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Home STUDY Dynamic range in photography: understanding and mastering it

Dynamic range in photography: understanding and mastering it

One of the biggest frustrations of photographers (at least when they start working with their camera) is not being able to capture all the beauty of a place sometimes. The solution is dynamic range, a concept that we will discuss today.

What is Dynamic Range?

What are these terms and why won’t they let me take the photos I want?

Dynamic range refers to the ability to register information about the shadows and highlights of a scene.

On cameras, it is the amount of light and dark tones that can be represented in a single photo. The more it is varied, the greater the dynamic range will be and therefore, the more the image will be faithful to reality.

But as we have seen, this process is more difficult to capture with a camera than with your own eyes.

Understand the concept

Imagine that you are photographing a sunrise or a sunset. There is clearly one area of ​​the scene that has more light than another. In this case, it will be the sky where all the light will be present, while the ground will remain darker.

The result, on camera, will likely be a “burnt” sky (overexposed), while the ground will remain totally dark (underexposed).

The result for our eyes is completely different. We are indeed able to view every detail of the sky and the ground at once and that’s good because we have a greater dynamic range than our cameras. This is the reason why we can treat all the information located in the shadow areas as light.

On the one hand, as we have seen, our eyes are much more efficient than the best camera on the market. They can process the scene in great detail, whether located in areas of light or darkness.

On the other hand, the scene is full of contrasts between shadows and lights and since we have eyes that process the scene without problems, we do not realize it but the task turns out to be more complex for the camera.

Know the diaphragm stops of your scene

As we said, dynamic range is the ability to print information on the shadow and light areas of a scene. This information located between lights and shadows, is translated into photo language by diaphragm stops.

Iris stops help understand the difference in light and therefore information between the darkest area of ​​a scene and the area with more light.

As indicated by DZOFilm, the more aperture stops your camera has, the more information you can imprint on the image when working in places with strong light contrasts.

If our eyes have the equivalent of 15 stops, our cameras turn around 5 to 8 stops, hence the difference already mentioned between what our eyes see and what the camera can reflect, however efficient it may be- he.

Use the histogram in high contrast locations

It is therefore absolutely necessary to fully exploit the possibilities of your camera, to get as close as possible to what you are able to perceive. But how ? Using the histogram.

A very easy to use tool that allows you to make the most of your camera’s potential.

The histogram is a powerful tool of the camera, which provides information on the existing tones in the photographed scene. From there and knowing how to read it, we can know if the exposure chosen is the right one or if it will be necessary to modify the value of the light captured by the camera to overexpose or underexpose the shot.

As you know, you can’t rely on your camera’s LCD screen to know if you got the right exposure.

With the histogram, you can immediately know if your shot is underexposed or overexposed, to correct it immediately if the result is not in line with your expectations.

Measure the light correctly

Just because your camera has fewer diaphragm stops than your eyes doesn’t mean it can’t produce true-to-life results.

Imagine that you are working on a scene with little light contrast. If your camera has 6 stops and by measuring the light of the scene, we see that there is only 4 stops of difference between lights and shadows, your camera will be able to accurately reflect the scene.

So not only is the histogram a great tool for getting the most out of your device’s potential, it will also measure the light in the work scene, for amazing results.

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