Experimenting with HDR Imaging

I recently saw some fantastic images of the interior of a cathedral, which had been given HDR (high dynamic range) processing in Photomatix, and which exhibited fantastic, realistic detail, tones and colours.

HDR imaging has a rather bad reputation in photography circles due to the tendency for many people to completely overcook images, which results in halation, psychedelic, over-saturated colours and an illustration-like appearance.

I am interested in photographic realism, and producing what the human eye can naturally see in terms of dynamic range.  No camera can capture in a single exposure the dynamic range of the interior of a cathedral, which consists of deep shadows, rich mid-tones and excessively bright highlights from the light entering the cavernous building from the windows high above.

The cathedral images I saw actually inspired me to try HDR imaging.  I downloaded the trial version of HDRsoft Photomatix Pro, and I’m creating HDR images from bracketed images I’ve already shot.

Early this morning I photographed some interior scenes of Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building (QVB), bracketing seven images (-3EV, -2EV, -1EV, 0EV, +1EV, +2EV and +3EV), and I plan to produce an HDR image from that series of images.

If I can produce a realistic, tonally rich, pleasing image, I will buy a Photomatix Pro license and work on producing more photo-realistic HDR images.

One thing that’s criticially important to me — other than producing pleasing images — is to avoid the over-processing pitfalls exhibited in so many HDR images.

This is a new challenge, and hopefully it will be inspirational and motivational for me, as my photography of recent months has really taken a back seat.

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7 thoughts on “Experimenting with HDR Imaging

  1. Allan

    Good on you for trying something new. You may want to trial Nik Software’s new HDR tool too and do some comparisons. I much prefer the results achieved by that package.
    Look forward to seeing what you can produce.

    Reply
  2. Ilya Genkin

    From my experience it is very rarely you can create a realistic HDR photo in automatic tools like Photomatix etc. After spending many hours trying to get good results I gave up and developed my own process using blending multiple exposures using masks made from L channel in Lab profile.

    Reply
    1. Xenedis Post author

      Photomatix does contain some over-the-top presets, but if you dial things down and tweak the settings, you can produce great work with it. I’ve seen some truly fantastic work with it that doesn’t at all scream “I’ve been Photomatixed!”.

      I have been blending for a few years, and while that certainly produces great results, HDR provides some extra oomph; the key is not to go over the top with the processing. I certainly don’t want to produce work that looks more like an illustration or video game graphic than a photo.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Queen Victoria Building Interior – HDR | Xenedis Phoblography

  4. Mike

    Yes, the algorithms have changed in photomatix and this gives you more control over the final product. The learning curve is fairly steep so don’t give up too quickly…I’ve been using it for two years and still learning each time I use it…..want to see that first tone mapped image.

    Reply

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