When is HDR post-processing useful?

rmprmp Posts: 586Member
In the past, if the dynamic range of an scene seemed large, I would plan to use HDR processing and expose for 2 stops above and below the "correct exposure."

Today it seems I do not need as much HDR processing. In post-processing raw images in Lightroom and Photoshop, I often pull details out of shadows that seem really dark -- maybe two or three f-stops underexposed.

I know the camera sensors of today have a broader dynamic range than yesterday's cameras. I believe todays post-processing software is better than yesterdays.

So, given todays cameras and software, when is HDR processing needed? And how far apart should the exposures be set?
Robert M. Poston: D4, D810, V3, 14-24 F2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 80-400, 105 macro.


  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    The ability to pull details out of the shadows with Nikon sensors is extraordinary. I find it rare that a situation is wanting.

    But if I am at all concerned, I shoot a 5 bracket shot at plus or minus 0.3 or 0.7. Usually one will be good enough, even it is hard to know which one in the beginning. To be honest, I can only think of a couple of times that that did not suffice.
  • rmprmp Posts: 586Member
    I agree. It is getting hard to justify HDR processing.
    Robert M. Poston: D4, D810, V3, 14-24 F2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 80-400, 105 macro.
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,708Member
    edited August 2016
    Since the D800 and more the D810 with Auto Spot meter (Highlight-weighted metering) I have not done HDR. I usually do the Highlight-weighted metering with -.3 to -.7 and recover just fine.

    I suppose you can do HDR if you want the HDR look but I stopped doing as well when google Bought NIK software
    Post edited by Vipmediastar_JZ on
  • SamkoSamko Posts: 101Member
    I only use it to get the special look. I use a D7100, DR on it is very good so I need no HDR editing. And end of the day, hdr looks wierd, no blacks deeep shadow and highlights
  • rmprmp Posts: 586Member
    Thanks Vipmediastar_JZ, I need to think about the Highlight-weighted metering.
    Robert M. Poston: D4, D810, V3, 14-24 F2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 80-400, 105 macro.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,545Moderator
    Funny thing is that I longed for more than three shot bracketing when I had a D5000, but when it arrived, I found it unnecessary. Usually I do 3 shots +/- 2 stops if I am shooting into a sunset for instance. Also I never use these gimmicky software packages as I think it is very rare that they can do more than spoil a shot. Photoshop is all I need.
    Always learning.
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    On any modern sensor, you should be able to do the tone mapping that HDR does to get the same look. Worse case you can take a single raw, produce several TIFFs and combine those. With 14 stops of DR you have way more info than you can display with an 8-bit monitor, so really the tone mapping is the key, not necessarily bracketing. There are exceptions, and certainly noise is the limiting factor both in the shadows and the highlights. The current crop of Nikon sensors seems pre-disposed to ETTL as it is much easier to pull out of shadow than highlights, but if you have an extremely contrasty scene you may still want to bracket, or if you are unsure of the correct exposure. YMMV of course
  • kanuckkanuck Posts: 1,300Member
    edited August 2016
    I have always thought that if the finished processed image looks nothing like what you saw through the viewfinder, then the high dynamic range created through HDR processing has gone too far. Images with too much HDR often look like oil based paintings, rather than a photograph. Not sure if this is just me, but I feel too much HDR in photography compares to a beautiful woman who gets a lot of needless plastic surgery :(

    I definitely agree with the spot meter and NIK Software comments as well.
    Post edited by kanuck on
  • With my poor D2Xs, any shot made in broad daylight with a shadow in it. Just kidding.
  • paulrpaulr Posts: 1,176Member
    When HDR software starting coming out, the trend was to over use the HDR availability, The new MacPhun 2017 HDR now seems to be going back to delicate HDR adjustment even with a single image. Funny how things go full circle.
    Camera, Lens and Tripod and a few other Bits
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,545Moderator
    It is indeed. I have just processed some 3 x 2stop shots to make a pano. As an experiment I then just used the middle exposure and got a better result. Better because there was no ghosting and the rest of it was as good.
    Always learning.
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