Bracketing For HDR


Bracketing For HDR (High Dynamic Range) has been around in the digital world for at least 10 years and early on HDR got a bit of a bum rap because some of the early software’s provided the ability to do “grunge” type of images which, looked cool….for about a day and then we wanted something a bit more realistic.

So, What is HDR?

So, What IS HDR? HDR (or High Dynamic Range, or High Contrast) takes the values from each of X amount of bracketed shots (it doesn’t have to be 3) and blends them together to give you a better, more vibrant, crisp looking image. Have you ever tried to photograph a high-contrast scene, only to be frustrated when you find that the pictures you snapped just don’t do it justice? Even with the perfect exposure, there are certain scenes that will always tend to get blown-out highlights, flat shadows, or both. Despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a happy medium in these types of situations, there is a solution. This age-old dilemma can be solved through the magic of HDR processing.

When should I try HDR?

For me, the best time to bracket for HDR is when I need to bring in more lights in to an image, or bring in a broader range of darks.  Basically when conditions are not right for a broader contrast range with one shot.

Many times, this will happen for me when I’m photographing a home for a builder or a realtor.  The light through a window will be blown out, but if I blend three shots together and then bring the highlights down in Lightroom, it’s juuuust right!

The same is true when working during the first or last hours of the day.  If you have very bright back lighting, or very dull lighting due to clouds.  This could be a GREAT opportunity to use bracketing and HDR.


Image

What is Bracketing?


In photography, bracketing is the general technique of taking several shots of the same subject using different camera settings. Bracketing is useful and often recommended in situations that make it difficult to obtain a satisfactory image with a single shot, especially when a small variation in exposure parameters has a comparatively large effect on the resulting image. Given the time it takes to accomplish multiple shots, it is typically, but not always, used for static subjects.

Autobracketing is a feature of many modern cameras. When set, it will automatically take several bracketed shots, rather than the photographer altering the settings by hand between each shot.


Setup & Practicing

This subject of bracketing and HDR came up on a recent workshop I conducted. I casually asked my group if they were bracketing this scene! Did they know how to do that? SILENCE! This was the silence of lack of knowledge. I realized I needed to incorporate bracketing and HDR in to my workshops.

PRE-WORKSHOP HOMEWORK

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Take the time to do some pre-workshop homework. Pull out your camera manual, or Google your camera and the word “bracketing” or “auto exposure bracketing”, or “AEB”. Go ahead! DO IT NOW! I'll wait!

If want to take the easy route, try clicking on this link.  It will take you to the good folks at Photomatix (an HDR software company) who have placed bracketing setup instructions on their site.  How smart!

Now, I'm not endorsing their product.  I have used it in the past and it worked well for me then.  But now that Lightroom makes it too easy for me, I take the easy route, Lightroom.


Post Processing/Editing

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Take the time to do some pre-workshop homework. Pull out your camera manual, or Google your camera and the word “bracketing” or “auto exposure bracketing”, or “AEB”. Go ahead! DO IT NOW! I'll wait!

If want to take the easy route, try clicking on this link.  It will take you to the good folks at Photomatix (an HDR software company) who have placed bracketing setup instructions on their site.  How smart!

Now, I'm not endorsing their product.  I have used it in the past and it worked well for me then.  But now, I process all of my HDR images in either Lightroom or Photoshop.  Watch the video to the left to see how.