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HDR Photographers worth looking at.

We all know the controversy around HDR, I personal have heard them all. I believe that HDR has a place in the photography world. I thought that I would show you rather than explain to you why HDR photography appeals to me so much.

Here are some HDR photographers from around the world worth following, each of these people has either influenced or inspired me in some ways. These photographers are unafraid and bold in the art that HDR is but none are fringe artists that use HDR to distort our world. Most are after the reality of what we see and make our perception of this world better and I thank them for it. If you know of more please add to the comments area.

In no special order here is my list, I follow each of these photographers and always look forward to their next post.

Author name: Elia Locardi
Website: blamethemonkey.com
Marina Bay Sands and The Helix Bridge - (Singapore)
Some great travel photography that will make you wish you were there with the added bonus a few words of photographic wisdom well worth reading.

 

Author name: Miroslav Petrasko
Website: HDR Shooter
Everything is blue
Great photography from and around Europe with a really simple to follow tutorial.

 

Author name: Jim Nix
Website: Nomadic Pursuits
Stroget shimmers
Exquisite travel photography from around the globe that makes you dream and inspires.

 

Author name: Trey Ratcliff
Website: Stuck in Customs
The Secret Workshop of Jules Verne
The travel photographer that turned me onto HDR. Photography, stories and tutorials all worth the time.

 

Author name: Klaus Herrmann
Website: farbspiel photography
Klaus Herrmann’s by-line is “View. Learn. Connect”. Need I say more?

 

All photographs show here are done so with the express authorisation from the copyright holder or/and are holding a CC licences.

High Dynamic Range workflow

I get asked how I do my HDRs a lot, I more than often direct people to the master and, by definition even if we have never met, teacher Trey Ratcliff. His work is the one that got me back into HDR in the first place, however it seems that my style is a tad different from his. The truth is that I evolve and try different techniques with each photograph. I could not reproduce an exact match to something I did before. As all arts, nearly, each piece is unique, that is true for me but my workflow is constant.

First and foremost, not all situations are good for HDR work! This is important, not all photos make for a good HDR, you will need high contrast, little movement and time to shoot an HDR. But try never the less, see what works for you and what does not.

  • Shooting the HDR, it all starts here!
    • As with normal photography, get that EV 0 photo as you would if you where not doing an HDR, this is your reference photo it owe to be perfect every time. So expose it right and do as if HDR did not exist, I cannot stress this enough. I personally shoot everything a 1/3 of a stop lower, I like it better that way but that is up to taste and preferences. Know this though, all the rules of photography applies.
    • Shoot in RAW, you should anyways.
    • I, generally, do 3 handheld photographs, EV 0, +3, –3 at f/8, ISO 100, it’s no secret that I found that f/8 is magic for HDR photography, I tried others for example low depth of field which I generally love just does not work for me.
    • Frame it right, in fact because I do it handheld I frame it wider, yes I crop my HDRs a bit but to the slight movement of handheld photography.You can go manual but you will need a tripod or do like me use Aperture Priority.
    • Do not change you aperture or ISO, is an HDR only the speed should change!
    • Set your camera to shoot all 3 (or more if you can) in one go, see your camera manual under bracketing.
    • The tip to know how many photo’s you need? Expose for the highlight get your reading then expose to the shadow get the reading again, I use 3EV because of my camera’s limitations but calculate how many photographs you need according to your EV bracketing mode.

Now that you have the 3 (or more) photos and I assume you have imported them on to your computer using your favourite tool, let’s review my workflow step by step. See the results bellow, in this case I used 3 photograph.

