View of the Drew | Andrew Halpern Photography

Dynamic Range

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1/200″ / F6.3/ iso100 / 55mm (88mm equiv)

Manhattan View from Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Dynamic range sounds like something complicated. It isn’t. Basically, it refers to the ratio of light intensities the camera is able to capture. The human eye is usually quite adept at rapid adjustments and the brain puts the image together. We “see” the scene in all its glory, from the brightest bits to the darkest details in the shadows.

The camera isn’t as clever. You’ll often find the dynamic range of a scene exceeds your camera’s ability to capture it. You’ll try to shoot a particular scene and straight of the camera, either the shadows will be too dark, or the highlights will be blown out.

There are different ways to deal with this. The absolute best way is to use a technique known as HDR. This will involve setting up your camera for exposure bracketing, and doing some post-processing work. Newer cameras can even do this in the camera itself. That’s not what I did here.

The second way is to try to capture the scene best with one shot. Raw format will capture more dynamic range than jpeg, so use that. You’ll need to exposure carefully and make sure your histogram doesn’t get clipped on the left or right side.

Straight of the camera, the shot probably won’t look so great. This is where post-processing comes in handy. In Lightroom, I use the highlights and shadows adjustments to try to eek out as much detail as possible globally. If that doesn’t suffice, I use the local adjustment brushes to bring out specific parts of the image. In this particular example, I used the local adjustment brush to bring out more detail where the Empire State Building is.

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