When should HDR photography be utilized?
Yes, there is a time and a place for HDR. You will want a subject which has a lot of dynamic range, with lots of shadows and light. Early morning or evening light is fantastic for landscape shots – in all facets of photography, but especially in HDR.
Typically you don't want to shoot your brackets on a clear day at noon – the lighting is flat at best and your subject may appear dull as little dynamic range exists. This also invites the ugly halo effect around trees, buildings, horizon lines, etc., which makes most viewers cringe. But like all forms of photography this notion is simply up to you. You may find a lot of texture in your subject, even though dynamic range may be lacking, and want to fire away. Go for it! HDR is simply unbelievable at picking up texture in a frame. If it's a nice puffy cloud day you may jump at the opportunity to fire some brackets – the more dramatic the sky the more your outdoor images will pop when all the different exposures come together. Also be forewarned moving objects can be extremely difficult to deal with in post – something we will tackle later. When you have a composition including people, tree limbs blowing in the wind, or crashing waves you will find what is known as "ghosting" as your objects aren't aligned over your bracketing series.
Night shots are a personal favorite – just be forewarned you may be standing by your camera mounted on a tripod for minutes at a time before you get through your brackets. You won't be using flash so each bracket will take a different amount of time – depending on the amount of light in your composition your longest exposures could take minutes.
Cityscapes are also great subjects for HDR. Mixing the vast texture of contrasting buildings is always interesting but another fun part of city shooting, day or night, is to capture movement as sometimes it's alright to invite some movement. Cities are always moving and to capture such movement can add some very dramatic effects. But this is all within reason, and again we will tackle the issue of ghosting in a bit.
Interiors are perfect settings for HDR as in many instances you can control your lighting to add extra dynamic range to your subject. Dim light makes for the most dramatic results. HDR also has the ability to bring life to the ugly, abandoned and otherwise decrepit. Many images showing abandoned buildings, street art, and other rundown subjects have become quite popular with the emergence of HDR photography and the beauty of this is subjects such as these are everywhere.
Pictures provided by Mark Gvazdinskas