a true high dynamic range scene and how an HDR photo can provide results truer to which you actually see with your eyes.

Interior Exposure, Hotel Room, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Interior Exposure for Hotel Room

Here is a bright exposure that captures the interior of the room well but as you can see the outside is completely washed out. Not a real interesting photo.

Hotel Room, Exposure, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The exterior is exposed well but inside is completely black.

In this exposure the outside looks good but there is no detail inside the room. This could be an interesting photo if you mainly want to show the outside view and are just using the interior as a frame.

Hotel Room, Lightroom Adjustments, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Hotel Room with Lightroom Adjustments

This is the middle exposure with large adjustments made in Lightroom to bring out the shadows and to tone down the bright washed out areas. You’ll notice parts of the sky are completely devoid of color and detail because the dynamic range is greater than the camera can handle. It’s not terrible but I wouldn’t hang it on my wall either.

Hotel Room, HDR, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

HDR of Hotel Room in Cabo San Lucas

Now here is the HDR processed photo which typically consist of between 3 and 7 images blended in programs like Photomatix. The higher the dynamic range the greater number of images needed to capture it all. In this case you can now see the interior clearly and the scene outside as well.

Scenes that work well with HDR are sunrise and sunsets, nightscapes with bright artificial light, and interiors like the hotel room.

Note: Tonemapping is also involved in processing an HDR image. This is where you’ll see the difference between natural looking HDR photos and those gawdy scenes with unnatural lighting. It can be used artistically or completely overdone.

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