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04-29-2014, 08:22 PM   #1
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HDR vs. Exposure bracketing

My mate "who knows all about photography" suggests that, instead of shooting my landscapes with HDR, I should do a -1 to +2 EV exposure bracketing.

Wouldn't the end result be pretty much the same - except that HDR is easier as the camera and software do all the hard work?

04-29-2014, 08:28 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by regislea Quote
My mate "who knows all about photography" suggests that, instead of shooting my landscapes with HDR, I should do a -1 to +2 EV exposure bracketing.

Wouldn't the end result be pretty much the same - except that HDR is easier as the camera and software do all the hard work?
Yup, the result would be pretty much the same, but shooting the exposures manually will give you more control, especially if you use RAW.

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04-29-2014, 08:35 PM   #3
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Thanks Adam.
04-29-2014, 08:38 PM   #4
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If you process the shots later, you can control how they are merged/blended, in camera you have no control over the process at all.

Try it and have a little play with some HDR software of your choice, you will see that a huge range of output is possible from the same input images.

04-29-2014, 08:39 PM   #5
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If you mean in camera HDR, then no, the results will not be pretty much the same. At least unless you have a lot better results from the in camera HDR than I have. In a pinch it works OK and gives OK results, but not even close to what you can do with bracketing and real HDR software like Photomatix.
04-29-2014, 10:47 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Many photographers bracket their photos with no intention of making them into HDR images. We even did bracketing back in the film days. It gives you a better chance of nailing the exposure right on when you may not be completely certain from the metering. You just select the best of the 3 or 5 bracketed images and toss the others. Even the great Jay Maisel brackets almost everything in his street photography but rarely if ever does HDR.

Of course, you can always create HDR images from the bracketed shots after the fact using software if none of the single images gives you what you want. I use Photomatix Pro, which does a much better job than the in-camera software provided by Pentax.
04-30-2014, 04:36 AM   #7
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There are two points here, the first is, with bracketing, you can get the best compromise given the exposure lattitude of the recording medium, either film or digital.

HDR is an overlay of shots one exposed for the extreme dark, one exposed for the extreme light, and one in the middle. The shots are merged to flatten the exposure and expand the dynamic range.

The results are quite different
04-30-2014, 05:36 AM   #8
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Things have changed slightly with the K3 - which from your profile, I see you are using. Prior to the K3 (the K5/II/IIs, K30, K50, etc.) when using HDR your only choice was to receive the composited image in JPG format. This was limiting. The K3 changed this by providing the option to save the result in RAW. Furthermore, it also includes the individual contributing images within the final RAW image too.I have extracted the following from the Imageing-Resource link above - but did not copy the example images across. This goes into the differences between the K3 in terms of in-camera HDR.

QuoteQuote:
HDR -- served raw! Lastly for this section of the Shooter's Report, I wanted to take a look at the K-3's HDR capabilities. There are two upgrades in the raw department, and between them it strikes me that I'd be much more likely to use in-camera HDR.

As things stand, although my K-5 supports HDR -- even handheld -- I simply never use the feature. That's largely because it can only output processed images in JPEG format. Once I head home, if I decide I'm not satisfied with the result once I look at the HDR in Lightroom -- well, it's probably too late to do anything about it. So I shoot my HDRs as separate images in raw, and process them once I get home -- if I remember. More likely, I get too busy and the HDR never happens at all.

With the K-3, you can save HDR images in either .PEF or .DNG raw format -- and it's not just a processed image, either. You can also control the step size between exposures, something that couldn't be done with the K-5, and which gives you quite a bit more control. The raws actually include all three source images in a single file. There's a positive and a negative to that approach, as I quickly discovered.

On the plus side, if you shoot raw+JPEG as I did in this review, you have matching filenames for both types. And if you shoot raw only, you have a single file that makes it clear to you this is an HDR. On the minus side, though, the file sizes are huge. I'm talking close to 100MB per image huge.

And also, every third-party app I tried -- be it Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or DxO Optics Pro -- didn't recognize that there were three separate images, and cleverly layer them for me or even open them as separate files. As far as every program was concerned, this was a raw file containing a single, non-HDR raw image, and they wouldn't be told otherwise. (Want to try your own program? You can download both .PEF and .DNG HDR raws in the gallery.)

The answer, it turned out, was in Pentax's own, bundled software package, the Silkypix-based Digital Camera Utility 5. (And I'm guessing if you own a current, retail copy of Silkypix, it'll likely exhibit the same behavior.)

For one thing, Digital Camera Utility 5 does recognize the K-3's HDR raw files, both in .PEF and .DNG formats. That in itself felt like a breakthrough, after battling the third-party software without success. It wasn't entirely satisfying, though, because I'm a man of habit. I didn't want to learn another software package -- I wanted to use the apps I'm comfortable with.

And then I found nirvana. A little option in Digital Camera Utility's Tools menu by the name of "Separation of HDR RAW file" made life great once more. With that one little option, suddenly the one unwieldy raw file could become three, sharing the same prefix and then _1, _2, or _3. The original file type is respected -- if you shot DNG, you get three separate DNG raws. It even provides an option to rename the new files, should you choose.

For the first time in my many years of owning Pentax DSLRs, I think Digital Camera Utility 5 will be staying on my PC, solely to give me access to this tool. And I think I'll be shooting more HDRs, as well, safe in the knowledge I'll have easy access to the fuss-free, camera-processed version, but with the originals on hand should I want to dig deeper.


04-30-2014, 06:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Things have changed slightly with the K3 - which from your profile, I see you are using. Prior to the K3 (the K5/II/IIs, K30, K50, etc.) when using HDR your only choice was to receive the composited image in JPG format. This was limiting. The K3 changed this by providing the option to save the result in RAW. Furthermore, it also includes the individual contributing images within the final RAW image too.


So in reality, the K3 lets you shoot HDR shots, and gives you the option of also processing the individual bracketed images separately. In that case, using the full advantages of the K3 HDR mode, bracketing is almost redundant.

I say almost because for HDR you need to be tripod mounted or you deal with image displacement between frames
04-30-2014, 10:43 PM   #10
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In my ignorance and having no prior knowledge having never had an HDR camera before buying the K3, I had realised that I can shoot HDR/RAW, set the varying eposes and process separately if I wish - which is presumably why the HDR files are about 90mb. That's why I didn't understand what he "who knows all about photography" was on about. It seems to me that bracketing as opposed to controlled HDR on a K3 is a difference without a distinction.

But I'm now a lot clearer on my options - thanks to all for the contributions.
05-06-2014, 05:27 PM   #11
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My own view is HDR images usually look over worked and amateurish.


This is caused by unthinking use of wildly differing exposures. The results are just too varied in dynamic range. Theyre "over HDRd".


Try this:-


Take 3 separate exposures bracketed.


Feed them into photoshop or whatever your editor is.


Carefully adjust the brightness of the images to just reveal differences where needed. not strident differences but subtle shifts of brightness.


All you should be trying to achieve is to reveal detail that would be lost in one single exposure. You don't want an HDR effect.


Feed the 3 subtly different images into your HDR software, the HDR should now be subtle and convincing.
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