Over the years I have seen many changes in my life. My marriage to my wonderful wife turned me from a single care-free guy into a young man who had to consider that were now two of us. My children, suddenly I was a father with added responsibility. My job, I moved around to different posts, sometimes in other countries. So I’m no stranger to change but that’s all personal so let’s talk about something else.
Like many amateur photographers I’d often take the photograph with little regard to composition, leading lines, maybe some framing, all that good stuff that you read about. As luck would have it I’d often strike lucky and get a good photograph. But I always felt there was something missing and that’s where HDR comes in.
For readers who don’t know what HDR is here’s a simple explanation. It’s a method of combining several photographs, some over exposed, some under, to bring out the details in the Shadows and Highlights. I can remember the first HDR image I ever saw, Bright colours, brilliant detail, it just looked so different and it was to change my whole approach to photography.
Too often in life we pass by important things. Let’s pause, change perspective and see things more clearly.
Nowadays, I shoot in RAW, generally use a tripod and for each scene I want to show I take six photographs, with the camera set on Aperture Priority.
All too often HDR is often construed as the root of all evils in photography. Many photographers hate that “certain look” like the one above. That’s how my HDR images used to be. Most of my photography is landscape which means I’m trying to keep things more natural.
The photograph above has been subjected to HDR processing. I used 5 photographs combined to show the detail and colour in the skies and inside the shelter. Compare that to the single photograph I would have taken before discovering HDR.
When you have light and dark areas in a scene it’s often difficult to get the exposure right for both.
Here’s another example, can you tell which is the HDR image.
Of course not every photograph is suitable for HDR. People, for instance, generally turn out looking terrible if put through the HDR process. Funnily enough animals can benefit. Harsh bright sunlight generally is to be avoided, there’s nothing to gain. Inside buildings, sunsets, sunrises, stormy skies however, are perfect for HDR.
This field with the hay bales and the trees is perfect for HDR.
There are shaded areas behind the bales and in the tree line. The sky has highlights from the setting sun. By working with the image you can see the whole scene. Compare that to what the camera captured on the night.
There you have it, HDR has been a big influence in my photography and has definitely changed the way I look at a scene. Nowadays I look to see whether or not I will be able to bring out the shadows and highlights. I consider how many photographs I need to take to capture the full dynamic range. But most of all HDR makes me stop to consider what exactly goes into the image. Composition, framing, angles, leading lines.
What about you? Do you practice the “Black Art”? Have you ever considered using HDR? I’d be really interested to know.