PHOTO SKILLS: EXPOSURE BLENDING
IF YOU NEED TO EXPAND YOUR CAMERA’S DYNAMIC RANGE BUT WANT TO AVOID EXTREME HDR EFFECTS, JORDAN BUTTERS DEMONSTRATES HOW MANUAL BRACKETING AND EXPOSURE BLENDING ENSURES CONTROLLED RESULTS
Capture multiple exposures to expand your camera’s dynamic range – here’s the shooting technique
WHAT COMES TO mind when you think of HDR photography? Ultra- detailed cityscapes? Perfectly- exposed coastal views? Or the retina- melting initial efforts that your hard drive would rather forget? For me, it’s definitely the latter! HDR photography gets a bit of a bad rap from some photographers and, to be honest, it’s easy to see why – it’s an effect that’s often overused by beginners who get carried away with automated HDR software and turn every dial right up to 11! Even with more restrained use, such software often doesn’t do a great job of creating pleasing results simply because it mashes together shadows and highlights across the entire image, without knowing whether the sky should be light, and the shadows need to be at least a little bit dark.
Despite the negativity, high dynamic range photography does deserve a place in most photographer’s repertoires. If, for example, you’re caught out without your filters and the scene exceeds your camera’s dynamic range, then you need to use HDR techniques to record a balanced image. Or, if you’re faced with a scene that filters simply cannot work for, such as I have here, then knowing how to practise HDR photography with control and restraint is an important skill. By manually blending multiple exposures together ( see page 42 for details), you can avoid the over- saturated and hyper- detailed results often associated with HDR software, and capture well- balanced exposures in any situation. Here’s how you do it…
1 c amer a set tings Lock your camera off on a tripod and select aperture- priority mode. Focus and lock to manual focus to prevent the focus from changing. Pick your settings as per normal landscape photography – I’ve gone for f/ 8 at ISO 100, giving me a shutter speed of 1/ 200sec. A test shot confirms this is a good ‘ average’ exposure, but the sky is blown out and the near wall is in dark shadow.
could use aeb… In order to capture the different exposures needed for the highlights and shadows, one method is to use your camera’s AEB ( Auto Exposure Bracketing) function, if available. This varies between cameras, but usually you can select the number of exposures and the difference in stops between each exposure. For example, the LCD above shows three frames at one- stop intervals.
use e xposure compensation… An alternative method is to use exposure compensation to record your additional exposures. Because I know that I only need two more exposures ( one for the sky and one for the foreground brick wall), this is just as quick and easy to do, and allows you to capture as many exposures as you need at any half or third- stop increments that you desire until you have enough. 5 br acket e xposures Capture an image for your highlights ( mine was captured at - 2EV) and one for your shadows ( mine was + 0.7EV). Check both to ensure that you’ve not clipped the highlights in your highlight exposure and that your shadows have been lifted sufficiently in your shadow exposure. Shoot more exposures if you wish – it’s always better to have too many than not enough.
Comparison set: As you can see on the left, if I capture a good base exposure for the scene, the sky is blown out and the shadows are too dark. Filters can’t help in this situation, but blending multiple exposures can.
the perfec t blend... This image uses three blended exposures – a main exposure, one for the sky and one for the brick wall. Turn the page to find out how to edit your own exposure blend.