What is dynamic range in photography?


Dynamic Range is a topic that’s often a
point of discussion when photographers meet or chit chat. While some are bragging about
how the DR of their full frame camera is better than what they had before, some are pointing
out about how a particular brand makes their sensors so well now that the Dynamic Range
is improving gradually. So what is Dynamic Range? And how does it matter? Hey, this is Jayanth Sharma and thank you
for watching the Toehold TV. If you haven�t yet subscribed to this channel, please consider
doing it so that you don’t miss such informative videos in the future. Let me ask you something, do you post-process
your pictures? Please comment ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and let me know. If you’re like
me, you post-process every picture you present. And one of the biggest reasons why even if
you are a better photographer, you still need to process is because of the infrastructural
limitation of the camera sometimes and Dynamic Range of the cameras are surely not as good
as the human vision Dynamic Range yet. So we resort to Post-processing to improve that. So what is Dynamic Range? In simple words,
it�s a range of exposure values in a scene. Let�s say you are photographing a Giraffe
against a lovely sky. Or you�re capturing a person standing inside a building but in
front of a window and you have a naturally lit background, you may have noticed that
the background is much brighter than the subject. So it makes it very difficult to capture the
beautiful light in the background and also capture details in the subject. In the case
of the Giraffe, it makes it an example of a Silhouette. But when you see this scene through your naked
eyes, you perhaps can see the rosettes of the Giraffe better than what the camera is
capturing. Which means the camera isn�t able to tolerate the drastic difference of
exposure values between the bright sunset sky and the dark foreground. So the range
of exposure values the camera can handle is lesser than what the human eyes are able to
process. So in this example, we can say the Dynamic Range was high because of which the
photographer can either capture the light on the sky well or the details on the Giraffe
well. Not both. Fortunately, in the example of the Giraffe,
we used the disadvantage of the lesser Dynamic Range in the camera to obtain a creative result
of the Silhouette. But what if there were situations where we wanted the details of
the dark subject as well? This is usually the case in Landscape photography where the
sky is bright and the foreground is dark. So the photographer struggles to keep both
of them in acceptable exposure range and we can say the photographer is trying to improve
the Dynamic Range of this scene. There are a few ways to battle this issue.
The first is perhaps trying to solve it in the field itself. And that’s why filters
like the ND Grad filter is used. The ND Grad filter simply cuts the light on the sky only
and doesn’t affect the foreground. ND filters come in different powers, for example, a 2
Stop ND Filter, or 4 Stop ND Filter which cuts the light in the top of the frame by
2 or 4 stops. By doing so the Dynamic Range automatically
improves darkening only the sky and keeping the ground as is. The second method can be to use a camera technique
called the HDR or the High-Dynamic-Range technique using the camera�s Auto-exposure Bracketing.
So, in theory, the photographer captures a picture measuring the light on the sky in
the first image and then captures the second measuring the light on the ground. In the
first shot, the ground is darker and under-exposed, while in the second picture the sky is overexposed
keeping the ground’s exposure accurate. Now a software like Lightroom is used to merge
and blend these images to create a perfect dynamic range image. Which is called the HDR. Even without HDR, the dynamic range of an
image can be improved in Lightroom by simply working on the Shadows, Highlights, Blacks
and Whites. For instance, in this Gorilla picture, I improved the DR of the shot by
pulling down highlights and whites, and adjusting the overall exposure of the image and then
by pushing the shadows up to get details back on the Gorilla which was in shade. Ideally, photographers have to develop a skill
of identifying what conditions help produce images with better light and then the problem
of the high dynamic range in nature can be controlled by using one of the three methods
discussed. Makes sense? If you need any help or guidance you know
we are just a shout away. Cheers!

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