Friday, May 31, 2013

HDR to the Rescue

Quite a while ago I did experiment a little bit on using HDR processing on my street photographs, and I have rarely employed the HDR unless it was absolutely necessary. I have nothing against HDR shooting, I do think that HDR can produce some of the most amazing modern photography. I also believe that having too much HDR, especially the "overcooked" versions with super high saturation and unnatural look and feel to the photograph, is quite an eye-sore. Just my opinion. Don't kill me. 

In my course of trying HDR, mainly with a pseudo-processed single RAW file method, I have come to realize the strong advantage HDR can bring: and it is obviously stated in its name itself which is High Dynamic Range. In a situation of extremely high contrast, HDR can be a life-saver, if utilized properly. I encountered a street portrait shot in a harsh sun light (close to noon), and the man was wearing a cap. No matter how I expose him I would not keep the right balance of exposure, and the difference between the shadow and highlight regions was too much. I chose to bring up a little detail in the shadow region, causing the rest of the scene severely over-exposed. The image was shot in RAW, with an intention to find out just how much of detail I can recover from the Sony A57's RAW file, from the highlight region. 

Here it is. 





I chucked in the RAW file into Photomatix, run the auto-HDR rendering, and adjusted a few sliders there and here until I got what I wanted. Then I used Snapseed to add the "drama" processing, and "high contrast" black and white output. Looking at the final image, it was not bad at all!!

Just for comparison, here is the original image, straight developed from RAW with no adjustments. 



Yikes. 

So yes, I do use HDR, but very sparringly, and only when necessary. I admit that usually when I see this kind of lighting, I would just shy away and hunt my subjects under evenly lit circumstaces (eg, under shade, or sheltered areas of walkway). Harsh sun will not get me the natural expression that I seek and most of the subjects would have difficult times keeping their eyes open, and I want to see their eyes! 

So yes, the Sony A57 passed my dynamic range torture test, Not bad, not bad at all. 

12 comments:

  1. Amazing shot Robin, I'm impressed! Surely you must be very happy with this picture :)

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    1. Thanks! This photo did not make it to the original selection, but I took it for the purpose of experimentation.

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  2. Good morning, Robin.
    HDR works great in this image. The B&W processing looks crispy and intensify his macho looks. Though I have not use HDR on my street photos so far but it's a good thought for the future. Thank you for highlighting this technique.
    May you have a great weekend. I have our company sport event to cover this weekend.
    Regards,
    John Ragai

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    1. Hey John,
      HDR has been around for a while now, and rarely used for portraits. Also, I prefer the non over-cooked versions.

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  3. That did a pretty remarkable job of highlight recovery, especially with the man's cap and his shirt. Now, that's a great use of when to use such a tool. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Gregg! that was the main purpose of using HDR in the first place, for highlight recovery.

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  4. Nice job! I`m pretty impressed by the "pseudo" HDR processing option of single RAW files in Photomatix. I`ve used it mainly for landscapes, but your use of it inspires me to further explore it.
    Really like your blog, your Olympus real world reviews are among the best!
    Best,
    Ulrik Skram

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    1. Hello Ulrik,
      Thanks for your kind words, and I am glad you found my reviews useful!

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  5. Now that's actually making good use of HDR... better than the heavily overcooked rubbish that one so often sees. Very well done!

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