HOW TO…

Image show two segments with separate single exposures and a segment showing nine merged images into a single HDR.
Merging Photos to create High Dynamic Range results

…Create amazing HDR images

What does HDR mean?
Some people will be a bit confused by the term HDR, it stands for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and can transform your photos and take them to new heights.

What is an HDR image and why is it better than a normal photo?
As a starting point, an HDR photo is just two or more images of the same scene taken at various exposure levels which are combined with specialist software to achieve a better final result.

It’s a little more involved than that, but not a great deal more — that’s the basics of it. 

The complicated reason for using HDR is that the sensor in your camera (the bit that sees the light in your photos) has limitations as to its range of sensitivity to the range of black and white (and the gradients in between) that it can see (sense). An image that uses the HDR technique effectively increases this range, and supplies more data for the image to use.

The human eye can actually perceive a greater dynamic range than is ordinarily possible with a camera. If we were to consider situations where our pupils open and close for varying degrees of brightness, our eyes can see a range of nearly 24 f-stops.

The process of producing an HDR image starts with the photographer taking a series of images that are bracketed (photos of the same subject taken with different shutter speed combinations producing a series of images with different brightness’s (or luminosities)).

The process of getting these images normally works best if the camera is on a tripod and is able to be kept still.

Once the images have been captured, they can then be combined using specialist HDR software.

This will produce a final result that combines all the dynamic range from all of the images. This is quite technical, but can increase the dynamic range of your cameras sensor substantially. This allows for a richer tonal range, punchier colours and brighter, better defined images.

As an example, the following images have been taken as an 9 exposure set, ready for HDR processing.  One was at taken at a normal exposure level and then 4 over exposed and four under exposed.  

They were taken from the 37th floor of Heron Tower in London, E1 in August 2017 between 23:58:14 and 23:58:16 (2 seconds). ISO 2500, f2.8 and using a Nikon D5 DSLR with a 16mm fisheye lens.

1 Second Exposure
1/2 Second Exposure
1/4 Second Exposure
1/8 Second Exposure
1/13th of a second exposure – (base image)
1/30th of a second exposure
1/60th of a second exposure
1/125th of a second exposure
1/200th of a second exposure

The final Result with all 9 images merged together as an HDR

The Final Merged Image – all 9 images merged to a single HDR

As you see the range of tones and colours in the HDR image is much better than any of the other 9 images, also the colours are more dynamic and crisper.

How to create your own HDR images
You’ll find that you will need a few things before you set out on to create your amazing HDR image.  For getting the best results, we would recommend;

  1. A Camera

I know it sound obvious and I’m not being factious, but if you want to do a lot of HDR work then it’s worth making sure you have a suitable camera to get the images with.

Find one ideally with a exposure bracketing function. Although this isn’t a major issue if it does not have it, it will make things a huge amount easier, as without it you’ll need to adjust your settings manually between each shot.

Not only does this take considerably more time (the nine exposures for the London shot took just under two seconds in total) but you’ll increase the chances that you’ll move the camera slightly.  

The London shot was taken resting the camera on a rail, so no tripod was used for that and the quickness that all the images were taken helped keep them aligned.

  • A tripod

Shooting the images by hand is an option and if you find a very solid thing to rest or lean on then it’s possible however, you may encounter trouble aligning your images later on. A tripod is definitely recommended for best results. 

Whilst most HDR software programs are equipped with image alignment, they sometimes aren’t always perfect, with this in mind it’s best to use a tripod or clamp to get the aligned images to start with.

  • HDR software

There are a number of different HDR programs out there that are good. We use Photomatix Pro (6.1.1). 

It’s powerful, fast, and full-featured, and if you’re going to be doing a fair amount of HDR work then the price is very reasonable at just : £69.00 for the Pro package and as I write, hdrsoft are giving the Essentials pack for free!! (normally £29.99). this is due to Covid 19 with more people at home.   I would still plump for the pro version if you can, however.

There are other HDR processing programmes out there but we have had success with Photomatix and it’s what we would recommend.

