The Photographers Tool Kit now includes HDR techniques

Clouds over Waynesville, HDR w/B&W Conversion Bob Grytten Image
Clouds over Waynesville, HDR w/B&W Conversion Bob Grytten Image

The photographers tool kit is much like the carpenter/mechanic’s tool box. Except that many of the tools in the kit are in the form of Techniques. While physical tools include various lenses, filters, and other accessories – there are new techniques to use for solving  photographic problems.

One of the major problems facing the photographer, especially the traveling photographer, is changing light. Realizing that the camera sees differently then we do, the cameras recording media – the film or the image sensor – does not handle certain light conditions well.

For instance, when we arrive on site to photograph a sunrise, the camera has no problem handling the scene of evenly warming light before the sun peaks it’s bright ball over the horizon.

sunrise with sun in detail Once that happens we’re usually faced with a silhouette of anything in the foreground, at best. The camera cannot record the details in very bright light at the same time details in the shadows.



Here’s a tool to solve the problem.  It’s a technique to capture three or five simultaneous images of different exposure while on site and later enter those images into software that blends the images into one – replicating an image more like our eye sees it.

Blue Ridge Parkway V. HDR Bob Grytten Image
Blue Ridge Parkway V. HDR
Bob Grytten Image

It produces a single image with detail in the light areas and dark areas at the same time. It’s called an HDR,  (High Dynamic Range) technique.

Different companies produce software to make the conversion. We use the Photomatix program, available on line. It can be downloaded to use on  a trial basis, and later purchased, if desired. The tutorial is very intuitive. On line at

The B&W cloud image at the top of this post is a variation of the HDR theme, converted to B&W from color. It was taken using five images of varying exposures, then entered into the Photomatix program back at the studio. This and other tools will be the subject of an upcoming workshop in Waynesville, NC.

When Traveling, this is an especially useful tool, whether outdoors, or indoors to capture scenes through a window as well as having detail in the interior. Practice situations prior to going on assignment. In all situations useing good composition techniques will provide the most effective images.

Westin Inn w:©72dpi

HDR used in Key West while on Assignment – the Westin Inn, before daybreak. During trial use of Photomatix their watermark appears. When purchasing the program, the Watermark is removed.

How to prepare for the HDR software…

When encountering a situation that has difficult exposures, you will need a Digital SLR camera; although I understand some some smart phones and tablets offer a modified versionof HDR. I’ll report on that later.

Manual Procedure: Place your DSLR on Aperture Priority and with camera on tripod expose one frame at normal exposure. Then set the EV dial for -2.0EV and take that exposure. Reset the EV dial for +2.0EV and take that exposure. You will end up with three exposures. Back at the computer you will be prompted to entered them into the HDR program. The program will do the rest and come up with the results along with a series of other suggested options which can be previewed prior to selecting one that suits your fancy.

Auto Procedure: Most DSLR Cameras have a way to set on Bracketing. Check your manual and follow that procedure. Some cameras offer only two stop bracketing and some offer one stop bracketing. You’ll want to preselect at least two stops from the normal setting in both “+” and  “-” directions. When you wish to use HDR in the field, select that preset and fire away. Comment with questions or results.

**Additional note. If you are a subscriber to Lightroom and Photoshop, you can imput your images into lightroom then transfer them to Photoshop to stack them, then transfer that image back to lightroom to make any final changes to suit your needs. With Photomatix, you import the images directly into the Photomatix program for a one step operation called tonemapping. Then, if you wish you can enter that single image into you favorite post processing program to do any final tweeking.


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