Final  shot (above):  Canon 1D Mark IV, EF 50mm 1.2 L,  50mm, F11, ISO 100, Aperture Priority, 1/100, 1/640, 1/250, Ev Metering -1 1/3 – + 1 1/3 auto bracketing. Image compiled in Photomatix.


I wanted to find out how easy it was to cheat in HDR photography. 

Today I ran a quick HDR experiment using RAW.  I wanted to see how three identical images shot at varying exposures (see below) compared to just one of the below images with its exposure settings adjusted in RAW to mirror the three exposure types.  My experiment involved comparing the ‘as shot’ images against the images  created from the RAW file.  Using Photomatix Essentials, I combined the ‘as shot’ images into a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image and did exactly the same with the three images produced in RAW.  This resulted in two comparable HDR shots.  The below screenshots and accompanying narrative will take you through the process and, ultimately, my conclusion:  i.e. can you produce HDR photography with a single RAW file?

When the following 3 images are combined using Photomatix, it is easy to form the above image. 

(Below) all three shots were taken on location using the Canon 1D Mark IV’s rapid burst rate.

                                1/100                                                         1/250                                                            1/640

I will now launch them into Photomatix Essentials (as per below).  When asked if I want to remove ‘ghosts’ I will click no.  To learn more about Photomatix Essentials click here.

This immediately kicks out the below image

I will then, for the purpose of this experiment, select the preset setting ‘Painterly’.  This shows the below image.

A quick adjustment of the settings (as per below – see ‘strength’, ‘colour saturation’, ‘luminosity’ and ‘detail contrast’) produces an image that I am happy to export as a J-Peg.  Now I need to find out whether I can do exactly the same using just one image that has been manipulated in PhotoShop RAW.

This is the image I have chosen to manipulate in PhotoShop RAW.  It is one of the original images shot at 1/250 (see below).

Dropping the Exposure down to -1.35 (and making no other changes) produces the below image.

Similarly, increasing the exposure by exactly the same increment to +1.35 has the following effect.

So now I have my three shots.

                      +1.35 Exposure                                         1/250 Original                                                 -1.35 Exposure

And this is how they compare to the original three.

                       1/640                                                                  1/250                                                                   1/100

Once more I will launch them into Photomatix Essentials (as per below).  When asked if I want to remove ‘ghosts’ I will click no.

As before, I will select one of Photmatix’s presets (Painterly) and adjust the settings to match the previous HDR image.

Now it is time to compare the two images.


Final conclusion:  perhaps I don’t need a Canon 1D Mark IV after all to achieve stunning HDR photography.  Perhaps all you need to do is shoot in RAW and compose your own sequence of images with varying degrees of contrast.  This worked well for me and I’m sure it’s the answer for HDR enthusiasts aiming to capture action or shoot handheld but do not have the luxury of a camera with an ultra-high burst rate.



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