How Can I Take Photographs That Don’t Suck?

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In my most recent search to improve my landscape photographs I came across Trey Ratcliff’s website. Mr. Ratcliff runs a very popular travel website and blog with some absolutely amazing photographs. He even goes as far as sharing his techniques which are definitely not for the faint of heart. Personally my photography experience dates back over 20 years so I got what he was saying right off the bat. I’ll try and break things down here a little bit and give you an idea where you need to start.

High dynamic range imaging (HDRI or HDR), according to Wikipedia, “is a set of methods used in image processing, computer graphics, and photography, to allow a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.”

Now this might sound like a mouthful but really anyone could take HDR photos. You could use a cheapo $99 special or a nice amateur camera like the Canon Rebel or even a professional camera like the Nikon D3x.

HDR starts with a number of exposures through the process of bracketing. In other words you will want to take around five photographs of the same scene and “knit” them together using software from HDRsoft called Photomatix. The bracketed exposures should be normal, +1 and +2 overexposed, and -1 and -2 underexposed. You may consider using a tripod for best results although Photomatix does have the ability to adjust and align the photos. Using bracketed exposures will give you the absolute best results but you could alter just a single image quite nicely with the software.

If this seems interesting to you please take a look at this video. It’s a great tutorial and introduction to HDR imaging.

Jay Kenobi

Feature Image courtesy of HDRsoft


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