HDR Photography Introduction
Every now and then I stumble across some type of new technology that simply blows my mind. About 10 months ago, Joel McDonald, a friend of mine who I met through StomperNet, sent out a tweet regarding a photo he saw online that a real estate agent had posted to help advertise the sale of a house. Since I’m also a Real Estate Agent, my curiosity was sparked, and I took a look at the photo. My initial thought was something like – “Holy Freaking Crap“.
I wasn’t sure what it was about this photo that I had viewed, but it looked incredible. It was in perfect focus, had an incredible blend of rich colors, and quite simply, it just had a certain WOW factor to it that I couldn’t figure out. What was it about this photo that made it look so amazing? I later learned that the agent had used a technique known as HDR. No, it doesn’t stand for High Definition Resolution, which is what I initially thought. It stands for High Dynamic Range.
Because I don’t want to turn this post into an HDR tutorial, I’ll just summarize what HDR is and how it will positively change the way you take photos and bring fun back into your life.
The “normal” way of taking a photograph is to take a single exposure that hopefully catches a wide range of the various levels of light within the composition. Since doing so is usually impossible with a single exposure, the method of HDR comes into play. By taking 3-5 pictures of the same scene under different exposures, you can now import those exposures into your computer and use various types of HDR software to blend them all into a single shot. You then end up with a photo that shows the entire range of light, which simply looks incredible.
After spending quite a bit of time online viewing examples of HDR photography that others had published, I stumbled across one site in particular that posted the best high dynamic range photos I had ever seen. The site was a travel diary of Trey Ratcliff, which featured HDR photography of places Trey had traveled to all over the world. Every day, Trey would post a new photo, which I’d anxiously await every evening. It was an inspiration to see the beauty of his work and I quickly learned that hdr photography was something that I had to learn how to do.
Fortunately for me, Trey put together a free hdr tutorial on his site, which detailed the steps involved with how he processes his photos. I watched his tutorial several times, and then later purchased the hdr software that he uses and recommends, which is Photomatix Pro. (Trey has an excellent Photomatix review on his website.) Over the course of the next 5-6 months, I continued to practice my skills of trying to perfect hdr photography. As my images continued to get better, I felt that I needed to give thanks to Trey, since it was his website and his hdr tutorial that had inspired me to take on a new hobby that brought fun back into my life outside of the office.
Since I know quite a bit about seo (search engine optimization), I contacted Trey via email to see if I could “repay” his generosity by providing him with an hour of my consulting time at no charge. He responded that he was interested in my seo consulting and several days later we had a 1-2 hour phone call. In less than one week later, Trey had applied almost everything I had taught him to his website, and was already seeing the positive results it was making.
When I realized that Trey immediately put into action what I was teaching him about seo, I knew that he would love to attend a StomperNet Live event, which is a 3-day seminar that takes place several times each year in Atlanta. StomperNet focuses on search engine optimization and internet marketing and I knew this would be something Trey would love to learn more about. So, I invited him to attend and he took me up on the offer.
This StomperNet Live event was at the beginning of August, 2009. I picked up Trey on a Friday evening at the airport and drove him to his hotel. The next day, we attended some of the StomperNet sessions and got to know each other a little bit better. But later that afternoon, we decided to skip out on some of the sessions and instead head to Olympic Park to take some photos.
If you’re new to HDR, you probably don’t realize what type of an opportunity I had by being able to shadow Trey while he’s taking pictures. In the online world, Trey is known as one of the leading experts on HDR imaging and has a huge following of fans, who just like myself, are being inspired daily by the photos that Trey posts on his website. These fans would have killed to be in my shoes that afternoon. Fortunately for them, I decided to bring my $80 video camera with me and filmed some of what took place, hence the video that is featured within this post.
If you’re like I used to be, and can’t seem to get photos that you take to have that WOW factor, I highly recommend you learn more about the world of HDR photography. Trust me, it’s easy to learn and you’ll look forward to time away from your office so that you can go out and explore and capture images of this beautiful world we all live in.