How To: Single-Image HDR

The following post on HDR photography is by Atlanta based photographer Zach Matthews. Learn more about him at the end of this post.

Over on The Itinerant Angler forums, we’ve spent some time bad-mouthing HDR, and to some extent that is fair. When HDR is over done, it can result in a jacked up, unnatural image.

However, the fact remains that the human eye can see a lot broader dynamic range (meaning brights and darks) at the same time than a camera can. This is because the human eye can vary its “ISO” or exposure sensitivity locally in just one area rather than only across the whole image. This is what allows you to see the inside of a darkened room as well as the brightly lit world out the window at the same time. A camera could only see one or the other.

We have a number of situations in streamside photography (the area most of us work in – but don’t think this technique is limited to that) where we need a broader dynamic range than the equipment allows. The classic situation is one of side light, where light from beside the subject is lighting it (usually a person casting) beautifully, but the background is dark. At times, this can look unnatural. [Read more…]