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Thread: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

  1. #1
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    I like fairly natural looking HDR imagery. I also prefer to shoot my HDR images using three bracketed exposures since my Canon DSLR cameras can automatically bracket three shots when I am shooting in the burst mode.

    I realize that five images may give a better HDR composite but, since my coordination is not that great (I have problems walking and chewing gum at the same time!); the automation of shooting three bracketed exposures in burst mode is probably best for me.

    The big decision is whether to bracket one stop or two stops. Is it carved in granite that the HDR image should be bracketed either one or two stops or is the amount of bracketing dependent on the subject matter? If the exposure is subject matter dependent, how would I determine how many stops to bracket?

    Additionally, does it matter in which sequence I shoot my bracketed exposures? As an example, the default setting sequence for Auto Exposure Bracketing on my 40D is: standard exposure - increased exposure - decreased exposure. However, if I wish, I can change the sequencing. Is there any reason to switch from the default setting?

    Additionally, if I shot the bracketed exposure in the default sequence; would it matter in which sequence I choose these images for combining into an HDR composite?

    Thank you!

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    Re: One or two stops

    I shot this using the 2 stop bracketing technique with my Nikon D80. I'm no expert and this was one of my first ventures into HDR.

    Mark

    Last edited by The Blue Boy; 18th November 2008 at 07:27 PM.

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    Re: One or two stops

    Hi rpcrowe I don't think there is any hard and fast rule about how many stops you use to bracket the images, but normally people use +/- 2 stops to get a reasonable dynamic range. Others claim an even wider range, although personally using a Canon 40D I find the 2 stop range sufficient. As to the number of shots, I have found that taking 5 images at +/-1 and +/-2 stops does lead to a better(?) resulting image. The problem is that you cannot take the 5 shots automatically. Consequently, if there is any movement in your subject or any variation in light quality or quantity any advantage of 5 shots as opposed to three is lost.

    As far as I know, the order in which the bracketing is carried out should not matter if conditions remain the same during the three exposures. Normally, software such as qtpfsgui or Photomatix can assess the exposures in terms of EV and combines them appropriately. Software from FDRTools allows you to alter the sequence of images, but, more importantly, you can alter the weighting of each image prior to tone-mapping. Also, this software appears to give more natural looking images than some other algorithms.

    The key is to experiment. Have fun.

    David

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    Re: One or two stops

    There's of course no set rules, but generally speaking, if you can capture the entire dynamic range with +/- 1 stop, then shooting separate images in HDR is probably not essential in the first place. You could likely take a single photo in RAW and develop it three times with 0,+/-1 stop, for example, without hugely different results. Using +/- 2 stops will give you less noise in the shadows and will allow the HDR software to slightly better estimate your camera's tonal response curve. Similarly, a more accurate tonal response curve is the main reason why people advocate using 5 shots over 3. As David pointed out, it can definitely lead to a better, more accurate HDR image.
    Wayland found this helpful.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    i use 3 stops, and seems to work great
    Last edited by Vandenberg; 23rd November 2008 at 02:29 PM.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    HDR +HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE . The more stops 2 as opposed to one , the more high lights on one end and more shadows on other end .
    I am just starting to play with this so I may have my head up my ---- . If so I hope someone explains it better .

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    The more shots the better HDR quality is a myth. If we distinguish 2 stages in the HDR process:
    1. Capturing all the scene's DR (CAPTURE)
    2. Processing the RAW files obtained to get the final image (TONE MAPPING)

    In the first stage the only rule is to capture all the DR of the scene, and that simply means capturing the highlights without blowing them, and the overall image sufficiently free of noise.

    With just 2 shots 4 stops apart (yes, 4EV) of carefully chosen exposure in a modest Canon 350D you can capture with an outstanding quality scenes of up to 12 f-stops of real DR. An additional middle shot would improve noise in the middle tones, but it is not essential.
    Any higher number of shots will never improve the captured DR as long as the difference between the most and least exposed shots remains 4 stops or less.

    So answering the question "1 or 2 stops bracketing", if 4 stops is truly possible, I would never do 1 stop bracketing {-1,0,1}, and would prefer {-2,0,2} instead. I cannot think of a single case where {-1,0,1} can produce a better result than {-2,0,2}. On the other side {-2,0,2} will outperform the result of {-1,0,1} in many cases of high DR or simply not optimum exposure values chosen.

    Once I saw a guy showing a picture made of 19 shots at different exposures 1/3EV apart. That is absolutely mad and non-optimum since it will probably deteriorate the sharpness of the final image if the 19 shots are not milimetrically aligned.

    This scene was captured with just [COLOR="red"]2 shots, 4 stops apart, is entirely free of noise, and had [COLOR="red"]12 f-stops of real dynamic range:




    The tone mapping was made straight into ACR (using the tone curve basically) and allowed to achieve the goal of getting a reallistic appearance.

    Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion about what HDR is, and most people experimenting with HDR looking at that image will claim: "but that is not HDR!". It IS HDR. It is a high DR scene, all the information was captured, and it was tone mapped and presented to the observer with a natural looking, like what he would have seen being there.

    What all those people think of when talking about HDR has little or no link to dynamic range, but to the unreallistic appearance through HDR automated tone mapping processings they are looking for, like those obtained with Photomatix for example.

