I don’t shoot a lot of HDR photographs. In fact many times when I use exposure bracketing, I only process one of the bracketed images. But, there are times when HDR is necessary to capture all the details in an image.
An HDR photograph is useful when a photograph has a high dynamic range. Dynamic range is the ratio of light to dark in a photograph. While cameras are getting better at capturing images with high dynamic range, it usually requires capturing multiple exposure and blending them in post processing using a process called tone mapping.
In addition to exposure bracketing, Olympus OM-D cameras come with 2 In Camera HDR modes. These In Camera HDR modes take 4 different exposures, blend them, and create a single JPG image right in the camera. I tend to like the HDR1 mode better. In my opinion, it produces better images.
The In Camera tone mapping process in the Olympus OM-D will output a JPG and RAW file if you are shooting in RAW. It will only output a JPG file if you are shooting in a JPG mode.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1, E-M5 Mark II, E-M10 Mark I and Mark II all have the in camera HDR function. For the photographs in this blog, I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens.
One good scenario for HDR photography is pre-dawn or sunrise photographs. While photographing the sunrise in Shenandoah National Park, I took shots of the same composition with both exposure bracketing and using the In Camera HDR1 function. For shots where I used exposure bracketing I used HDR Efex Pro II software for the tone mapping in the computer.
I also did additional post processing on both the in camera HDRs and exposure bracketed photographs, as part of the reason for this test was to see how the end product turned out for both methods.
Overall, the In Camera HDR function fared pretty well in the test. As you can see by comparing the two photographs of the Tunnel Parking Overlook at Sunrise, the end photographs are pretty comparable.
If I had to choose an approach, it would be to stay with the exposure bracketing and tone mapping the image in post processing. I think that tone mapping in post gives you more flexibility in how the image is processed. You can also retain the bracketed files and tone map over and over again.
However, you can still use both methods on a composition and choose the photographs you like the best. An added advantage of doing the In Camera HDR is that is can serve as a preview of how your tone mapped image will turn out.
Written by Martin Belan