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Practical HDRI will get you started down the road to creating High Dynamic Range images.

Book Review: Practical HDRI – High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers By Jack Howard

High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) can be both challenging and rewarding for the photographer. It can also be frustrating for the novice because it involves expertise in both the field as well as on the computer. This is because to do HDRI, you need to capture multiple shots of the same scene with some subtle differences in your exposure, then you have to put those images back together again on the computer to get the proper look.

The goal of Practical HDRI is to help you develop your eye with regard to this technology. While technically there is a lot of math potentially involved with HDRI, the author purposely stays away from it so that you will not be intimidated. Practical HDRI is 170 pages in length and covers eight chapters.

Chapter 1, "Cameras and Gear for High Dynamic Range Imaging," begins by talking about the kind of equipment that is needed for creating HDR images. Obviously, things like a DSLR camera and a tripod are recommended, as well as a large and fast memory card for recording the images. But also examined are the additional items such as the cable releases, lenses, and software that will help in image creation. Chapter 2, "Composition, Framing, and Exposure Basics," explains that HDRI is not a magic bullet that just fixes all problems. You still need to follow the basic rules of photography. Here you will learn about the basics of composition, framing and the rule of thirds.

Chapter 3, "Popular Breeds of Lenses for High Dynamic Range," now looks at the types of lenses that lend themselves to HDRI. Here you will see some of the breed specific tips for making the most of your lenses. Chapter 4, "Capturing Images for High Dynamic Range Imaging," now gets to the heart of HDRI; the exposure. In traditional photography, you would try to get the single best exposure, but now you will bracket your images to try to find a series of best exposures. In this chapter you will learn how to recognize the best opportunities for HDRI.

Chapter 5, "HDR Generation from your Bracketed Photos," takes on the challenge of, having bracketed your images, combining them into a HDRI image with the tonality and luminance range that is much greater than a traditional low-bit low, dynamic range image. Chapter 6, "Advance HDR Merging Techniques," will show you additional techniques to adjust to problems that you may encounter when working with HDRI. One of these problems is ghosting: where something gets into one of the bracketed images that should not have.

Chapter 7, "Tone Mapping High Dynamic Range Images" examines how to take this HDR image and map it back into a space so that it reproducible on a device such as a printer or monitor. Without this ability, the tonal ranges will exceed the devices' ability to present it properly and will defeat the purpose of creating it. Chapter 8, "Post Tone Mapping Image Optimization," explores what should, and should not be done, after the tone mapping step to polish and showcase your image.

Practical HDRI is a good book for the absolute beginner in HDRI, but it has a couple of minor problems. First, most people will purchase this book to learn about HDRI, not about composition, or lenses. The basics of equipment should all be focused in the introduction, not through the introduction and the first three chapters. The second problem that I see is that in the introduction, the author says that there are no included images because "most photographers are most invested in their own images…" While I would agree, I would also say that most people who pick up this book are beginners and would like to try their hand at working with this technology to see if they like it before spending a lot of money on equipment and software.

That being said, the rest of Practical HDRI provides a well written, and well thought out introductory guide to HDRI. It will take you through the steps that are needed to generate very high quality images and get you started down the road to creating High Dynamic Range images.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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