'High Dynamic Range' photography for everyone

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:36

Changing snapshots into something to hang on the wall Around twenty five years ago, I don’t really remember the number, I made the change to digital photography. I did so because I was poor. I could no longer afford to run to the store, buy film, shoot the pictures, run back to the store, drop off the film, buy more film and then return to pick up the processed pictures, over and over. Not to mention that out of a roll of 24, I may have only got five or six “keepers,” but that’s another story for another time. As far as taking pictures was concerned, the instant gratification of digital was indeed the new sheriff in town and I was one of the first to spend whatever little money I had left on my credit card to outfit myself with the best - in my price range - that my credit limit would afford me in digital equipment. So here we are today and we now all have digital cameras. I mean really, everyone owns one, cell phones that take great pictures, PC’s as well as Mac’s and laptops, which all take really good pictures, but at the end of the day what we really have is a world of “snap shots,” not what I would call a photograph, and there is a very big difference. To illustrate this, do yourself a favor and go onto faceBook and really check out your friends pic’s. Okay, so they are the next best thing to being there, and you do get the opportunity to check out all your friends and relatives on the “other side” of the world, and it is what it is, nothing more nothing less, a very useful snapshot. Enter the twenty-first century and the world of high dynamic range (HDR) photography, a piece of computer software for PC’s and Mac’s that will turn most snapshots into “works of art” , HDR does this by increasing the digital value of the colors, highlights and shadows while adding texture not only to the overall image, but selectively (parts of the picture) as well. It creates, at the very least, “a photograph,” and perhaps something to be very proud of, something that will rock your world all the way to the printers, the framers, your living room wall, and then to where all photographers would wind up, at the art galleries - where chance might find a patron of the arts, (or a relative) who will come along and buy one. HDR software comes in two flavors, the first as a “plug in” to other photo software programs like Photoshop, Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture. This means that you first have to have any of these computer programs installed on your computer, before the HDR plug-in program can run, and when it does run, it will knock your socks off with delight. Nik Software has a “plug in” called HDR EFEX PRO (Windows and Mac) for around $139 on Amazon.com, but, if you go to niksoftware.com you can download the program (as a Plug In) and use it free for 30 days and play with it. Just remember that when you’re ready to buy, you got to head back to Amazon.com because you get to see multiple vendors with different prices and special deals. Niksoftware.com also has free on line training which is second to none with step by step videos that if you’re anything like me, you’ll stay up all night watching and saying, “I can’t believe its butter”. It plugs into Adobe Photoshop CS5 (a $627 program), or Adobe’s Light version of CS5 called “Lightroom 3” (a $200 program), or if you’re a Mac user ,Nik’s Software EFEX PRO will plug into Apples “Aperture 3” (a $200 program). Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop CS5 as well as Aperture all have “Student / Teacher versions” at incredible savings very tempting even for those who are not students or teachers, that’s where those FaceBook relatives really come in handy. Now come the “stand alone” programs. Again, on Amazon.com you can get Photomatix Pro for both operating systems (they’ve been around forever), for $99, or Serif PhotoPlus for Windows only, for $21.90. Again these are stand alone HDR programs that you just load the disk into your PC, go to "File," drop down to import file, go to My Pictures, pick a gem you’re going to work with and import the bugger into the program and hello art galleries. This is where the magic starts. All of these programs not only have mucho presets (set adjustments to get you started in the “creative direction”), they also have palettes (your fine adjustment set of slider tools), that are really easy to use. If you can attach a picture to an email, send a picture from your cell phone or smart phone, take the pictures from your digital cameras memory card and load them up onto your computer, you too can turn that snapshot into a "photograph." They’re just not the same and you owe it to yourself to check it out. It is where all this kind of stuff is heading and its great fun to boot. About the author Bill Cohen is a free lance photographer, commissioned by many ad agencies, production houses, The Pike County Chamber of Commerce, Davis Chant Realtors, Pike County Development Corp. House photographer for The Black Bear Film Festival (2010 Banquet Fundraiser). He also sells commercial air time locally for most national TV networks. He has been resident of Pike County for many years; serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Milford Music Festival, a founding member the United Way of Pike County, as well as a board member of The Red Cross of Pike/Wayne. Cohen wrote, "In the beginning {sounds like I might get spiritual but I won’t}, I would produce my own TV commercials, using low budget digital still images to minimize the overall cost to the client. Although I’ve always loved to “take pictures” this task allowed me to get creative and my passion for digital photography grew. I wouldn’t use the word obsessive; I surely wouldn’t use the word fanatic; most certainly would never think of using the words 'over the top'… but you do see where I’m going here. "I’ve written this piece on photography simply because I feel I have something of value to share. Any way’s, these are my thoughts on this great new type of Digital photography, I hope you not only enjoy the read, you go check this stuff out and well, just have some fun."