Dynamic range in this digital era of photography has brought on many challenges when it comes to exposing an image. Simply put, dynamic range is the difference between the brightest light and the darkest dark that is captured in an image. We often encounter these situations where bright areas become whiteouts (blown highlights) and dark areas are recorded as black holes (clipped blacks) in a single exposure. In my previous post, I discussed HDR technique vs. manual blending of three images to adjust for these situations. Today, I will throw in another option that our latest DSLR’s are equipped with in the form of in-camera HDR.
When I took out my D800 for it’s maiden voyage, I experimented with this feature. One of the issues faced with in-camera HDR is that some camera models can only perform this task in JPEG mode which is not always favorable with some professional photographers. The beauty of the D800 is that in-camera HDR can be accomplished in TIFF mode. Without getting into a JPEG vs. TIFF debate, a TIFF is more desirable over a JPEG since we are able to post process TIFF’s to a higher quality level for the simple fact that they do not exhibit compression artifacts.
Let’s take a look at three images captured in the Kootenay Plains area in Alberta where dynamic range was tackled with single image processing, HDR method using Nik HDR Efex Pro and Nikon’s D800 in-camera HDR. A Singh-Ray 2 stop hard edge graduated neutral density filter was used on the sky for all exposures in addition to a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer.
With the help of the grad filter, the image below is not necessarily one where dynamic range was extreme. However, in the single exposure it was necessary to adjust the shadow slider in Lightroom 100% to the right. Extreme adjustments like this produce noise and artifacts and are not always the best choice when a quality file is desired. I found that these extreme adjustments were handled extremely well with the combination of Lightroom 4 and the D800. In the end, I was pleased with the final result where this file was post processed in my style of high contrast emphasizing shadow and light.
In the second image I used three separate exposures where details for sky, distant trees in the horizon on the left side and foreground grasses were each exposed to my taste. Nik HDR Efex Pro did the blending with final touches performed in color Efex Pro. I was also pleased with the end result.
The third image is the D800’s in-camera HDR at work. My approach to post was the same as with the other two images. Again, I was quite happy with the result.
All three methods in this case proved to be successful. So which result is my preference? With the three being so similar, the winner here would be the in-camera HDR since it required the least amount of post processing hence, in my opinion, offering the best quality file which could be used to produce a large print.
The conclusion in this demonstration is that dynamic range issues can be approached successfully in different ways depending on ones comfort level and preference in post processing techniques. I hope you have enjoyed this demo!
Until next time…Happy shooting!