Not Just an Architect…

Thus far on this blog of mine, I have primarily posted things having to do with architecture. I promise, I do have other interests as well. If you remember from my earlier post “Where I Learnt i’all” i like to dabble a bit in HDR photography. I am not really sure what got me into this sect of the photographer’s realm, but I really love the concept of it.

Now for those of you who do not yet know, let me explain exactly what HDR means. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range referring to the range of light value picked up by a camera. Have you ever been outside looking at something really bright, like the sky, and then looked away toward something much darker, such as into a building or under a tree? At first, it is difficult to see the details in the darker place until your eyes adjust to the lower light level. Additionally, have you ever noticed how sometimes in a photograph taken outside on a bright day,the sky will appear almost white while the ground and trees have rich color? You know of course that the sky, in actuality, was distinctly blue as it should have been. However, in the picture it is overexposed and thus washed out.

HDR is a photography method that allows a photograph to have the full range of true colors and light values. This method also gives the photographer the freedom (and pleasure) to “paint”  these values into the photograph wherever he/she pleases.  The process is thus:

Take multiple shots of the same subject. Each successive shot is either lighter or darker than the last. You then compile them using specific photo editing software into a 32 bit image. The reason behind the multiple images is to capture details in several exposure ranges and putting them together into one image that encompasses them all. That’s all the detail a human eye can see plus more into one picture. Cool huh?

Now, if you would like, I can explain how I take HDR photos. If you would rather just see some pretty pictures, feel free to scroll down past the lecture….

HDR Photography List of Things  I Use To Take My Photos:

  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Camera-to-Computer connector cord thingy
  • Tripod (optional but preferred)
  • Photomatix and/or Adobe Photoshop CS3 or newer
  • A high contrast scene of which to take pictures

Got everything? Perfect! Let’s begin.

The key to any good HDR image is a camera that can take photos at multiple exposure values (ev for short), and a subject that has a distinct areas of light and dark. For really dramatic exterior photos, sometimes it is good to have a partially cloudy day and it be later in the afternoon when the sun lower.

Once you have chosen and framed your subject, take at least three images at different exposure values. I like to take five to seven shots, usually. This gives me a greater range of exposure.

Next take your images onto your computer and use Adobe Photoshop’s Automate function to combine the images into one 32 bit image. Now a computer cannot display the full contents of a 32 bit image all at once so the preview image you see is not our finished product. Photoshop normalizes it just for representation, but it doesn’t yet have the functions to perform what is called tonemapping. This is the process of pulling out different light values and then converting the image back into a readable (and printable) format.

For tonemapping, I like to use a program called Photomatix. It is very simple, user-friendly and produces spectacular results. Not to mention, Photomatix is also very flexible so your images don’t all look the same.

I would rather you learn tonemapping on your own, because it is really the most artistic part of HDR photography outside of choosing and framing your subject.

I hope you enjoyed this rather shallow introduction to HDR photography.

Happy photo-taking…!



tractor, hdr photography



Scott H.


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