Blended Exposures – Tutorial

Blending exposures is a technique to allow you to effectively increase the brightness range (dynamic range) in a photograph beyond what the film or sensor can capture normally.  You might be thinking, ‘well isn’t that what HDR is supposed to do?’  And you’d be right.  Some people don’t like HDR.  Some people don’t find HDR software overly easy to use or can’t get the tonemapping done the way they want.  Sometimes you don’t need 5 or 7 or 9 exposures to get the result you want.  The technique of blending exposures has been practised for many years and is still a useful tool to have in the toolbox.

To do this, you need at least two exposures of a photo at different exposure settings.  One properly exposed for the highlights, with dark shadows and one properly exposed for the shadows with overly bright highlights.  It’s best if the middle values in the different images you use are close to the same  The middle values may be a bit dark on the highlight shot and a bit bright on the shadow shot but still fairly close. Continue reading

HDR Software Review Pt V – SNS-HDR Pro

UPDATE:  August 9, 2010 – SNS-HDR continues to be improved.  The latest (v1.2) has improved speed over previous versions.  While still not quite as fast as some others, it’s now fast enough that speed isn’t a concern.  Also, something I had overlooked previously is that at the bottom of the tonemapping panel, to the right of the colour profile dropdown is a small monitor icon.  Clicking on this brings up a dialogue box to select the appropriate display profile.  This is only necessary in WinXP due to limitations on colour management support in that OS.  Later versions of Windows don’t need to do this.

SNS-HDR is a relative newcomer to the game. Since writing the introductory piece for this review series, checking the search stats for my site, SNS has been the single most searched for term that brought people to my blog. It’s obviously getting a fair bit of attention. Based on what I can see tracking a few IP addresses, most of the attention is coming from Europe but it’s likely that the buzz will move across the pond in due course.  The website is in Polish but there’s a Google Translate dropdown in the upper right that will convert to English (or other languages). Continue reading

The Great HDR Debate

OK, maybe great is stretching it a little. It’s no Thrilla in Manilla nor Rumble in the Jungle; but the discussion going on in photographic circles around HDR, the use of HDR, whether HDR generated images are photographs and even the legitimacy of HDR as a technique for “traditional” photographers gets pretty heated at times and I admit, I’ve engaged in some of the debate myself. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the arguments that used to go on between ‘traditional’ skiers and snowboarders when snowboarding first started to make an appearance on the hills.

HDR is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of a technique photographers have been using for many years called Blended Exposures – that is, taking two or more shots of the same scene at different exposure settings then manually blending them after the fact. There are software applications that automate the process now, like LR Enfuse, a Lightroom plugin. John Paul Caponigro has written extensively in his DPP magazine columns about what he describes as XDR – (E)xtended Dynamic Range, including the use of HDR as a tool in XDR and shown how effective a tool it can be.

As far as whether it’s even a legitimate tool, at this point anyone thinking it’s not is really not in the here and the now and are clinging to old, outmoded thought processes. Part of the problem is there are hardcore HDR enthusiasts who are trying to ram HDR down people’s throats, who think if you’re not doing HDR you’re a buffoon and who won’t accept any kind of critical feedback on their efforts. The arrogance these people display is little different from the arrogance of the early snowboarders who had no use for traditional skiers who, they felt, didn’t ‘get it’ when it came to snowboarding. Most of these people are producing the really whacked out, comic book colour type effects by simply moving sliders or clicking radio buttons seemingly without really knowing what they’re doing till they get something that looks ‘cool’ rather than something that looks even remotely like a photograph and still looks cool – both are possible. Continue reading