Easily Set Up Your Camera for Exposure Bracketing and HDR Stacking

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HDR (high dynamic range) image processing can be very cool for some types of photos. Whether done manually or with a dedicated HDR program, it almost always requires shooting multiple RAW images at various exposures then combining them in software during post-processing. I’ll show you how I set my camera to get the photos – without using a tripod in most cases. Continue reading

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HDR Programs Compared

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HDR (High Dynamic Range) image processing can be a powerful tool for the photographer. However, if natural-looking images are what you’re after, there are only a few (maybe only one) that actually work. Here’s my assessment from my experience with several programs. Continue reading

Expose to the Right? NO! Go left!

Exposure

“Expose to the right” has been a popular saying and method of exposure for digital photographers for years, and it works in some cases. I’ll show you how to go the other way and make it work also. Maybe the time of “expose to the right” is almost over (in some cases). Here’s why… Continue reading

Color Saturation – What is the limit?

I’m sure you’ve see what you think are “over-saturated” photos — those with too much color. But how much is too much?

The traditional way to judge this is purely subjectively by your own opinion and taste. Maybe you like more saturation or maybe you don’t. Maybe it fits with a particular subject and not with others. There are many variables to this and each needs further explanation and a breakdown. You’ll see, you have some decisions to make and a few tools that will help you: Continue reading

Dynamic Range in the Camera

If you are shooting for high dynamic range photos, then your camera should be capable of providing the dynamic range necessary. But how much dynamic range is really needed?

Since the goal in photography is to capture what you see, how much dynamic range can you see? You can see a maximum of about 13 – 14 stops (13 – 14 EV) when viewing any scene. So, you would want your camera to provide something close to this if you hope to capture what you saw. But digital cameras don’t provide as much range as your eyes, and they tend to come in at around 9 EV for the JPEG files they output.

But, if you shoot in RAW, you have an advantage – the RAW files always contain more data than the JPEG files and therefore more dynamic range. Just how much more range is dependent on your camera, but in general it is about 1.0 – 1.5 EV more on the highlight end and 1.0 – 1.5 more in the shadow end, with a total not usually exceeding around 2 EV more dynamic range. Here’s a list of dynamic ranges: Continue reading

How to Avoid Too Much HDR Effect

I really like the added dynamic range that HDR offers, but dislike the over-use of HDR to the point where images look unreal. I want my images to look “real” and sometimes HDR oversteps that. I’ve tried a variety of software for HDR and I have found one underlying theme that always results in a realistic-looking photo that also has high dynamic range: Continue reading

HDR Overdone – Sacrificing Light and Dark

HDR techniques can help photos – even if it is only a single-image RAW file where the HDR technique is applied.  I’ve had success with this in HDR Express, HDR Expose, Photomatix Pro, and Dynamic Photo HDR software. However, HDR can be overdone and this is when a photo goes from looking realistic to totally (or partially) unreal. Here is one major flaw I see in most HDR photos, and even in the ones that are well-done.

Just because HDR can bring out every detail in the shadows and highlights, that doesn’t mean that it is best for a photo. My objective in photography is to use all of the dynamic range possible to faithfully represent what I saw when I was taking the photo. My eyes may be able to make out some detail in the shadows, for example, but that does not mean that I value those details in my overall view. Neither should my photo. Those shadows should remain primarily dark. The same goes for the highlights. Continue reading

How to Paint with Light

Painting With Light

“Painting with light” is a term I give any photo where I selectively lighten or darken areas of it to make it more appealing.

Here is an example in Lightroom showing the original photo on the left and the enhanced one on the right. Tone adjustments were made to give color and luminance balance to the image, but then I lightened selected areas because it was still flat and drab. Lifeless. Continue reading

Realism in a Photo

The sun is bright and when you look toward it, your eyes can’t see any detail in it. It is “blown out” in your eyes. Is this any surprise? No. Shocking information? No. Well then why do we as photographers complain when our photos show the sun as a feature-less blown-out highlight? It is, after all, what you would have seen had you been standing there behind the camera isn’t it? Of course it is.

Let’s say you’re standing in a dark ravine looking up with dark rocky outcroppings all around, but a bright sun shining above. Do your eyes see detail in the shadows? Of course not. Surprising? No. Something wrong with your eyes? No. It’s a high-contrast scene and this is what your actually seeing. So why do we as photographers when we look at the photo later, feel as if we’ve failed somehow because the shadows in our photo are black without much detail. It was, after all, exactly what we saw when we were there.

How well can you see details on the horizon? Are treelines perfectly clear to you? No. What about the haze in the air. Do those distant tress or mountains look perfectly clear? No. Could they be a little out of focus to your eyes? Sure. When we get behind the lens though, we want everything to be sharp and clear – but clearly not how we actually saw it. Why?

Continue reading

The Barbell Strategy…for photos

What is the Barbell Strategy?

I first read about the barbell strategy in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan. In it he claims basically that investments should be mostly (80%) safe, with a few (20%) very risky, but none in the intermediate. This strategy works for me with my investments where I have 20% in risky stocks (growth, emerging, etc), 80% in safe stocks (bonds, etc), and none (0%) in between . But what does this have to do with photography?

You can apply this same principle to your photography both in post-processing and during capture! Continue reading

Analyzing Photos Taken by the “Masters”

How can you tell if you are making your photographs look as good as the “masters” in the field of photography? One way is to do an analysis of their images using Lightroom or similar software. I used Lightroom for this example.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I captured a photo from the “master” artist/photographer that I wanted to emulate.  I chose Peter Lik for this example because he is a great landscape photographer in my opinion. Here is a copy of one of his most beautiful photos from his website. You should choose whomever you want based on who’s works you find the best and whom you want to be most like in making your own. When doing this, don’t feel that you have to get full-size images. I took mine from his site at a low resolution and low size. This works just fine. Continue reading