Architectural and aerial photographer located in Richmond, VA.

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HDR (High Dynamic Range)

All cameras have limitations in how much information they can capture. One of these limits is how much light can be recorded in a single photograph.  This "range" of light, from the brightest white to the darkest black is called the dynamic range.  Sometimes the difference between the black and white is too much, and the camera cannot capture it all.

Single Photograph

This is what a single photograph captured. Notice how the clouds and sidewalk are glowing and there are no details in them.  Similarly, much of the building is completely black (particularly the entryway).

Just like panoramas, HDR simply requires taking multiple photographs.  However, in this case, the camera is kept perfectly still.  This time, we change the length of time the photographed is exposed. 

When we shorten the time, the overall image becomes darker.  This allows us to get details in the parts that were too bright (notice there is detail in the clouds and sidewalk). Of course, the rest of the photograph is nearly unusable its so dark.


Now that we have the whites. We need to get the detail back in the dark areas.  We extend how long we expose the photograph so that the overall image becomes brighter.  We now have details in the dark areas. We can start to see inside the building and the entryway doesn't look so dark.


While three photographs may be sufficient, I usually take at least 5. It just depends how large the range is and how much of that range I want to capture.  This range can be quite large when photographing interiors with views outdoors and its bright outside.

One thing that may not be obvious is that its extremely important that whatever you are photographing does not move.  Otherwise when the photographs are stitched together, you will end up with what look like "ghosts". (Yes, software can try to account for this, but the results aren't as good).

Because of this, my GetOutCast forecast for architecture prefers the absence of wind.

Multiple Exposures

There are a ton of tools out there that will create HDR images for you. I toggle between Photomatix  and Photoshop.

Stacked HDR Image

Final Image

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