Understanding Dynamic Range in Your Camera
On this short video photographer Tony Northrup looks at one of the most important and basic aspects of photography – dynamic range and how to control and improve it.
The dynamic range is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of your image. Our eyes are very good at viewing a very wide dynamic range as we evolved outdoors where we might need to be outside in broad daylight but sometimes it happens in the middle of a forest with large areas of shade. Being able to view objects clearly at the same time in both very bright light and much darker areas
No commercial camera can match the dynamic range of our eyes (or even come close). However some are better than others and it has to do for the most part with the sensor (some are better than others – just like some sensor are better than others when it comes to sensitivity or color). How do you know what is the dynamic range of your camera? well apart from going online and looking for test results (like the ones on DxO – which are cool but at the end of the they aren’t useful for day to day shooting), you will need to look at your camera’s histogram. If you don’t know how to read a histogram – check out our video here.
You need to pay attention to both sides of your histogram and make sure there are no clippings and that the peeks are far enough from the side so that when processing the RAW image (and yes – you will want to shoot RAW for maximum dynamic range) you will have enough to work with.
There are other considerations such as noise which Northrup mentions briefly. One of the most common to increase dynamic range is by capturing using more than one image of the same scene and combining them in pst production as an HDR image (see some tutorials here).