HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is the in-thing. If you are new to the subject do read more about what HDR photography is. So while HDR seems like a lot of fun and beauty, it looks surreal but fake. There are photographers going crazy trying to shoot HDR, bracketing trying to dodge the science behind capture, screen and print media. Some spend endless hours comparing the dynamic range specs of the latest cameras. Do you ever wonder how the pros spend this time? No wonder – they spend their time shooting beautiful pics which put the HDR to shame. The pros know all about HDR and they know what it takes to picture the extended dynamic range. Wondering how? Well that’s a secret you know… (just kidding).
Get the lighting right
Books have been written about the subject. It’s all about light. You have the right light means you capture the right light. There’s not much you can do to try capture bad light. If it’s a landscape look for the right time to get the light right. If it is indoors arrange the lights to your advantage.
Shooting against light
Dark foreground against bright background
Depending of the lighting conditions you may want to use a GND filter or the Graduated Neutral Density filter. This will help you tone down the highlights to bring the dynamic range of the scene in control. Here’s a before and after example.
Here’s what I got after I put on the GND filter.
Dark faces against bright background
Light up the bulbs at the right places – that translates into using a good flash.
Get your metering right
Sometimes it is important to shoot in spot-metering, sometimes it is important to shoot in matrix/evaluative metering. Metering does not end there. Take control of the exposure compensation button and set the camera exposure right.
Sorry to disappoint if you expected more. There’s no better way to capture dynamic range than to tone it down. All the above methods do the same in their own ways. The outcome is real and beautiful unlike the fake HDR images that you see around. They are fake because no monitor can show you the scene in its true dynamic range yet – it’s a technical limitation. You want to be like the pros – use the techniques of the pros.