Learn about high dynamic range photography: how to take photos, merge them into one and edit them.

HDR is an abbreviation for the high dynamic range between the darkest and the lightest parts of an image. An HDR photo displays maximum details for recreating all the memories and getting you back to the moments of shooting. HDR Photography is a science and an art. 

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The scientific aspect is taking bracketed shots at different exposure and merging them into one. The artistic aspect is a wide range of effects from natural to extreme and dramatic.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(2)Now we are going to provide you with everything you need to know about the HDR process. You will also find a lot of other helpful info for both beginning and advanced photographers in our blog. For example, you can easily choose the perfect free photo editor for Mac from our wide selection.

Discover HDR: High Dynamic Range in Photography

What does HDR stand for in photography? It's very simple. Photography became an important part of human life a long time ago. Today, every two minutes, people take as many pictures as taken throughout the entire 19th century! The word “Photograph” is translated from Greek as drawing with light. 

It means we use the power of lighting to create magnificent shots and share them with others. Dynamic range is the amount of light and dark that a camera can capture and display. The more detail the photo contains the more impressive the effect it provides.

High dynamic range in photography means a greater amount of light and dark is captured to merge an image similar to what a human can perceive through eyes. Digital cameras have sensors that can capture a lot of detail, but their range is much lower than what we can see with our eyes.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(3)HDR photography plays an important role in the workflow of a photographer by providing unlimited opportunities. With so many people shooting photographs today, it’s difficult to stand out in the crowd. Using High Dynamic Range photography can allow you to show something unique and eye-catching.

HDR is a polarizing word that arises corresponding associations in the mind. For example, you can create a pleasant feeling by sharing an HDR photo of a fireplace. Make high dynamic range photography a part of your workflow and get ready for breathtaking results. Some cameras and smartphones also have an auto HDR mode.

What Is HDR Photography: Technical Aspects

You may have already done a search like "definition HDR photography" and you know what we're talking about now. However, we need to take a closer look at some important issues. A digital camera can make shots of objects that reflect or emit light through a timed exposure. These images are low-dynamic range photos because the amount of light that an average camera is able to capture is small.

So, what about photography HDR definition? To expand the dynamic range and make the photo look more natural and realistic, photographers take a series of shots at different exposure values. Each photo captures a specific range of scene details that you are going to use for building up an HDR photo. Once you have this series of brackets ready, you can proceed to their processing with HDR software.

One issue that we have to figure out is what exposure values to set and how many photos we need. Most scenarios require three bracketed shots at -2 - 0 - +2 EV. Therefore, you can manually set your camera to these figures for bracketing. If you are lucky, your camera will do it automatically with the help of automatic auto bracketing.

If you take up to four photos, 2-value step increments will be just enough. If you shoot complicated scenes with up to ten shots, 1-value step will be enough. The most important task of any photographer is to capture as much detail of the surrounding objects as possible by any means possible.

Note that a tripod is essential when photographing high dynamic range scenes, as it provides stability that allows photographers to use longer shutter speeds and preserve a wide range of tonal detail in their images.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(4)And by the way, if you prefer to take pictures with your smartphone and want to get really impressive images, then we recommend you follow this link and read about what is HDR on iPhone.

What Are HDR Photos: Creative Aspects

Already know how to define HDR in photography? So, high-dynamic range photography has specific limitations concerning the types of subjects you choose for shooting. What are the criteria for choosing proper scenes to create stunning photos? The first is a great difference between the light and dark parts of it.

To check it, take a photo with any camera. If you see that the sky is white while the buildings are black, or the sky is blue and the ground is black, this scene is perfect. If all people and things look the same and there are no fields you cannot distinguish, you will not reach a realistic HDR effect, which is also explained in a great HDR tutorial created by Skylum's team.

So, what does HDR in photography mean? HDR photos are great tools for sharing your memories with the world and expressing specific feelings through each of them. One more practical use of this technology is adding enhanced details to the objects that we usually do not pay attention to.

For example, an HDR portrait of an elderly person may tell the story about how beautiful the aging process can be. You are free to express all your talent and professional skills through HDR photography. You take shots and pass them to the application for making one breathtaking photograph.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(5)

Best HDR Photography Software

Now you know what HDR photos are. Also, the best and the most expensive camera sensors cannot yet reach equal results that image processing software can provide for its users. If they could, we would never hear of product names like Photoshop, Luminar Neo, or Lightroom. And if you want to find the best PC photo editor, then follow this link.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(6)It is up to you to choose what features you want to include in your workflow and what goals you wish to achieve with your processing. HDR photography is impossible to make without the use of appropriate applications such as Luminar Neo.

