Michael Breitung Photography


Dynamic Range Increase – Part 1

Hello again, as I’ve said in my last post I will now do a little tutorial on how to increase the dynamic range in photos while still keeping a natural look. This tutorial will be spread about 4 different posts. We will start here in Part 1 by defining what we want to achieve with the DRI technique and what not! We’ll also do a short outline of the following tutorial parts.

But first of all I’ll show you the image I use as showcase in this tutorial.

Sunset on the island Hönö in Sweden

I shot this last Summer on the island Hönö in Sweden. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset. As you can see I shot nearly directly into the sun. By waiting  till the sun was behind the clouds I managed to decrease the dynamic range a bit and also create a nice mood. Another advantage of using the clouds to shade out the sun is you don’t get lense blurs! But still the dynamic range in this shot is beyond what my Canon EOS40d and other digital cameras can capture. So what I did, I shot three exposures. I’ll show those together with some details in Part 2.

Ok now let’s discuss what’s the goal of the DRI technique I’ll show here. We don’t want to achieve the typical HDR look you see so often these days. I don’t think this look suites for example landscape images but that’s my subjective opinion 😉 We’re looking at something in between here. The aim is to use the DRI techniques to do exactly what the name DRI means, increasing the dynamic range. So no effects, no increased saturation or enhanced structures. We just want to get an image without blown out highlights and detail in the shadows as a good starting point for postprocessing. We will do this in Part 2 and 3.  The postprocessing then closes the tutorial in Part 4. Here we will use Adobe Lightroom 2 to make the final adjustments on the image.

At the end of this post here are some tips about how to take the pictures for a good DRI image. Even if we’re doing multiple exposures we need to know how to expose right and there’s a very good articel on Outdoor Photographer which describes how to use the zone system in digital photography to get the right exposure for your images. I recommend you read it. Selecting your exposures this way you will get the best results. For a start it might be sufficient to just use automatic bracketing and let your camera do a +2 and -2 stops exposure in addition to your normal shot. This way you get an additional shot for the shadows and also for the highlights. I recommend you check the histogram in your camera after the shots to see if there are still hot pixels in the -2 exposure and if so you can manually add a -4 exposure and so on. The same goes for the shadows. If the histogram is cut of on the left side you might want to take a +4 exposure and so on. For this I recommend you use a tripod. For a fast bracketing sequence this might not always be needed but we don’t want to take chances.

One additional note. Besides using the DRI techniques for postprocessing you can use graduated neutral density filters during capture to work against blown out skies. The image I showed above would have been an ideal candidate but even without those filters I think I got a good result although more work on the PC was needed afterwards. What you should keep in mind is the less work is needed on the PC the better the quality of your image, so such filters would be a good buy if you are often shooting sunset or sunrise scenes.

So stay tuned for Part 2 .


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