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Expanding the Range of Tones with HDR

This past Saturday at the Bradbury Building we discussed some of the ways in which a greater range of tones could be achieved in both the shadows and highlights within an image with a high level of contrast. While lowering the contrast in Photoshop with Brightness/Contrast will bring this range down the results are usually washed out. Making adjustments with the Shadows/Highlights feature (Image > Adjustments) will raise the level of detail in shadows and highlights, but has limitations as to how far this can be stretched. But by taking multiple exposures at varying levels, such as 0, -2/3, -4/3, +2/3, +4/3 for instance, and combining them later on using an HDR (High Dynamic Range) application that range of tones can be expanded much further if used with restraint. I use a stand-alone application called Photomatix ($50), but there is an HDR feature that has come with full versions of Photoshop since CS3.

Bradbury Building before HDR

Bradbury Building after HDR

These two images by Roel Kuiper represent his image as shot and after putting it through HDR. This required taking bracketed exposures with the camera on a very solid tripod, entering them into Photomatix for tonemapping and adjusting the various controls before processing. A light amount if Shadows/Highlights was also applied. The objective in this case was to add detail to the very dark hallways on either side of the Bradbury Building’s atrium (especially on the right) without losing detail in the skylight and other highlights. ┬áThe shift is subtle, but an effect that draws attention to itself will usually take attention away from the subject.