As a number of photographers have discovered, high dynamic range or HDR is a great option to make your photos look better as well as to make them more pleasing to see artistically. HDR creates images that have more stunning colors or more visually pleasing contrasts that make these photos more arresting visually.
How HDR does this is by taking into account a more “dynamic range” in photographs, (hence the name) capturing up to 3 photos in different exposures, ranging from dark to bright. Using either post-processing techniques or the built-in HDR tool that some phones and cameras, HDR then creates a new image by “combining” those three images together and highlight the best parts of each photo.
How the photo would look depend on the settings and how much you can control the settings of the device you have. Chances are, if you use the built-in HDR feature of some devices, you don’t get much leeway in adjusting HDR settings. Thus, the resulting HDR image is something that should look more like what your eyes see, rather than what your camera sees.
On the other hand, if you will be doing HDR through post-processing, you can control the settings like aperture, white balance, and others and experiment with different settings as well. The resulting HDR image in this case would be something more artistic as the colors and effects turning the photo into a work of art in itself.
Now that we know what HDR is and what it can do for photos, it is important for us to know the appropriate situations to use it. I recommend using HDR in these situations:
- Landscapes: Big landscape photos usually have a lot of contrast between the sky and land, and your camera may find it very difficult to deal with such rich detail in just one photo. With HDR, you can capture the sky’s detail without making the land look too dark, and vice versa, creating a perfect mix of rich colors.
- Photos in Sunlight: While light is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of a good photo, too much light present, like the one coming from the harsh sunlight, can cause dark shadows, bright glare, and other unflattering characteristics that would ruin a photo you would be capturing. HDR helps even out these elements to make your subject better and more defined as a result.
- Low-Light and Backlit Scenes: The opposite of your photo being adversely affected by too much light is that your photo being adversely affected by too much darkness, something that often happens if your scene has too much backlight. HDR can help brighten up your subject foreground without washing out the well-lit portions of your photo.
When Not To Use HDR
Knowing when to use HDR also entails us knowing that this feature is not appropriate in some situations as well, which we will detail here:
- Photos with Movement: If there are subjects moving (or might move) in the frame you are shooting, HDR increases the chance of a blurry photo as a result. Unless you are deliberately going for that look, your final picture won’t look very good. So yes, HDR works best in still life photos.
- High-Contrast Scenes: Some photos just look better with stark contrast between the dark and light parts of the photo, like if there is an element of a dark shadow or silhouette present that you wish to highlight. Using HDR will ruin the elements you wish to highlight as they become less intense than intended, resulting in a less interesting photo.
- Vivid Colors: If your scene is too dark or too light, HDR can bring some of the color back. However, if you’re dealing with colors that are already very vivid, HDR can wash them out. Besides, why use HDR if the colors in your photo are already great to begin with?
Knowing HDR and when to use or not use it would help you capture better photos, enriching your photography skills in the process.