    An another myth is that to store a high DR scene we need a floatint point format such as radiance. A 16-bit integer linearly encoded image can store with no problem up to 12 f-stops of DR, more than enough for 99% of high DR situations in real life. And if the encoding is not linear (e.g. a gamma 2.2 curve is applied) the real encoded DR can be much higher as long as you shot the needed shots at the proper EV intervals to capture it.
    Last edited by _GUI_; 1st January 2009 at 03:27 AM.
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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    For what it's worth, the academy award winning guru in one of my HDR books suggests that 2 stops is usually about right interval - BUT - you none-the-less need to take as many shots as is needed to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene.

    If you're only going to take 3 shots then a 2 stop bracket may or may not be enough - it depends totally on the scene.

    Cheers

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    i am using nikon d60. i tried to look for bracketing but i can't find it. just want to try learning and making HDR images. how to do it using my dslr? please help...

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    I just had a quick search through an online manual for the D60 and (surprisingly) couldn't find any references to bracketing - so perhaps it doesn't have that feature? (I'm a Canon shooter and don't know the Nikon range very well, so I could be wrong).

    It shouldn't make much difference for landscape type shots though - I imagine that you could easily dial in a couple of stops of exposure compensation (after taking the initial shot) - or use the camera in manual mode where you can (manually) shoot as many bracketed shots as you like.

    Cheers

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Quote Originally Posted by _GUI_ View Post
    The tone mapping was made straight into ACR (using the tone curve basically) and allowed to achieve the goal of getting a reallistic appearance.
    _Gui_ great image. If you don't mind are you able to advise in a little detail how you combine the two images and carry out the tone mapping in Adobe Camera Raw? I'm a little confused and would be extremely grateful for some help.

    Many thanks.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    couldn't find any references to bracketing - so perhaps it doesn't have that feature?
    According to the following chart, which includes many makes and models, no Auto-Bracketing on the D60.

    http://hdr-photography.com/aeb.html

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    There is no auto bracking on the Nikon D60 funny you think so. My Lumix DMC-FZ150 P@S got it and I have used it just to see how it dose. Think I will have to try some of this HDR stuff

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Quote Originally Posted by corbybhoy View Post
    _Gui_ great image. If you don't mind are you able to advise in a little detail how you combine the two images and carry out the tone mapping in Adobe Camera Raw? I'm a little confused and would be extremely grateful for some help.

    Many thanks.
    Guillermo posted that about 3 1/2 years ago, so not sure if he'll still be monitoring that thread (we don't see him around here much anymore).

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    I asked an almost similar question earlier and had assumed after reading more stuff on the internet that 2 stops and 3 shots would be more then enough. Guillermo's 4 stop strays from that common held opinion and I am left wondering as what caused this divergence. But on the other hand the sample pic speaks for itself.

    Guess the only way is to do it myself.

    That thing about tone-mapping in ACR has me stumped. Since there is no way I know of to combine 2 or more images in ACR, I will have to assume that he means to process the -4 for the highlights, the +4 for the shadows and the 0 for the midtones. Output the images to PS, layer and mask to get the final image. Does this sound about right?

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    A bit of a change in direction: Guillermo (from Spain) showed up on the POTN forum a year or so ago on a discussion about salvaging overexposed images.

    From what I remember of him saying and explaining on the thread, I felt that he is one of the most knowledgeable people on digital processing that I've ever come across. He was developing a software to salvage photos that were considered too far overexposed to be useful. What's more he demonstrated on a file - I was impressed.

    Glenn

    EDIT: I went to POTN and typed in _GUI_ in the search engine - very interesting thread (there are others).

    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...d.php?t=894359
    Last edited by Glenn NK; 30th November 2011 at 06:40 AM.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Thanks Glenn. Do you have a link for the overexposure thread?

    As for sending him a PM - good idea to prompt a return here if the "you have pm" email gets his attention. Will do just that.



    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Somewhat off topic, but let me say that Guillermo (from Spain) showed up on the POTN forum a year or so ago on a discussion about salvaging overexposed images.

    From what I remember of him saying and explaining on the thread, I felt that he is one of the most knowledgeable people on digital processing that I've ever come across. He was developing a software to salvage photos that were considered too far overexposed to be useful. What's more he demonstrated on a file - I was impressed.

    I had forgotten all about it until I read his post a few minutes ago. I for one will pay attention to what he says.

    Glenn

    PS - Bobo - why not send Guillermo a PM?

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    That thing about tone-mapping in ACR has me stumped.
    I would assume that he's talking about the processing of the HDR composite once the multiple exposures have already been combined. Many seem to forget that this step is necessary, and assume that an image is "good to go" once it pops out of the likes of Photomatix.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Thanks Colin. Have not used Photomatix for quite some time but I remember one of the reasons for not using it was that it did not align a set of pics all that well. CS5 does a much better job at this. Not sure if the current version of Photomatix is now better.

    Personally, I do not quite like the garish looks that many produce with HDR, preferring instead to be honest to the actual scene. Hence my interest in HDR is more for reflecting the true scene instead of mutilating it (called art by some).

    Thanks too to corby for bringing this old thread out of the depths.

    Btw, found this 2008 article on his website.
    http://translate.google.com/translat...hl=EN&ie=UTF-8

    and this article about the 4 stops here
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/fo...hp?topic=17775
    Last edited by Bobobird; 30th November 2011 at 07:21 AM.

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    Re: HDR Bracketing: One or two stops?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    Personally, I do not quite like the garish looks that many produce with HDR, preferring instead to be honest to the actual scene. Hence my interest in HDR is more for reflecting the true scene instead of mutilating it (called art by some).
    Bobo,

    I use LR/Enfuse, and I think that program might be more of what your after, as it aligns and blends
    the images, returning a blended .TIFF back into Lightroom to be processed further.

    http://www.photographers-toolbox.com...s/lrenfuse.php


    Mike

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