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02-09-2016, 10:19 AM   #1
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How do you make the most of dynamic range?

The title of the thread asks it all. Doesn't really matter the specific camera (although I am using a K3)... but what I am looking for are general concepts and principles for getting the most out of dynamic range.

Specifically I am looking for things to do while capturing an image as well as what kind of things to do in Lightroom. I am still not very good at Lightroom so try to be not as technical (as is possible)...

FYI I am shooting in RAW.

I found this link through google so if you can find other helpful links or videos also please do share...

Glossary: Dynamic Range: Digital Photography Review

02-09-2016, 10:51 AM - 3 Likes   #2
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At capture I try to expose as far right as possible (using the histogram. If you're not using the histogram I'd recommend you start) without blowing highlights (pick what I think is the right exposure based on metering and the actual lighting of the scene, using exposure compensation to adjust. Some prefer using manual mode but I like Av). I set up the camera where my review shows the histogram so I can quickly see where I am and make any adjustments. BTW, occasionally I let the highlights blow if they're not important and I'd rather get more shadow detail so no hard-and-fast rule. You can also take multiple exposures if the dynamic range is extreme and blend or merge using HDR software.


In post-production the main thing is getting the workflow right. The main Lightroom sliders that will help you take advantage of dynamic range of your camera are the exposure, contrast, highlight, shadow, white and black sliders, and don't be afraid to drag them extreme left and right to learn what they do. You won't make any permanent changes. For workflow, the one caution is before doing anything else set your white balance (if it needs adjusting) and clarity as both of these will affect other adjustments.


Staring out with Lightroom I found that I often dragged highlights all the way left and shadows all the way right. I then played with the others till I got something I liked, usually involving getting the histogram to include a white and black point using those sliders (there are lots of Youtube videos that can walk you thru the process). You may find you often adjust highlights and shadows back a bit before you're done. If you want to get more refined you can use the curves to adjust as well (again, Youtube is a good resource). Another good rule of thumb; save saturation and vibrance adjustments till after you get your exposure where you want it, as all the sliders above can affect colors. Always keep an eye on the histogram to make sure you don't accidentally blow highlights, going back to previous sliders to make tweeks as necessary.


That's my 2 cents for a starting point, and as you practice you'll get a feel for what needs to be adjusted in a photo.
02-09-2016, 11:09 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jrpower10 Quote
Staring out with Lightroom I found that I often dragged highlights all the way left and shadows all the way right.
+1 on this. If maximizing the dynamic range of an image with very bright areas and very dark areas is the goal, this is the best you can do without HDR. If this method is not sufficient then you should learn HDR. This in short requires taking a series of images exposed differently and then blending them to result in an image with (theoretically) good exposure in all areas. it is not that simple of course but done right can result in very nice images with an enormous dynamic range. Lightroom as of v6 (I think) can do HDR blending without other software. There are many other ways to do it of course.
QuoteOriginally posted by jrpower10 Quote
At capture I try to expose as far right as possible (using the histogram. If you're not using the histogram I'd recommend you start) without blowing highlights (pick what I think is the right exposure based on metering and the actual lighting of the scene, using exposure compensation to adjust. Some prefer using manual mode but I like Av). I set up the camera where my review shows the histogram so I can quickly see where I am and make any adjustments. BTW, occasionally I let the highlights blow if they're not important and I'd rather get more shadow detail so no hard-and-fast rule. You can also take multiple exposures if the dynamic range is extreme and blend or merge using HDR software.
+1 on this as well. Doing it this way maximizes the dynamic range the camera captures in the image. Anything else has to be done in software on the computer.
02-09-2016, 11:27 AM   #4
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What @jrpower10 said.

ETTR = Expose to the right. If you're interested in learning more about it, here are a couple of links to get you started: http://luminous-landscape.com/expose-right/ and ETTR Is Critical For High ISO Photography, pg 1 Daystar

02-09-2016, 11:40 AM   #5
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Others have mentioned starting with the shadow and highlight sliders in Lightroom. Another way is to start with the black and white point sliders: hold the alt key and drag black to the left until you see black clipping, then drag white to the right until you see white clipping, and after that work with shadows and highlights to taste.

Processing is a matter of personal opinions. Some images look best with nearly black shadows, and other images look better when the shadows show detail. Different photographers can process the same scene in very different but equaly valid ways.

