Tutorial: High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR)

« Tutorials


Last year has been a year of HDRI photography, for me. You may know HDR photography better under the name HDR. HDR is acronym for High Dynamic Range, where HDRI is a acronym for High Dynamic Range Image. HDR can be film, image, audio, anything really. HDRI can only be about images. So start using HDRI to correctly describe your HDR work, or call your HDR work for HDR photography. I have extensively explored HDR photography universe and i have now reached a point where i understand and appreciate HDR photography as it is, in its current state. Its fun. Its amazing - really amazing. The power of HDR photography keeps amazing me.

If i compare my long "investigation" into HDR photography, its not really not that long, since other people have used many years on it. Like, Ansel Adams did develop his zone system many, many years ago and over a long period of time and it could be seen as an early HDR photography system.

I have received a couple of mails from people asking me about my equipment and what kind of equipment i would recommend for HDR shooting. You ask see a list of my equipment. Im a Nikon man and below you will therefor only find Nikon equiptment suggestions. Im gonna investigate Canon camera and also suggest some of them.


Recommended Consumer Camera
D60 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-55mm VR Lens
The D60 is a very good starting camera, but for HDR it does lack the bracket function.

D80 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-135mm Lens
A very good camera. I have often thought about buying one as a backup camera for my D200.

Recommended Prosumer Camera
D200 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-135mm Lens
I simply love this camera. Its an amazing gem and since the D300 came out, this one has dropped in price.

D300 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-135mm Lens
The D300 is a fantastic camera. Its the successor to Nikon's D200. Self cleaning sensor and improved dust and water resistant - Its made to last! Also including Live View.

Recommended Professional Camera
D700 SLR Digital Camera with Nikkor 24-120mm VR Lens
When Nikon announced the D700 i couldn't sit still. Its full frame! Its 12.1 Megapixel. Live View, Self cleaning sensor. Everything the D300 is and then some.

D3 SLR Digital Camera (Camera Body)
When i picked up this camera at BH Photo i was blown away. It just feels good! It has everything i could ever want in a camera. Incredible noise reduction, you have to see it to believe it. Its full frame. 9 fps continuous, ISO 6400 sensitivity, customizable picture controls, Dual CF Card Slots ... and the list goes on.


What is HDR Photography

HDR photography is plain and simple about capturing the full luminance of a scene.

Let me set something straight right away: Unless your one of those really lucky persons with a big wallet, none of the images found on the net and that you can view on your screen is HDR images. They are most likely an 8bit jpg and thats closer to a LDR (Low Dynamic Range) than a HDR image. Most people actually mean HDRI, but consistently uses the term HDR. I use the term: HDR photography.

There are HDR image monitors available, but they are very, very expensive. Until we get cameras that can capture a large EV span than currently available camera does, i do not think they are very useful. If you wanna show HDR images where there was no movement when you captured it, i think they will be fantastic to look at, but most of my shots have some sort of movement - and movement (with currently available technology) ruins a HDR image.

This is how a HDR image is presented on my monitor:


Its not really that nice to look at but when we finally have HDR monitors, i bet it will be just as amazing as when people first sat foot on the moon. Imagine being able to see details in the clouds and if you really concentrate you will also be able to see details in the shadows. The final tone map and post processed photo can be found here: Construction Site Behind Fisketorvet

The problem with "normal" photography is that you can not both capture details in the highlight area and details in the shadow area, so you always have to make some sort of sacrifice. Landscape photographers are used to using different filters for letting less light in, in certain areas. Like putting a natural density filter to block the light from the sky.

With HDR photography you capture the whole scenes luminance, or maybe just a part of it. It depends on what your final out come is suppose to be. That means that you will expose for the shadows, but also for the highlights and of course capture more pictures. I usually shoot around 9 shots each time i shot a HDR image. That also means that i run through my memory cards as a kindergarten runs through its diapers.

Tutorial: High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) Movement »



Christian on February 26, 2008 23:47

Hi Bo,

Thanks for the tutorials. Look forward to part two of the ghost picture editing:-) And thanks for an all together great site, which really made me wanna pick up my camera again an start shooting some pictures… HDMI style of course :-D

Bo on February 27, 2008 12:50

Hi Christian,

Good to hear that you have begun to shoot pictures again. HDRI had sort of the same impact on me.

Thanks for your comment. Its appreciated

hdr on May 31, 2008 03:00

HDR rocks

Leave a comment

 (required and will not be visible to others)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.