Saturday, June 21, 2008

Photomatix HDR & Architectural Interiors: The Dream Team?

HDR is one of the hottest techniques out there right now. Photographers are flocking to this software to create High Dynamic Range images for a variety of uses from illustrative street photography, unusual portraits, and for architectural interiors. Photomatix seems to be the most popular and widely used, but don't overlook FDR Tools as well.

I was just perusing the net looking at my favorite sites while reading up and looking at others images, when I came across a post about HDR. The posting was generally about shooting interiors and using HDR. One person commented on the post about how excited he was that "he would not have to light anymore interiors". This got me thinking! How can HDR eliminate the need to light when lighting shapes our subjects, shows contours, textures, light and dark, creating highlights and shadows? This does not make sense.

Let me explain and show some examples:

In architectural interior photography, we use lights to bring up the brightness levels of the darker areas AND to create highlights and shadows that SCULPT our interiors with light.

HDR does not do that! I do see it as a powerful tool for increasing dynamic range, but not as a tool to replace lighting. Ideally it would be a tool that could enhance our images that were lit and shot with lighting.

Now if you look at the top image it looks quite good. Detail throughout the image in both shadows and highlights and nicely saturated colors. This looks like it did when I was there. However, if you look at the pillars on each side of the lobby there is no shape to them and they look flat. These need light on them as well as many other areas in the scene that are flat. HDR cannot create directional light where there isn't any.

In my opinion this scene needs HDR and lighting and I would choose to shoot it for HDR then light the scene for the highlights and shadows and bring them all together in PS.

This image shows what I think is a much more appealing look with highlights running along each column and looking like the room was lit. I did this in PS and even though it looks better, there are still areas that should have light on them and don't. This would be much easier to create believably on location with lights.

Take My Class: Architecture Photography

Books on HDR:


Matt said...

Where would you place more light in these images?


Charlie Borland said...


Thanks for asking. I would like to see light on both sides of the columns. This would seperate them from the walls behind them just enough to show shape and add dimension. The original photo shows the scene as to close in tonal value to really show shape. This image was not an assignment for me, rather I was walking through when I snapped enough exposures to do HDR, stitch together and then later find it is a great example for the post.


shiv said...

another cool site to check out for nice HDR images is