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Monday, July 15, 2013

HDR Photography Puts Dynamic Punch in Your Marketing, Web and In-House Presentations

One of the currently popular adaptations of photography defined to the digital age is HDR:  High Dynamic Range.  The idea is based on the fact that the human eye and brain together see much more in a scene than a photo is able to capture.  There is no film vs. digital argument here since neither truly represents what is seen by the eye covering the range of bright highlights to dark shadows.  Digital may often render better color but film done well will provide a wider dynamic range from bright to dark. Film also more gently grades into the bright areas of the scene, the highlights. Digital is known for blown out highlights and loss of detail in the bright areas. To the rescue is HDR digital image processing. 

In a nutshell, high dynamic range photos combine several photos shot at different exposures.  Three or more photos are taken of the same scene as shown in the photos below: Underexposed, Normal, Overexposed. One shot will have the details in the highlights and another will be overly bright. One shot will show details in the shadows and another will show only dark shadow.

Jackson Plaza, Oak Ridge, TN HDR component exposures

 Jackson PLaza, rear view, HDR brackets

HDR image, Jackson Plaza, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

This is the resulting HDR image after processing, correcting distortion 
and crop for desired view.

Combining the multiple shots gives an HDR image.  The results are not ideal and as seen on the net are often surreal and poster-like. The amount of dramatic effect is up to the photo editor or artist.  Combined and edited with a subtle touch, HDR will provide a better image than a single photo could do alone and still look “realistic”. Pushed a little beyond normal will produce a striking photo, an attention getter more poster-like but acceptable when used with discretion as a lead-in or special use image for web or print use.  For instance, if showing a building, what is the most effective sort of photo?   Ahh…you ask what purpose is the photo serving. Yes, that is a legitimate question.  The more dramatic image will catch the eye.  However, if showing a building or item with the intent of accuracy in detail, backing off on the HDR processing is recommended.  The building above is processed to provide a higher range of tone and detail while still honest to the subject.
HDR image, Oak Ridge Public Library, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
 This is the HDR render of a wing of a library. Note the sky, brightness and color of grass and light in the windows.
Bracketed exposures for HDR photo of library, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
These bracketed exposure photos used to make the HDR image contain the elements of the final image. See the sky in the darkly exp0osed photo? See the brighter window reflection and stronger plant color in the over exposed photo on the right?  These elements would not show in a single normally exposed photo, the center photo above.

The basic rule we follow at Thomas Haynes Commercial Photography is use an image to catch the eye and encourage the visitor to spend  more time with your information.  This basic principle applies to descriptive brochures, web sites, in-house and publicity graphics and certainly sales efforts such as real estate listings.  HDR is one of the tools to use when appropriate to attain this goal.  Email now to learn more of our photo services,  open a dialogue on normal email.(No more text box to deal with!)  Inquire about what you are specifically thinking and set up a meeting if desired.
We just returned from a short drive to find a few subjects for HDR images and have spent time editing what we got. This is not a fast process. The photos here are the results of that run to town. In some cases differences are subtle and in that is value—in that you catch the eye of the the viewer. What is seen is more content than the single photo can present.

We have mentioned "overdone" and in fairness to that.. here is one for drama! Including a strong dominating presence to the building  caused by lens distortion.  Obviously too overdone and tweaked for an accurate view of the building, this photo could have a place on a brochure or as a artful view..maybe.  This is typical of many HDR images on the web... surreal.  We can do drama but generally find it  "too much" and not the wisest choice for marketing.  We are here to provide you the best we can and use good judgment in the process. Enjoy this last one!
HDR image overdone rendering, surreal, Jackson Plaza, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
ThomasHaynesPhotoshoot Works out of Clinton, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

After Sunset Photo..You Can Do This and Make It Work

Obviously, there is a question in why I post how-to articles.  After all, I am wanting your business and to develop new clients. So, why would I go through a light version of the how it is done?  It makes good sense to me and will to you...in just a moment.

This photo is of an outlet mall as seen from the entrance area, shot from an elevated position which happened to be our motel room that evening in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We were there the first week of July to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the horrific Civil War battle of 1863 and to honor those of both sides who were involved and felt the pain of that war.   

Normal Method:  Study the area and the timing of lighting just following sunset.  The ideal balance is a rich dark sky and buildings still lit enough to easily distinguish.  Generally, lighting is added as needed in a series of photos combined into one.  When that is not on the agenda, lights are positioned and turned on to best light the buildings and help create an inviting feeling. 

Shot impromptu from a motel window, this post sunset photograph had no special staging of lights. We went with what was there to make the best of "as is".  
Outlets mall, Gettysburg, Penn., twilight photograph

This after sunset photo was shot on the spur of the moment with no special staging or lighting. The most critical factor in getting an acceptable image was timing. If this photo had been part of an advertisement assignment for the outlets,  more of the mall and less of the entrance way than shown here would be emphasized.  This photo is an exercise in post sunset imaging.

The camera should have a tripod. If not, as is this case, support on a window ledge was used. You use what is steady and provides a motionless support when the shutter is clicked.

1. Determine by eye when you should take the photo.
2. Set the camera to manual!  Otherwise, the camera will try to use automatic settings to give a daylight-look exposure. That means a long time for the shutter to be open, a grainy photo, likely a blurred photo from camera motion. The entire evening effect will be lost!
3. On Manual, choose a lens opening or aperture. For this shot, I used F/5.6.
4. Try a shutter speed and peek at the LCD to see what you have. I used 1/40 sec.   A shot at 1/25 second was too bright to look like a true evening shot. Faster than 1/40 and the photo was too dark and too dark for the lady to be walking her baby.
5. ISO (digital "film speed") was 500 for this shot.(Keep in mind that with some cameras ISO above 800 begins to produce grainy and speckled photos.)
6. Rather than trying to figure out the numbers, begin within the range of numbers suggested and use the lcd viewer to see what was shot and adjust here and there.
- Larger number aperture means less light, smaller opening
- Faster shutter means less light; slower shutter means more light    

It is not so difficult, yeah, that is me saying that.  Try it if you want and experiment with the numbers for shutter, aperture and ISO speed.. If you try doing your own, I want your photos to be good ones.  Feel free to contact Thomas Haynes Commercial Photography if you have questions. We will help as we are able.

NOW..to answer the question:
WHY DO I POST "HOW-TO TAKE AN EVENING PHOTO" WHEN I WANT YOUR BUSINESS?  This is it:  If you have the time, equipment and inclination to do this work, I say go for it!  Practice and get good at it.  You will be more selective in what photos make it to the net or print and your marketing will take a giant step forward.  The better the photography, the better it is for all of us and you should experience improvement in client attraction. Simply expanding the idea that pro level photography is worth it can be a grand accomplishment in my working area.

Many of the readers of this commercial photo blog will not want to try doing the photos on their own. Many will not have the desire to spend time with a camera when other business needs are calling. If you want  effective  marketing photography,  get in touch and we will talk it over.  You get the kind of photos proven to help sales and brand-name recognition.  It is a win win for both of us.
We take assignments from several types of businesses. Most do not have an internal photo staff. Interestingly, we have found that real estate agencies in our working area often hold  an ingrained thought that photos must be taken by in-house agents. If  photography is good, we applaud you and encourage reaching for the best you can do. However, if photography is not up to the level of the property listed, client views are lost and your brand-name is not well represented. You cannot control the quality of photos from shared  multiple listings but certainly can make certain your higher end listings are accompanied with equally high level imaging. Statistics are on the side of  high quality  photography.
ThomasHaynesPhotoshoot Works out of Clinton, Tennessee