One RAW File vs. An HDR Composite?

 

Updated: 09/21/21, & still relevant today!

BONUS – See more at this post: https://blog.main.wattsdigital.com/we-dont-need-no-stinkin-hdr-hassles-use-acr-instead/

 

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Here’s a letter from one of my clients:

 

Hi John,

Thanks much for the post on HDR – that looks like wonderful software!  A question: If I shoot in RAW, isn’t there enough dynamic range in one RAW file to achieve the same results?  Just wondering…

Ann S.

 

Great question, Ann!

 

The short answer: Not always. Even shooting in RAW, & depending on the scene to be photographed, one file cannot always get the full dynamic range available to you in a composite HDR image.

 

To further explain, let’s talk about the dynamic range of the sensors in most modern digital cameras…

 

A typical D-SLR (shooting in RAW) has a dynamic range of approximately 7 to 11 stops, depending on the camera model.  When you shoot in HDR (shooting between 3 and 5 different exposures that are 2 stops apart), you’ve increased that dynamic range by 11 to 17 stops.

 

Here’s a “Real-World” example:

 


 

The above image is one RAW image – – Not a bad image, of course – – pleasing to the eye, good dynamic range, well-exposed and so on.

 

 

Now, the same subject. which is actually 5 images combined into one single HDR image. Notice the tremendous increase in dynamic range, especially the blue sky and the shadow detail. Pretty dramatic difference, don’t you think?

 

Oh, and I spent less time overall “massaging” the HDR image on the computer to achieve much better results!

 

Bottom line: When you are shooting RAW files of different exposures and combining them into an HDR image, you’ve increased the amount of information to work with tremendously – – Hence, a much better-looking image!

 

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•  AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE!  Want to see Photoshop in action?  Check out my “Photoshop 101” series of FREE online & live Photoshop Meetups – available nationwide:

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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”, available exclusively on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HNLS1Q2

 

Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!

 

Thx again, and cheers,

 

John Watts ?

john@wattsdigital.com

 

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