Dynamic range is the range of luminance between the darkest and lightest spots of an image or a display (e.g. TV screen) that are visible (not absolutely black or absolutely white). The human eye is able to capture a very wide dynamic range well beyond the abilities of even the most sophisticated digital cameras on the market.
The image below, the photographer wanted to take a picture of the foyer of a historic house (in Pensacola, FL) and had to find a solution to the dynamic range problem imposed by the low interior light, and the bright light coming in through the windows.
The center image represents the dynamic range of the camera he used. The ceiling’s Lighting looks well balanced; however, the windows are overexposed which resulted in loss of details of the scene outside the house, and the dark wood (floors, door and furniture) was underexposed which resulted in loss of details in those areas as well. The loss of detail is an actual loss of data recorded by the camera’s sensor.
Many modern the cameras, and most smart phones are able to compensate for this dynamic range limitation by automatically applying various techniques to produce a High Dynamic Range; that is, more details in the brightest and darkest areas of a scene. However, this automatic HDR option allows for little, if any, control of the results.
The photographer wanted to have more control over the end result. Therefore, he dialed down the exposure to get more details from the windows and took a picture that shows the details through the windows, but underexposes the interior, then took another picture overexposes the windows but shows the interiors details clearly. Now with three images with three different levels of exposure, he moved on to the next step.
The photo editor imported the three images into a computer and merged them all into one HDR image that properly shows the interior and exterior details. The final image has, in fact, such a high dynamic range, it exceeds the human eye’s. This makes HDR images very attractive and pleasing to the eye.
Note: our photo editor used additional techniques to enhance the texture of the wallpaper and wood structures to give the photo a three dimensional feel.
Real Estate Photography
Our photographer who took the photos above is actually a real estate photographer who uses this technique for property listing on MLS and Airbnb.
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