HDR Photography

Heidi, from 101 Cookbooks, has posted a very cool article on using High Dynamic Range (HDR) for food photography. Cameras, or in fact, the human eye, can only see a certain range of tonal values. Remember the histogram? You can move the tones around, but as you move one end, the other end moves too. So, what happens when your image contains extremes, lots of shades of dark and lots of shades of white? You lose out on one side, or the other, or both and end up with something in the middle. As you lighten up to get more detail in the blacks, the whites get blown out. As you tone down the lights, the darks get clipped.

However, if you take multiple shots at different levels of exposure, you can combine them and end up with a shot that has the full “dynamic range” of tones.

Heidi does a good job of explaining all of this, and has created a new Flickr group for sharing and discussing HDR and food photography. If you are looking for new things to try, check it out.

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  • http://www.skatandthefood.blogspot.com s’kat

    I came into your site via Heidi, and WOW! What a bevy of wonderful information, and fantastic photos.

    I can’t wait to go check out your food blog now!

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Thanks s’kat! I am such a huge fan of Heidi’s work. Glad to have you join me as I learn!

  • http://nikas-culinaria.blogspot.com nika

    I too surfed over from Heidi’s HDR discussion. I love this blog and appreciate all the work you have put into describng various aspects of food photog from your personal experience.

    I have run into a block recently on my own food photography (http://nikas-culinaria.blogspot.com). I think at the base, my block comes from frustrations with my camera (fujifilm S3100). I am used to 20 years on my basic pentax K1000 (completely amateur) but I am missing control over my DOF and the low light limitations on the S3100 drive me innto wild convulsions of angst (ok, mostly it pisses me off :-). I am now considering spending money on a Canon 30D (its hard to do on a growing family budget!).

    Your blog is helping me feel more inspired to make that jump.

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Hi Nika! Glad you made it over.

    It’s certainly possible to get some great shots with a point and shoot (and I’d say you certainly have!)… but it’s much harder to get specific great shots, since you do have to hand over so much control to the camera. I haven’t played with the 30D yet, but I do love my 20D.

    Oh, and I see you are a Well Fed writer as well! I’m currently on A Nice Cuppa…

  • http://kitchen-notebook.blogspot.com/ Lucy Vanel

    Thank you ever so much for posting about this, and also for explaining how it works. By reading both this and Heidi’s post, I learned a lot. You can get a freeware version of Photomatix Basic:


    which will do this with two images (you need the pro software for more than two images). Fooling around with it a bit I realized that there are lots of possibilities for many rejected shots, particularly ones taken in low light where part of the subject is underexposed. By tweaking gamma and contrast to bring out the underexposed areas and saving it to another file, the Photomatix software does wonders and brings new life to these images.

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Hi Lucy – Thanks for the link. I’ll definitely give this a try.