HDR – High Dynamic Range


Stonehenge by Francesco Alamia

HDR photographs are images that have been combined together in order to capture the complete range of colours in a scene, this because the human eye is capable of a much greater range then even the most sophisticated modern cameras. HDR imagery is entirely a product of the digital era of photography and whilst it can produce interesting images there appear to be 2 distinct audiences for them – those that love them and those that don’t !

In fairness the hyper real colours and appearance of HDR image does depend on the software being used and the options set by the author as it can be used to create more subtle images and is sometimes used to great effect for interior shots where there is a wide exposure variance to create natural looking photographs. The shot below was created from 11 images.


To produce HDR output requires a series of images, best tripod mounted, of the same scene with a range of different exposures covering the lightest to the darkest areas of the image – typically 3 to 5 images is used for the most extreme affects but they can be generated from a single image by adjusting the exposure in something like camera raw and then saving different versions of the same file. This has the advantage of ensuring perfect alignment of the layers but range is limited by the exposure setting of the original image and for example any blown out highlights simply can’t be seen as there is no data to work with.

For speed of processing I used just 2 images to generate an image of the interior of my local church, St Sampsons in Cricklade.

Base Images :


HDR_01 HDR_02

Once the images have been captured they need to be processed with suitable HDR software, Photoshop has an HDR capability but there are also specialist tools such as Photomatix which is widely regarded as the premier HDR software.



I thought this gave quite a flat, uninspiring appearance so I decided to download and install the Photomatix software which offers a great deal more control over individual aspects of processing.The trial software fully functional however it leaves  watermarks on the image. Photomatix also comes with a variety of pre-set effects and the images below were all generated from the same base images just by changing the pre-set option, clearly it offers a great deal more scope than Photoshop in terms of HDR options.

Photomatix Variants







This entry was posted in Digital Imaging.

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