Simple Steps to High Dynamic Range Photography

Photography took a gigantic leap with the advent of the CMOS light sensor. Digital photography has put the very latest of technology at the hands of the ordinary amateur user. Today almost all aspects of a defective photograph can be corrected using software. But have you considered the fact that a couple of photographs can be combined to create an even better photograph?

Welcome to the world of HDR photography. The concept is really simple to understand. In many situations a photographer runs into the problem of too much contrast between the light and dark areas of the setting. If he adjusts to the lights - he makes the dark areas almost appear black. And if he adjusts for the dark areas to have detail - the light areas become washed out. Although the eye dynamically adjusts to the light content of an area - the same is impossible to achieve in one photograph.

However there is an easy way out! It is called HDR. Instead of clicking one photo you have to click two but keeping the camera in the exact same position ( a little variation can be accepted). The first photograph has to be clicked after adjusting the camera to the light areas. The second should be clicked with the emphasis on the dark areas. Later using a few simple steps and a free digital photo manipulating software like GIMP (Photoshop can be used but its commercial), you can combine these two get amazing results.

So once you have the two photographs here are the basic steps to get to the ultimate shot!

  1. Open the two photographs in the image editing software. Create another blank canvas of the size of the the photographs. (So if your photos are 1024 pixels by 768 pixels - the blank canvas should be the same.)

  2. Copy the second photograph (the one with the emphasis on the dark areas) on to a new layer on the empty canvas. Now create a mask on this layer.

  3. Create a gradient on the mask (radial or linear) that makes the lighter areas almost transparent (in the photograph with the dark areas emphasized).

  4. Now copy the first photograph (with the lighter areas emphasized) on a new layer and create a mask on it as well.

  5. Again use a gradient on the mask to make the dark areas disappear on this photograph

  6. Now move this photograph around to superimpose it exactly on the darker photograph. If you clicked exactly from the same spot - this should be real easy. Otherwise a little rotation of one of the photos may also be necessary!

  7. Now adjust the opacity of the two layers to get the right balance between the light and dark areas.

  8. That is it - now combine and merge all the layers and crop it to remove the distorted edges (if you had to rotate one of the photographs)

  9. Voila - your HDR photograph is ready!

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If you have any other questions or requests for future topics, you can either ask them in the comments or email me.
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