Video: How to Effectively Capture Realistic-Looking HDR Images

There are many of us who sigh at hearing the dreaded acronym, HDR. Oftentimes we associate it with oversaturated, cartoon-like compositions put together from half a dozen worth of frames. But that’s not the only way to approach HDR. As with everything, it’s a variable, not definitive.

In the above video, Washington DC-based photographer Tim Cooper shows off how to effectively capture an HDR image. And he does so in such a manner that it replicates what the human eye sees, without over-processing as we all too often see.

Realistic HDR

In the seven minute video, Cooper starts off by briefly introducing what HDR photography is and what purpose it serves. From there, he details what it is you’re trying to capture across the multiple frames you’ll be taking for the final HDR composition. He concludes by going over a number of examples, first showing the two initial images, then explaining how they come together to create the final composition.

What he leaves you with is an image that is HDR by all definition, but looks far more natural than the HDR images you might commonly see. It might not be a video for the more advance among HDR photography, but it’s a wonderful resource for those who have just started or are looking to get into it.

If you’d like to see the full lecture, provided by B&H, you can check out, here.

(via Reddit)

  • bob cooley

    Its good to see someone showing the correct way to use HDR, and no the cartoonish renditions we see 90% of the time.

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  • Kyle Clements

    “Your eyes have 11 stops of range. A camera has maybe 5 stops of range”

    What kind of potato is this guy shooting with.
    5 stops?
    Not even my D70 was that bad!
    My D600 has 14 stops of range.

    Great photos and use of HDR, though.

  • Eric Saffron

    Finally, someone who actually understands HDR, and breaks it down correctly. Some will say its an artistic style, but frankly I hate tone-mapped and over-saturated images that people call “HDR”.

  • Pickle

    Well he WAS using a D4 which has less dynamic range than the D600 lol.

  • Pickle

    Real Estate photography is one area where I’m ok with light HDR. This gentleman seems to get it. What I can’t stand however is the Trey Ratcliff style HDR which somehow people drool over. Never understood that.

  • Hugh

    Does anyone know what program/plug-in is he using?

  • Rob Dickinson

    Hmm your eyes adjust to each part of the scene as you look around. We have to try and reproduce that in one overall frame…

  • Ridgecity

    This is how it’s supposed to be done, sadly as it got popular the crap and half-assed jobs started to show up, and photographers started hating it. Leave to a professional to bring it back to the good side.

  • Ridgecity

    everyone likes it because it’s over the top. These photographs will show up in National Geographic, over saturated will show up Facebook and look awesome there.

  • John MacLean Photography

    Hugh, It’s right in the video. It’s Photomatix Pro.

  • Sharif Amit

    I enjoy my Brinno TLC200PRO for instant HDR TimeLapse video.

  • Albert

    If you have 14 stops then you don’t need HDR. ;-)

  • McCracken Jr Tim

    FYI. the 1:00 mark is Glacier National Park..I am suspect that those images were captured illegally as that area is not open to the public until late season (when the water has almost stopped flowing) because of emerging vegetation.

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  • Kyle Clements

    14 stops is almost enough.
    It’s enough for 95% of what I shoot.

    Internal architecture – shots for real estate listings, for example, with dim house lights and bright sunlight through the windows, still require about 16 or 17 stops (or lots of big lights) so HDR is the budget option for these shoots.

  • E-Nonymouse A

    I think i’ve used it a few times maybe but I prefer picking one good frame and just tuning that one to my desired preference. B.T.W HDR Color effects can be acheived by swapping from RGB to CYMK or Lab color and then convert back to srgb for the final phase when its ready to publish. I’ve tried this once so far after reading about it and the results have been nice.

  • Albert

    I have only 12.4 :-/ so I need HDR.
    I like the realistic approach proposed by Tim.

  • dale charles

    What?? “There’s no way my D4 could have taken this landscape photo the same way an HDR can..” RUBBISH. Learn to use your camera and photoshop or lightroom. Simply shoot at a higher ISO, over-expose a stop, adjust in post. There’s no noise issues at the D4 level and unless you’re printing – all of our work ends up on the web or a phone at 700px as a 200Kb jpeg.

    HDR introduces a nasty artifact – a mid-tone burn or smudgy, smokey gray.

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  • Sarah BK

    Not everyone affords the D600 ;)

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  • Sarah BK

    Really wonderful result! I really dislike the harsh effects often achieved by photomatix, and really wish to achieve results like your gorgeous photo included above.

    How do you merge your images then, in order to still be able to recover all the detail from the highlights and shadows?

  • Braden Storrs

    Very filmic looking. Which makes sense as film captures wider dynamic range naturally. Your processing definitely kept it away from the over processed look of digital HDR.

  • Braden Storrs

    Ya, I don’t know where that number came from. People can see around 20 stops.

  • Braden Storrs

    How are you merging them into a 32 bit image?