You'll hear talk of exposing to the right vs the left. They both involve using the histogram. Here's how I understand them:
  • Exposing to the right means to gather as much light as possible, stopping just short of clipping highlights. The histogram and image might look overexposed but as long as you don't blow out the highlights you can adjust things later. This technique helps to minimize noise. I use expose to the right when I'm working slowly with long exposures in low light; if I'm already forced to use a tripod and full Manual mode, I may as well take time to tweak the shutter speed.
  • Exposing to the left is a way to decrease the risk of blown highlights. Err on the side of underexposure and fix things later because some cameras are more forgiving with shadow recovery than highlight recovery. I use this on days when there's a mix of bright sun and white clouds, and I don't have time to carefully set the shutter to avoid blown out clouds; I'll use Av mode and dial in -1.5 exposure compensation to guarantee the clouds don't get blown out. Yes, my image will have more noise than if I exposed to the right, but daylight photos are generally so clean that the noise is invisible.
02-09-2016, 12:15 PM   #6
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Funny, I just got off my Mac after doing my first "exposure blend" of two frames from a bracketed series--so no expert here! I do think if you're going to do the landscape thing out in Texas, though, the bracket/blend thing will be a necessity for you.


Here's the tutorial I was following--it's "Photoshop-centric" (I don't have Lightroom) with its emphasis on "luminosity masks," but I think you'll see from the example photo's it really fits with your environment.


Blend photos in Photoshop painting over luminosity masksTaming the light
02-09-2016, 01:31 PM   #7
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One thing that I found handy: compare the histogram on the camera to the histogram in the processing software - precisely. Then learn how much exposure compensation you can make for each type of shot. I found that in most cases I can push the exposure in camera about +.7 without damaging the image. Getting a gut feel for this allows me to squeeze a little more DR most times....And then bracket every shot - partly to learn, partly for safety and to give the option to blend if required.

And another thing if the sun's in the frame take a second shot with your thumb over the sun and blend.

There's many techniques ...and don't forget the aesthetics of the image, personally I hate HDR - far too garish. A subtle range of tones often reads more sensitively.

My pennies worth ...
02-09-2016, 02:09 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
personally I hate HDR - far too garish
HDR done garishly is, well garish. HDR done right can be pretty amazing. I have very few recent pictures in my portfolio that do not have some type of HDR processing involved. Most of them would not be recognized as HDR at all because they do not have that garish look. I have some with a grungy HDR look, and that is what I was trying to get from that image, but usually I'm just trying to maximize the usable content of the image.

02-09-2016, 02:34 PM   #9
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Using exposure bracketing and "exposing to the right" is obvious, but not simply shooting a photo in RAW and then extending the dynamic range in Lightroom, Phase One Capture One, or whatever. Just process a few files of the same shot going from +4 to -4 (or whatever) and then process those files in PS or HDR Pro or whatever you choose. You can make the final image look completely natural (but with an extended dynamic range) or the HDR look...your choice. This is similar to stacking images from exposure bracketing, except the bracketed images are created in your software from a RAW file. RAW files have enough data to do this.

The above technique is good in the mountains, where I shoot quite a bit in year round. It "extends" the dynamic range more than simply using the usual PS or LR sliders and avoids the need for a tripod necessary for exposure bracketing. For example, some patches of snow on a sunny day will appear blown-out in a "properly" exposed spring shot of the mountain fields with flowers and dark trees in the background. The "Whites" and "Highlights" sliders won't bring detail into the snow, but the above technique will. The same thing goes for shadows in the trees. The "Blacks" and "Shadows" sliders may not do the job, but taking multiple bracketed files of the same RAW image and stacking them will bring out the detail, effectively extending the dynamic range.

Last edited by quant2325; 02-09-2016 at 02:48 PM.
02-09-2016, 02:38 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
How do you make the most of dynamic range?
Well, good question. First, you may chose the appropriate time to take photographs, when the difference between shadow and highlights is no too pronounced. Second, you may frame scenes so that to avoid bright lights or deep shadows. Third, use center point metering and AE-Lock with +2ev exposure locked on the brightest zone of your frame, in this way, no pixels will be blown but shadows will benefit from the highest possible exposure without clipping highlights, then of course you have to underexpose and tune the image contrast to get back to nice looking image.
02-09-2016, 05:21 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
The title of the thread asks it all. Doesn't really matter the specific camera (although I am using a K3)... but what I am looking for are general concepts and principles for getting the most out of dynamic range.