Original 0 EV

EV0 – 1/640, f/9, ISO 200

Original -3 EV

EV0 – 1/5000, f/9, ISO 200

Original +3 EV

EV0 – 1/80, f/9, ISO 200

[beforeafterpics id='1' image_before='/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/HDR-Workflow-32.jpg' image_after='/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/HDR-Workflow-12.jpg' /]

  • Step 1 – Create the HDR
    • Do not modify the originals, you will do the fine touches at the end of the process.
    • I convert them to JPEG at 1 EV separation, yes that means that I can end up with up to 11 photos, I only select the best 5 to 7 though.
      How do I get so many out of 3 photographs? Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has a slider for this sole purpose.
      This is why I shoot raw, I can pull up to a 2 EV photo up or down with very little degradation.
      Technically, you are able to do an HDR with only 1 photograph shot in RAW.
    • Import all the photos into the HDR program, I use Photomatix Pro, though there are a few others. 
      Protomatix Pro - Settings for processing exported files
      • The trick here is to tick “Align images”, “Crop aligned result” and selecting “by matching features” in case of movement, the perspective correction is selected because I use wide angle lenses.
      • “Reducing ghosting artifacts” in auto helps with movement that may have occurred, I tried most the setting “High” is always selected nowadays.
      • “Reduce Noise” on “All source images” helps for later noise control.
      • “Reduce chromatic aberration” helps latter as well.
      • As you can see I set it to reimport into Adobe Photoshop Lightroomin TIFF, TIFF keeps more information thus making it easier to edit later.
    • In Photomatix Pro, I will modify the settings to come as close as possible to the look I want, I generally start of with the “Enhancer – Default” preset, I find it smoother and more realistic.
      Do not do this if it is for a panoramic, the blending needs to be the same! In fact I created a preset that I can use for each panoramic sections.
    • Save it.
    • If it is a panoramic, merge and crop it before you go to step 2 and watch that sky if there is any.
  • Step 2
    • Topaz Adjust

      Because the HDR process flattens the colours, I import it into Topaz Adjust and use one of the colour enhancing filters, I do not always use the same one but I do use the “Spicify” filter more often then others, remember that each photograph is unique.

    • Here are the catches:
      • Grunge, I recently found a way around it, Topaz Adjust 5 (and maybe before) has a Transparency setting in the “3. Finishing Touches” section, I use that in addition to other settings.
      • Halo effect, that one is often hard to control.
  • Step 3
    • Adjust the final HDR as you would any other photos.
    • Do look at reducing grain.

As you see it’s not a complicated science, you can also go back to my previous entries where you will find more details about how to shoot an HDR and more.

Finally, enjoy doing them, it’s what photography is all about, enjoyment.

Here are some HDR photographers I follow (i will update regularly):

Last updated on the 6th of March 2012

A word on High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range or HDR is an abused process that bad photographers use to hide the fact that they can’t shoot. I am paraphrasing here but I heard it, I read it and I disagree and here is why!

A good, not an over the top, over done HDR, a good HDR requires planning and thought. The framing has to be right, the light has to be right and the contrast has to exist and textures helps a lot. You mess one of these up and that is it, the HDR is no good. Much like traditional photography, it’s in the eye and experience, the more you do HDRs the more you pickup what will and will not work before you shoot it.

I have, in the past months, created many HDR and even often tackled Panoramic HDRs, not the easiest of feats. Most of which was handheld because most have been done during photo walks and to be honest I hate carrying around a tripod for 3 hours to use it a couple of times, a monopod does little to help in the HDR world, so I don’t carry either. Instead I learned to use my body as a tripod and sweep panoramic like a robot.

The equipment helps, obviously, in fact I would probably not be able to do what I do without a tripod if it was not for my ever faithful Canon EOS 7D. It’s shooting speed and bracketing, even though it can only do 3 (this is where I am jealous of the NIKON owners, whom in some cases can go up to 7) and presets make my life easier. When I see an HDR opportunity, I switch to preset 3 and voila I am in HDR mode.

What is my HDR mode? Well f/8, bracket 0 , –2, +2 stop at – 0.5 of a stop, ISO 100, RAW. The only things I will change is the ISO and rarely the aperture, I found f/8 to be a sweet spot for HDRs and the lens I use, the 16-35mm f/2.8 L from Canon.

