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

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