So, that’s the kit and software, what about the rest?

Now you know what kit and software you need, what are the other bits you need to know? Here are some pointers for getting good shots for HDR work.:

  • It’s a very good idea to try and concentrate on scenes that are fairly static. You’ll soon notice once you start to do HDR’s that leaves in the trees on windy days never behave and they cause ghosting in you images (Photomatix does have a cure for this, but far better for it not to be there).

    So bear this in mind when lining up your shots – what’s moving now or likely to move during the exposures.
  • HDR is very suited to getting the best out of scenes that have large amounts of contract between dark and light areas (the inside of a church for instance).  These are the photos that are best suited for HDR as normally you would not capture the full dynamic range in a single shot.
  • Always shoot in RAW.  This is an overall piece of good advice but especially relevant for HDR work. Whilst you can take your images for HDR in JPEG, this is a lossy compression format and also “pre-bakes” the picture in the camera so you lose a huge amount of control over the final results. The cost of faster and bigger memory cards is constantly reducing and it’s always a good idea to have the biggest that you can.
  • Please remember that these tips are just loose guidelines. It’s all good advice, but don’t let it get in the way of you being artistic. Have a play you’ll soon start to get a idea of what works and what doesn’t.

What if all I have (or want) is my Phone?

It’s true that you don’t need a expensive or complicated DSLR to do HDR photography (it just helps for the high end stuff). If all you have is you phone then you can still get some great results. 

I’m going to cover that in a separate article soon, so if you want to know when that’s happening and also keep seeing these hints and tips then please follow my facebook and linkedin pages.

The HDR featured in this article formed the basis for one of my fine art prints which you can see by clicking on the image here.

View from Heron Tower, London E1

I do one to one training on how to take better photos and using your camera more effectively.  If this is of interest to you then please contact me – the rates for this 1-2-1 training are very reasonable and it’s tailored to your exact needs.

PJB Photography Limited – 07900 892586

philip@pjbphotography.co.uk

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN…

…and why we’ll never leave you in the dark

Electric Owl and Poppies - Virtual Gallery
Three ladies enjoying our art

What do you want to know before you buy Art on-line?

Whether you regularly buy prints for the wall or have never purchased any Limited Edition art on-line before, there are bound to be some questions you would want answered before buying.

We asked some of our customers what questions they would have if they knew nothing about us, and after sifting through the 140+ answers, we came up with the 7 top types of questions that they would ask.

The results make for some interesting reading…

  1. HOW DO YOU DELIVER?
Courier delivering art to one of our valued customers
We send your art to you quickly and safely

The #1 thing that concerned most people was around delivery, you don’t want to order on-line and then wait around for 6-8 weeks for it to arrive. Our customers needed to know would we ensure that their new prized piece of art arrived to them quickly and in perfect condition, the questions they had included;   

“What do you do if it is damaged in transit?”  “Is shipping included and if not then how much does it cost?”  “Can we ship internationally?” 

  • WHAT’S IT MADE FROM?
A few stacked canvasses - we use the best materials to display your art.
Only the best board and frames are used to display your art

Number two on the list was around the mediums used, what did we print on and what additional types were available.  Questions such as these came out; 

“What the art is printed on?”   “What effects are used in the art?”  “Is the print protected from UV?”  “What type of finishes are available?”

  • HOW LIMITED IS LIMITED?
A group of clay pots illustrating that limited editions are important - but how many are in the edition?
You don’t want 1000’s of copies of your Limited Edition piece of art.

No one wants to buy a Limited edition print to then find out the “Limited” part meant they were only going to print 100,000.  The questions from our customers were along the following lines;

“How many are in a Limited Edition?”  “Do they come with a certificate of Authenticity?” “Are the Limited Editions numbered?”  “Are the Limited Editions Hand Signed or a Printed Signature?”

  • I WANT IT THIS BIG!!
Two pumpkins, one big and one small showing size.
We can cater for all sizes – what is needed for the space that you have?