What is the aim of an HDR? Triple the colour, triple highlight and triple  shadow information allows for triple the details. Triple the details allows for a better visual experience, closer to what the eye sees. In my case, I bring back colour and details, I try not to over do it and from the reactions to my HDRs, it seems I go a good recipe.

The bottom line, try it, I have a short primer here and there are wonderful books by the like of Trey Ratcliff of www.stuckincustoms.com and many others.

I will post about the issues I encountered with HDRs in a latter post, it’s not all fun but the results are what they are stunning images.

 

Basic HDR Photography

I cannot say that I am an expert in HDR or even photography, but I can say that i truly enjoy most type of photography. As many, I wish I had more time to practice it. However I digress, this post is about basic HDR.

Firstly, if you are really serious about HDR there is a wonderful tutorial on Stuck in Customs by Trey Ratcliff, or his amazing book A World in HDR which acts as a inspirational, tutorial and coffee table book. This post covers my basic understanding in a short summary.

1. Shooting an HDR photograph:

  • HDR photography is not that different from standard photography, however you will need a tripod or something to rest your camera on as you will be taking multiple shoots of the same thing.
  • Set your camera
    • Newby way: Set your camera to Aperture Priority, Continuous Mode and bracketed by 2 stops. Nikon cameras will do up to 7 photos in some models where as Canon cameras will only take 3.
    • Advanced way: Once you have your scene meter the highest light and the darkest shadow, from here you will take a photograph every 1 stop from the one to the other. This would be done in manual mode whilst locking the aperture and ISO and only using the shutter speed. So if the scene as a range between 1/125 and 1/2 of a second the resultant would be 7 photographs each taken at 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2  of a second.
      F-Stop equivalence in shutter speed. Values shown in seconds.

      8

      4

      2

      1

      1/2

      1/4

      1/8

      1/15

      1/30

      1/60

      1/125

      1/250

      1/500

      1/1000

      You can use this scale as a reference, I do.

  • Shoot RAW
  • Make sure that your auto focus is OFF.
  • Make sure that the tripod does not move or vibrate.
  • Take your time!!!

That concludes the easy part.

2. Compiling the HDR

  • You will need either Photomatix Pro or HDR EFEX Pro both have a trial. There are more HDR software out there, these two are the highest rated. HDR EFEX Pro will also require Adobe Photoshop CS4 or above,  Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 or above or Apple Apperture 2 or above all of which are also available for trial.
  • Do not colour correct unless you do it on the whole set.
  • Do not crop or alter the photos at this time. 
  • Do convert them to JPG at maximum resolution.
  • Import the set into your favourite HDR program and adjust as required.
  • DO experiment, I personally like it when the final output is natural.
  • At this point you can crop and adjust the photograph.
  • Once the HDR process is complete you may want to get back the colours, I use a plugin called Topaz Lab Adjust mostly using the Spicify or Photo Pop presets.

That’s how I do it and here is some examples:

Mini book Review: Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers

Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers

In my last post I talked about Rick Sammon’s HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers book, I finished reading it last night and thought that it was a good time to share my thoughts on it.

In short, if you are thinking of going HDR this is a brilliant book to start with. It has step by step instructions on every aspect of HDR photography, coupled with amazing photography. The results are I managed to replicate what I call the Rick Sammon HDR Look without too much mental effort on my first outing with HDR in mind. I also like the fact that the book is riddled with tips not limited to HDR photography but rather tips on every aspect of photography. One can only make better photographs after reading such a book.

For more information on Rick Sammon as well as good photography tips and how-to’s head over to his site: www.ricksammon.info

One disappointment though, it tries to pitch some products a little to hard, but it’s all forgiven through the rest of the content.

On that note, and I am not trying to pitch anything, to enjoy this book you will need a DSLR, a tripod, a MAC or PC with trials of Photomatix and Topaz Adjust.