HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It means that you have a picture that includes both bright light and shadows. This is difficult to expose correctly. You need a lower exposure for the bright parts and a higher exposure for the shadows. Professional photographers have known about the HDR process for a long time. They would put their camera on a tripod and take multiple exposures of one picture, then they would put them together in the darkroom, creating a new picture that is much more than the sum of its parts. Today, that darkroom work is done with HDR software. If you’ve ever remarked on a stunning photograph, saying that it looked like a painting and you don’t know how the photographer did that, it’s probably an HDR photo. I don’t want to work as hard as professional photographers do, but I love the idea of HDR and take advantage of Google+ Photos automatic feature all the time.
Three Separate Photos at Different Exposures
If you have a digital SLR camera, you probably have a setting called AEB, or Auto Exposure Bracketing. This means that you can set the camera to take 3 pictures in succession, one at a normal exposure, one under exposed, and one over exposed.
When you upload all 3 of them to your Google+ Photos account, you may be in for a pleasant surprise the next time you look at the photos in that account. In addition to the 3 you uploaded, you may now have a 4th picture that Google created for you using HDR. If so, you will see it in your All Photos collection, or in the special Auto-Awesome option. If you like it, you can then download it to your computer, or add it to an existing album by viewing it and using the More menu.
There’s a reason they added the ‘ish’ to the word in Picasa’s toolbox! It is not really HDR. It takes one picture and enhances it in a way that is kind of like HDR. It gives a bit of 3 dimensional look by accentuating the edges in the picture, and it enhances the color a bit. You can only work with one picture using Picasa’s tools. So, take the normal exposure of this picture, click the HDRish tool, and you get the image below. Notice that the leaves in the tree are still in the shadows and the blues of the water and the sky are not as vibrant as the Auto Awesome HDR photo.
If you are a Geeks on Tour Member, you can learn more about Auto Awesome and HDRish with these tutorial videos:
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