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Book Review: Beginning HDR Photography by Matthew Bamberg

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is the process of merging photographs of several different exposures into one unique image. It is a computer assisted process that with today’s cameras and software can be easy to learn and can create some stunning images. Although HDR photography has been around for a long time, it really took off a few years ago and continues to grow. It has risen from an obscure process that required complex manipulation to a streamlined process with fine-tuned programs that is available for use by beginners to professionals alike.

Beginning HDR Photography investigates the art and history of HDR photography with the goal of teaching beginning photographers both general photography concepts while learning the particulars of HDR photography This book is 336 pages and is divided into 40 chapters and 8 parts. I will break this down by part.

Part I, “All About HDR,” begins with a definition of what dynamic range is all about and how it relates to seeing the world around you. It also looks at the various things that affect the dynamic range as it relates to your camera, lenses, and software.

You then move on to a photographic history of dynamic range and how the concepts have developed over the years beginning with painting and moving into modern photography. This part concludes with a more detailed look at dynamic range and how it relates to your camera, monitor, printer, and photography in general.

Part II, “HDR Camera Attributes,” focuses on the settings that you can control within the image. This part shows you how working with RAW files allows you to have complete access to all of the pixels that the camera captures so that you can create the best image possible.

Then you explore topics such as brightness, contrast, color and saturation, color bit depth, and tonality. All of these things are handled from within a product that comes with Adobe Photoshop that is called Adobe Camera Raw. This product is really good in that it also gives you the ability to go back to the original settings.

Part III, “Cameras, Sensors, and Resolution,” looks at the items that are used to capture the image beginning with the camera. This starts off with looking at cameras in general, the sensors, and how they work together. They generally break down into two types–the ones where the HDR is handled in the camera and the ones where the images are captured and manipulated outside of the camera.

This section will give you an overview of the various types of equipment that you can use and will need to create HDR images. You will look at camera phones, point-and-shoot cameras, large sensor cameras–dSLR and mirrorless–cameras that process in camera, lenses, and tripods.

Part IV, “Camera Settings,” describes the main part of what it takes to get great HDR shots. You begin with getting everything set up to capture the correct image. This could be from a quick bracketed shot, to a fully manual shot with a tripod, cable release, and meticulous control over all of the settings.

You will also look at aperture and shutter priority modes, working in manual mode, controlling your ISO speeds, and auto bracketing. Most of these things are what is needed to be under complete control when creating an HDR image.

Part V, “Field Conditions,” takes a look at the various conditions that you can run into and how to work with them when creating HDR based images. These include working in sunny conditions, on cloudy days, daytime landscapes, nighttime landscapes, as well as shots where both the indoors and outdoors come into play–shooting inside with big windows displaying the outside or outdoor areas where you want to capture detail of enclosed areas.

Part VI, “Accounting for Special Situations,” means that there are times where you need to accomplish tasks that call for additional control. One of these is when you are doing close-up and still life photography. While these are not and should not be as dramatic as landscapes and architectural, you can get some good artistic images. Another situation is flash photography when you need some additional fill light to add to the image itself to bring it into balance.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.