Cheating at HDR

Victoria Harbor - Simulated HDR

Victoria Harbor – Simulated HDR

I took this photo a couple years ago in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I had the wife and kids with me at the time and didn’t have time to stop and do multiple exposures for an HDR. But I did have the camera on a tripod and I did shoot this in RAW.  That’s the cool thing about RAW files: you can go back, years down the road, pull up the unedited file and edit again.  Over and over, a thousand different ways, but you always have that original, unadulterated, un-tampered-with image, to start with.

So I’ve never tried this before, but I processed 3 different TIFF files from the original RAW file, one at -2.0 EV, another at +2.0 EV, and of course the 0.0 EV regular exposure.  Then I combined them all in my HDR software and did a bit of tweaking. It always amazes me how much detail pops out in HDR photos – detail that was flat and smooth in the single exposure.

But I suppose what I did could be considered “cheating”, and I might have gotten better overall results by doing three separate exposures in the camera, instead of simulating over- and under-exposure using the properly exposed RAW file.  I was actually surprised how well it worked. One advantage to this approach is that the images line up exactly and more sharply because they are all the same image. There is no ghosting or blurring due to subject movement between exposures.

This could work in Photoshop or Lightroom too (making three versions from the same RAW file). I used Apple Aperture and NIK HDR Efex Pro.


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