A place for experimental photographers

HDR from a single RAW

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a photography technique gaining more and more recognition and popularity among photographers. Due to various limitations of the digital camera sensors, capturing only a fraction of the dynamic range, HDR allows you to express greater light intensity levels in your photographs in order to give them a more dramatic treatment.

The principle behind HDR photography is fairly simple. Typically, three or more pictures (one overexposed one underexposed and one well exposed) are stacked and blended together in HDR software such as Photomatix Pro or Photoshop Merge to HDR plug-in. The final image may than be exported and processed for further effects.

HDR is ideal for, but not only limited to, high contrast landscape scenes, in which there is a visible difference between the brightest and darkest areas of the picture. Over the recent decade, however, the technique has been constantly used in various situations ranging from landscape, urban and night to weeding photography and the Web is full of excellent and inspiring HDR pictures.

If you are completely new to HDR, watch the following step-by-step HDR tutorials to familiarise yourself with this technique:

Stuck in Customs HDR Tutorial

Photoshop Cafe HDR Tutorial

HDR imagining requires not only additional software, but also significant photographic skills and essential equipment such as a tripod. The purpose of this post is to introduce you to a simpler and more convenient HDR processing technique, using a simple RAW image and Photomatix Pro HDR software.

Traditional HDR

In traditional HDR photography, you need to take three to five pictures with varied exposures, typically 1 or 2 EV (exposure value) difference. Obviously, in order to reduce camera shake and make sure every single photograph looks exactly the same, you have to use a tripod. Then, all the pictures are stacked and blended in HDR software and the final image is produced. This technique, however, has some considerable disadvantages. First of all, tripod is required and you need to set it up every time you spot a good HDR photo opportunity. Secondly, when shooting a lot pictures using your camera’s auto bracketing mode, organising and managing them effectively may prove challenging afterwards. Finally, not all cameras, compact consumer or bridge for instance, have the auto bracketing mode.

You may try shooting HDR brackets without a tripod, using your camera’s auto bracketing and high burst modes, but it is extremely difficult to hold the camera in the same position while shooting. In addition, when shooting people of moving objects, the final image may have some ‘ghosting’ resulting from movement.

HDR form a single RAW

All the disadvantages described above can be easily overcome by creating a HDR image from a single RAW file. This technique is extremely useful as it doesn’t require a tripod and can be shot handheld. Secondly, it’s ideal for street photography when shooting people or moving objects and panoramas.

Compose and take one picture in RAW format. Next. you will need to create brackets manually. You can do this using Adobe Lightroom 3, Apple Aperture or Photoshop Camera RAW plug-in. Simply, import the picture, adjust the exposure indicator and save the picture again. Remember, always keep the EV increment the same. For example, if you want to create two brackets with 1EV or 2EV difference, they should be as follows: -1EV. 0EV, +1EV or -2EV, 0EV, +2EV. Also, when saving your picture, convert them to 16bit TIFF format. This is absolutely essential and prevents the loss of information. Finally, process them in Photomatix as if you were dealing with traditional HDR brackets. Since the brackets have been created from the same file, every picture will look the same and the final image will be free of any ghosting and artefacts.

The Web is full of interesting HDR pictures. Make sure you visit the following Flickr groups dealing with HDR photography:

HDR

HDR Panoramas

HDR Photomatix

HDR Anything

HDR from a single RAW

Thanks for reading and good luck with your photography.

If you are interested in exploring HDR photography, make sure you subscribe to Farbspiel’s HDR cookbook, which is currently the most comprehensive HDR photography blog.

Also, there is a very detailed HDR tutorial on Picture Correct.

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15 responses

  1. Pingback: I wish to sell my paintings. How do I do that? | Landscape Design Online

  2. Pingback: HDR from a single RAW (continued) «

  3. Sergio Hegner

    Hi! I’m glad to see how good your photos are day after day. Keep on sharing my friend. Cheers.

    September 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

  4. Pingback: Photoshop CS5 Merge to HDR plug-in «

  5. Pingback: HDR Panorama «

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    January 8, 2012 at 8:56 am

  7. Star

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    January 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

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    March 19, 2012 at 9:17 am

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