If you’re just getting into and experimenting with the drone photography, you probably wondered what exactly does HDR or AEB mean. This quick how-to explains how this technique works, and when to use it to help you get stunning drone shots that your friends are sure to love.
What is HDR?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Simply put, dynamic range is a ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities (ratio between the lightest and darkest parts of the photograph). Practically, cameras with a large dynamic range are able to capture more shadow and highlight detail at the same time. HDR is a technique that helps to add more dynamic range to your photos, which is very helpful with many consumer and pro-sumer drone cameras. This is done by taking multiple pictures (usually three) at different exposures, and combining them into one photo. Capturing photos at different exposures helps the camera capture more detail in both light and dark areas of the picture, so the final result looks more balanced and should look more like what your eyes see, rather than what your camera sees.
When should I use it?
Aerial photography, just as the landscape photography, deals with some difficult contrast situations. I’m sure that almost everyone here remembers capturing some great sunrise or sunset shot, just to discover that either the ground looks too dark, or the sky looks too overblown. HDR, when done right, will help you balance this contrast and preserve much more detail in both dark and light areas of the image.
Another appropriate place for HDR is for the back lit subjects. As much as we try to plan, we can’t always get the sun in just the right spot.
Imagine a real estate shoot when the house is surrounded by the woods- with regular photograph you may end up with a picture of well exposed woods with a “dark hole” where the house is – not so great if you’re trying to show the house.
It is also important to note that HDR technique may not be the best option for scenes with moving objects, as they are allowed to move between the bracketed shots and may appear smudged in the final photo. Many of these “ghosts” may be removed in the post, so as long as the moving objects are not too large (too close), you can still use HDR with good results.
Listen to Petr and Erick discussing the HDR photography technique on our Drone Vibes Podcast – available on iTunes and Stitcher.
How do I use HDR?
Many cameras already offer HDR as one of the photo options. This is usually an automated function, which takes the three pictures and combines them into an HDR shot for you. This automated HDR function usually works pretty well.
Advanced cameras also offer a function called AEB, which stands for Auto Exposure Bracketing. This function usually lets you choose how many shots, and the exposure difference between them (in stops, usually 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop). The pictures do not get combined in the camera, and require to be combined into HDR in post processing. This leaves you with more flexibility, as you can omit some of the bracketed shots if the final scene happens to still be a bit too over or under-exposed.
When shooting HDR or AEB photos, set-up your scene and set your exposure (normally exposed to slightly over-exposed). The camera will then take the first shot with the parameters you chose, and then over and under-expose the subsequent shots.
I use Adobe Lightroom or photoshop to build and grade my HDR photos, but there are many other apps out there that will do a great job.
Watch our short HDR photo editing tutorial video here:
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