Empowered By The High Dynamic Range Technique

It was a night of shooting with the stars. We went out for dinner and then walked all around the riverfront to indulge in our new-found interest – taking photos with different exposure settings and then applying the HDR technique on them. This method allows photos to be taken, tone-mapped and later post-processed in such a way as to enhance different aspects of the image – colour, lighting, contrast, tone etc. In other words, the technique helps to bring out the best in each photo. No more unwanted shadows and overexposed highlights. No more flat images. I’m a total convert.

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Above: Night photos taken with 3 different exposures (underexposed, normal, overexposed)

Unfortunately, these photos were taken with an ISO400 setting, hence the grainy textures even after tone-mapping has been applied. In terms of software, Photomatix tends to generate better HDR effects, compared to the ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ function in Photoshop CS5. Nevertheless, Photoshop helps in significantly reducing the grains via its layering and masking options. My favourite photo amongst this group is the first one above.

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Above: Day photos taken with 3 different exposures (not at MBS)

Raw images are great. It’s also fascinating how an abundance of lighting, plus the use of ISO100 settings, could produce such ‘grainless’ photos. The last picture in this group was tone-mapped to emphasize the dramatic and surreal effects of the clouds.

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Above: Pseudo-HDR images (i.e. single images)

These single images were each processed using the HDR Toning editing option in Photoshop CS5. Such editing lends itself to occasional surprises, but much effort has to be taken to ensure that one does not go overboard with the available range of slider options. For chance shots of flickering moments such as the last one above, taken during the Wonder Full Show at the Marina Bay Sands, one shot was all we have with our Nikon D60 (which does not have the auto-bracketing option for exposure settings).

Lesson learnt:

Good HDR photos =

Good pictures + 3 exposure settings (+2, 0, -2) + Raw images + ISO100 + auto-timer

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