Not unsurprisingly, how big is the print and frame was a major question for most people – they have a space to fill and want to know if this will do the trick.  It prompted the following;

“What is the exact size length x width x depth of the piece?”  “What sizes are available?”  “Can I buy the picture in different sizes, and if so, what size is best?”  “What are the dimensions of the artwork/frame?”

  • WILL YOU FRAME ME?
A small selection of Canvas box frames - black and white.
Only the highest quality frame will do justice to your art

A major cost in day to day art can be the cost of getting a piece professionally framed.  This was a concern for many of our customers and questions were asked such as; 

“Are different frames available?”   “Is there an option for framed/unframed?”   “What kind of quality do your frames have?”   “How thick/deep is the frame?”

  • HOW MUCH?
A stack of UK currency - illustrating that our art is very affordable.
Art can be silly money – you’ll find ours is very affordable

We were slightly surprised that it took this long to get down to the subject of money.

Art can be silly money, in December 2014, Peter Lik reportedly sold a photo for $6.5M for an image called “Phantom”, with was a dust devil captured in a shaft of light in Antelope Canyon, USA.  Our great prints are not nearly so costly and our clients had questions such as;       

“What is the price?”   “Do you offer discounts for multiple purchases?”   “How do I assess if the price is fair?” 

  • CAN WE TRUST YOU?
Trust written in the sand - vital to be able to trust an online reseller - especially with something as personal as art.
Trust is vital – especially with something as personal as art.

With the same number of questions on this theme as there were on price I guess this because most of our customers already know us, however, it’s an important question when dealing with a new company, as how well do they react if something goes wrong?  Although it’s very rare that things do go wrong, our customers had questions such as.  

“What happens if it arrives damaged?”   “What is your returns policy in case I don’t like it when I see it at home?”   “Will the colours on the print look different at home compared to how I see them on the screen?”  “How do I know you are legit?”

So many Questions….and all are answered!!

11 question marks being held up - illustrates that we answer all questions.
Ask us anything – we’ll tell you what you need to know.

We have a strict policy of transparency at PJB art, and always make sure that our customers have their questions and concerns answered up front.  

Over the next few weeks, we shall be posting further articles that go into greater detail on all the subjects and questions raised in this article.  

If you think of something that you want answered then please drop us a line and we’ll address it (if we haven’t already), and If it’s in our archive of articles then we’ll point you immediately in the right direction to find your answer.

Our range is constantly being updated as Limited Edition pieces sell out and new ones are introduced.

See our range of currently available pieces by clicking on the picture below.

Click on the image for our Etsy.com gallery to see our range of Limited Edition Prints

PJB ART UK

07900 892586

Aerial Photography without sending in the Drones.

With the recent flight disruptions at Gatwick airport, regulations around the use of drones has been further tightened up, although previous to this, you would still have needed to have done a fairly hefty risk assessment.

Deploying a drone in certain circumstances is impossible due to a number of factors such as the closeness of members of the public, how close to an airport you are plus numerous other factors including too much wind, or in a exhibition setting like the shot below.

Shot taken with a camera pole from about 25 foot.  The Ravensburger stand at the Toy Fair in Olympia, 2019.
The Ravensburger Stand at the Toy Fair in 2019

If you not looking for too much elevation, then an operator with a professional camera pole may be the answer.

Going up to a working height of 30 feet and being able to operate indoors and outdoors without the need for a full risk assessment, you can get amazing results that can really wow people.

Taken from 30 foot up

Combine this with 360°degree panoramic images with the ability the pan around inside the photo on your website or social media and often this is the ideal solution where drones are not an option.

Contact us for more information on how we can get stunning images for you.

PJB Photography limited are available for elevated photography work through the UK.

Please contact us on 01536 359369 or email us at Sales@pjbphotography.co.uk

Our New Site

I’m pleased to say that our new website is up and running – indeed you are on it. I do hope you like it.

Our New Charity

We are happy to announce that a proportion of our profits will go to help the Lighthouse Charity

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PJB Photography Limited, 62 Walsingham Avenue, Kettering, Northants, NN15 5ER, UK