Count dynamic range as one of those photography terms that you hear thrown around quite often, but you’ve probably never really understood what it meant. You can look at dynamic range in a couple of different ways.
First of all, in a strictly visual context, dynamic range is the ratio in between the least and the greatest levels of light that a specific sensor has the ability to measure. Second of all, your eyes have a dynamic range as well, but that range is pretty humongous, believe it or not. You’re able to sense a large range of tones, but not the entire range. Your camera has a dynamic range as well though less expansive than that of your eyes.
Take Pictures in HDR
By taking pictures in HDR, you get to extend the dynamic range of your photos; there’s a pretty simple way of achieving this. The HDR approach has its fans because it extends the dynamic range of your pictures while still keeping them natural-looking.
Sure, HDR has its critics, too, but that’s only because HDR pictures can sometimes come across as too loud and glaring – that’s not an issue when it comes to dynamic range.
You can shoot a range of exposures and then meticulously put them together in Photoshop or another HDR-editing program. What you’ll notice is that the dynamic range will noticeably and sometimes starkly increase, yet your pictures will look natural and not weird.
Shooting Pictures in RAW
RAW files offer us just the pure data out of the sensor. As such, what we’re actually left with are the complete, dynamic-range capabilities from said sensor. For instance, JPG files have to go through some internal processing prior to getting saved. This then cuts off some of your dynamic range at one end or the other.
Relying on a RAW file changes all of that, though. RAW files allow us to manipulate them to our hearts’ content in the post-processing phase. This empowers us to get the maximum range that the shot has to offer us.
Capture to Your Right
Shooting to your right can make quite the difference. This is based on the fact that your camera sensors are way more effective on the brighter end of a dynamic range. When you make the simple adjustment of shifting your histogram to the graph’s right end, you are making sure that you’re going to receive the very best dynamic range out of your camera sensor. You’re essentially increasing your exposure by doing so.
Still, it’s not that straightforward: You want to be careful when doing this. You don’t want the histogram to fall off the graph’s right side because that will result in highlights that are not recoverable.
Capture with a Low ISO
When you raise your camera’s ISO, you decrease the level of noise, but you also decrease the dynamic range! Note that, for every step up with your ISO, there’s going to be a tiny though remarkable drop in your photo’s dynamic range.
Let’s say that you’re facing a low-light situation when shooting. What you want to do is use a tripod along with a lower shutter speed (if your subject is relatively still). This is infinitely preferable to what some photographers are tempted to do, which is hand-holding at a higher ISO.