Specifically I am looking for things to do while capturing an image as well as what kind of things to do in Lightroom. I am still not very good at Lightroom so try to be not as technical (as is possible)...

FYI I am shooting in RAW.

I found this link through google so if you can find other helpful links or videos also please do share...

Glossary: Dynamic Range: Digital Photography Review
Trey Ratcliff (stuckincustoms.com) and Blake Rudis (everydayhdr.com) two of the best HDR photographers in the world would tell you to expose more to the left because they say you can bring detail out of the shadows, if you expose to the right and blow anything out it is lost for good.
02-09-2016, 06:28 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MikeD Quote
Trey Ratcliff (stuckincustoms.com) and Blake Rudis (everydayhdr.com) two of the best HDR photographers in the world would tell you to expose more to the left because they say you can bring detail out of the shadows, if you expose to the right and blow anything out it is lost for good.
Expose to the right is sometimes interpreted to mean neglecting the highlights by exposing so they blow out. But that is incorrect, ETTR means as far right as you can WITHOUT blowing out any highlights. In other words you must expose for the highlights and neglect the shadows. The shadows can be fixed the highlights cannot if they are blown out, just as you say. I want to see a few spots of 'blinkies' in the pure white area of a cloud. That tells me I got as much of the image recorded as possible as bright as possible. That gives me the most image data to work with.
02-09-2016, 06:55 PM   #13
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Turn on the blinkys (bright/dark area warning) on the camera display and chimp a lot. The histogram will help you decide the overall brightness and darkness in your photo. What it won’t do is tell you what parts are in danger of being over or under exposed. When you turn this on parts that are too bright will blink red and too dark will blink yellow. Most people find this annoying but you must remember that the display on a digital SLR is not for showing pretty pictures but is a tool to help you with taking those pretty pictures. I find this actually more important to get maximum DR than looking at the histogram. This way I can decide if I’m even at the edge of DR and if so what parts I might be willing to sacrifice. One nice thing you might look at is the highlight recovery option in your program. I don’t use Lightroom so I don’t know where it is in this particular program but most programs have something. This is useful when trying to maximize DR as you may have just barely blown one color channel and using highlight recovery can help you when you’re at the edge.

DAZ
02-09-2016, 08:36 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
Expose to the right is sometimes interpreted to mean neglecting the highlights by exposing so they blow out. But that is incorrect, ETTR means as far right as you can WITHOUT blowing out any highlights. In other words you must expose for the highlights and neglect the shadows. The shadows can be fixed the highlights cannot if they are blown out, just as you say. I want to see a few spots of 'blinkies' in the pure white area of a cloud. That tells me I got as much of the image recorded as possible as bright as possible. That gives me the most image data to work with.
Sounds like the same thing said in two different ways.

---------- Post added 02-09-2016 at 11:43 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
One thing that I found handy: compare the histogram on the camera to the histogram in the processing software - precisely. Then learn how much exposure compensation you can make for each type of shot. I found that in most cases I can push the exposure in camera about +.7 without damaging the image. Getting a gut feel for this allows me to squeeze a little more DR most times....And then bracket every shot - partly to learn, partly for safety and to give the option to blend if required.

And another thing if the sun's in the frame take a second shot with your thumb over the sun and blend.

There's many techniques ...and don't forget the aesthetics of the image, personally I hate HDR - far too garish. A subtle range of tones often reads more sensitively.

My pennies worth ...
You really need to check out some good HDR go to stuckincustoms.com and everydayhdr.com I think you may change your mind.
02-09-2016, 09:51 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DAZ Quote
Turn on the blinkys (bright/dark area warning) on the camera display and chimp a lot. The histogram will help you decide the overall brightness and darkness in your photo.
A quick little note to you all. Thanks for the comments I will read each one in more detail later on when I have more time to respond.

I did look through the menu functions of my K3 and found several settings that I tried out. I did one where it shows the histogram and another where it blinks red on the over exposed parts.

I didn't shoot a lot of photos... just some for an experiment and my first impression is that both of those help a lot. I didn't even know those settings existed until today Seriously, I should probably read the manual LOL!

At first glance those two things help to give instant feedback on overall exposure. I found them pretty easy to use but I will brush up on my histogram know how. I read about it before so I have a basic idea but I will do a refresher course.
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