Trey Ratcliff whose publishes the popular Stuck In Customs website is the guy who has made high-definition ratio photography so very popular today. Trey’s site has had 21-million views so far. What Trey figured out was our eyes don’t work the way cameras work. Cameras can only record a limited range of light called the dynamic range. HDR photography helps reveal all the light that can be captured by the digital photographer.

Numbers vary depending on who is explaining dynamic range but here’s what I teach:

The human eye is a wonderful optical instrument that can record about 20 stops of light from absolute black to pure white and all the tones of grey in between. The best film cameras can record around 10 stops or so. The best digital camera can record around six stops. That’s why there is a different that you can see between a shot taken with a film camera and the same one  taken with a digital camera.

When landscape photographers shoot landscapes, they often they find that the range of light exceeds six stops from the darkest part of the photo to the most light. So they use a split filter that helps reduce the brightness of the sky so that the range of light is reduced enough that the camera can capture the image. HDR photography works differently. Instead of reducing the light spectrum to fit the camera, HDR allows the camera to capture all the light that is available and then reassemble it in software. The HDR photographer can either shoot a series of images (JPGs) at different exposure ranges and then using software combines them to produce a photo (like the one here that comes from Trey’s website) or shoot a RAW image and then create a couple of exposures in software and then combine them in the digital darkroom.

HDR photography can allow photographers to create images that are more like how our eyes actually see. Of course, this type of photography doesn’t produce a “real” image. It produces something a photo that is…well, you have to see it to appreciate it. The nice thing about HDR photography is anybody using readily available software can create HDR images.

For those of you interested in exploring HDR photography, here’s a link to 60-minute video that features Trey and HDR imagery. Trey knows how to explain some of the technical stuff in a nice easy way. He does go off the reserve a little with some of his philosophy but it’s not all bad 🙂

Here’s another site called HDR Spotting.


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