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When Would You Use HDR Photography?

As mentioned earlier, this technique is used to capture and display a wider range of light and detail in a photograph. Here are some situations where HDR photography can be particularly useful:

  • It is ideal for capturing scenes with a wide range of contrast between light and dark areas. For example, when photographing landscapes at sunrise or sunset, the sky may be significantly brighter than the foreground. By using a high dynamic range, you can ensure that both the vibrant colors in the sky and the intricate details in the shadows are well-preserved and properly exposed.
  • When photographing indoors, you often encounter challenging lighting conditions, such as bright windows and dark interiors. Thanks to HDR, you can capture the scene in a way that preserves details in both the bright zones outside and the darker areas inside. This feature is especially useful for real estate photography or architectural interiors where you want to showcase the full range of the room's lighting.
  • For subjects with strong backlighting, such as a person standing against a bright sunset or a subject in front of a window, HDR can help balance the exposure. By merging multiple images, you can reveal details in both the subject and the background, resulting in a well-exposed shot.
  • HDR is often used in landscape photography to capture the full range of tones present in a scenic view. From the rich hues of the sky to the intricate textures of rocks and foliage, this technique brings out depth and detail in every element of the landscape.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(7)HDR techniques also allow you to create unique and artistic interpretations of a scene. By manipulating exposure levels and merging multiple shots, you achieve surreal or painterly effects that emphasize certain features or create a more dramatic atmosphere.

Create Your First HDR Photo with HDR Merge Tool in Luminar Neo

Ultimate performance is available for Luminar Neo users thanks to its state-of-art AI tools. Luminar Neo features an exceptional HDR Merge tool that serves as an all-in-one solution for professional photographers specializing in nature and architectural photography. This powerful option allows users to seamlessly merge high dynamic range photographs, enhancing the visual appeal of their images. As a result, Luminar Neo is one of the best software programs for achieving high-quality shots.

What can you do with Luminar Neo? This application has a brand new and unique tone mapping technology that creates a realistic image that looks great and is eye-catching. If you want to get more creative, choose from a wide selection of presets or adjust your image manually. This is an ideal option when you need to work with a large series of images at once. Also, check out our selection of Lightroom vintage presets.

Trey Ratcliff is a world-famous HDR photographer that has shared his knowledge and skills via one-click signature presets in Luminar Neo. Once you choose the preset, you can easily see what changes have been made in the right sidebar. 

You will see what’s changed within the highlighted names of the tools and controls. What can be easier and better than a fast and reliable Luminar Neo application? Using the advanced capabilities of Luminar Neo post-processing software, photographers can enhance the detail in the highlights of their HDR images for stunning results.

What is HDR Photography: High Dynamic Range Photography Definition | Skylum Blog(8)


Regardless of the capabilities of your camera sensor or the challenging lighting conditions you encounter, understanding the basic concept of HDR photography remains invaluable. It enables you to effectively exploit the full potential of dynamic range, whether you're faced with high or low-contrast scenes, to achieve remarkable results in any situation.


Is HDR Better for Photos?

Naturally, this technique is beneficial for capturing and displaying a wider range of tones and details in a photograph. It allows for increased dynamic range, ensuring that both bright highlights and deep shadows are well preserved, resulting in more visually appealing and balanced pictures.

Do Professional Photographers Use HDR?

Yes, professional photographers often use these techniques in their work. HDR allows them to capture and display a wider range of tones and details, especially in challenging lighting situations. It enables them to create visually stunning images that accurately represent the scene's dynamic range and convey their artistic vision.

What Type of HDR Is Best?

It depends on the specific photographic requirements and your artistic vision. Various methods, such as exposure bracketing, tone mapping, or manual blending, offer different levels of control and artistic interpretation. It's important to experiment and find the approach that best suits your desired result and creative style.

What Is the Highest Level of HDR?

When it comes to monitors, DisplayHDR 1400 is indeed the top option. In photography, there's no universally accepted "highest level" of HDR because it can vary depending on many factors, including camera sensor capabilities, software processing, and artistic intent.

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