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Taking you through the steps needed to generate very high quality images, Jack Howard offers a well-written and well considered introductory guide to HDRI.

Book Review: Practical HDRI Second Edition 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 put those images back together again on the computer to get the proper look.

While the aim of the second edition of Practical HDRI is the same as the first edition, there have been additional refinements, upgrades in software, and even a new software product in the mix. Sections on file management have been expanded as well as working with 32-bit HDR processing.

Practical HDRI will 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 can focus on the expediency. Practical HDRI is 240 pages in length and covers nine 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. Using HDRI with a bad photo will probably just make it worse, not better. 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. This chapter also expands the file management workflow and storage considerably

Chapter 5, “HDR Generation from your Bracketed Photos,” takes on the challenge of your bracketed images and how to combine 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 8, “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 device’s 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.

Chapter 9, “Post Tone Mapping Image Optimization,” is a new chapter in this book and it centers on both global and local adjustments to a Low Dynamic Range (LDR) output image and using it in low-bit image editing programs. Here you will look at issues with tone-mapped images, building digital test strips, making Adobe Camera Raw 6 your first line image editor, how to work up your tone mapped images, and how to perform some final tweaks within Adobe Photoshop.

Practical HDRI is a good book for those who want to get started with HDRI. This version contains a number of welcomed additions from the first including the file management workflow. It provides a good starting point for beginners, and for those who have an established flow it is always good to see how someone else handles things and to pick up new tricks.

The addition/update of new software products is always welcome since relatively new technology can update quickly. The post tone mapping addition makes for a better rounded book as well, since in the end we are still limited by what we see on the monitor or print

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 without bogging down into the technical complexities and it will get you started down the road to creating High Dynamic Range images. I can very easily recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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