What is HDR Photography?

What is HDR?

…and how do you photograph a scene that has both deep shadows & bright highlights?

You may have asked yourself this question, “How come when I take a picture of a scene that has both very dark & very bright areas I often get a dull picture? (like the one on the top) …but another photographer gets a dynamic photo (like the one on the bottom)?” This scenario often frustrates photographers since what they saw with their own eyes is not being captured by the camera.

The image on the above was created via a technique referred to as HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. This is necessary since the human eye can see a wider range (more stops) of light compared to a camera. Getting your image to look like this starts with another technique called bracketing which is a feature found in most interchangeable lens cameras. Bracketing allows you to take multiple exposures for the purpose of increasing your range of light. The screenshot below is from my Panasonic camera.


Before I fired the camera, I turned on the auto bracket feature and set the bracket for a total of 7 exposures (each exposure being 1 stop apart). This means that I didn’t simply take one photograph; I took 7! Each of the 7 pictures has double the light as the one prior to it. Here are my 7 photos:

Capture 7

As you can see, none of the images by themselves looks very dynamic… but the magic starts with an HDR photo merge. While there are many programs that can complete this, I suggest Adobe Lightroom.

From those 7 photos, the software is able to retain the proper exposure for each part of the image that is lit differently such as the bright skylight-ceiling and the dark corridors along the sides. The reason why a single exposure failed is simply because the range of light is too great for the camera to see both of those areas properly at the same time.

After the HDR photo merge in Lightroom, I tweaked the new image a bit and here was the result:


If you would like to learn more about bracketing, HDR, or Lightroom… stop by your local Creve Coeur Camera and ask about our photography classes and photo walks!

FYI…I shot these images at the Illinois Capitol photo walk held in the Spring of 2017. I invite you to come join us at the 2018 Illinois Capitol photo walk. Don’t forget your tripod!

By Matt Nolte, Springfield, IL Store Manager