How to Cheat

I’ll get right to the point: this picture is fake.

Cold winter day

This morning, as I was eating my Great Grains and browsing the web, I came across a beginners guide to HDR on the Digital Photography School site.  The gist of it was that you take 3 photos of the same thing – one underexposed, one overexposed, and one in the middle – and then run them through some software. The software merges the photos and brings out the lightest and darkest areas, allowing you to show much more detail in the final product.

Here are the 3 originals I used to create the above masterpiece:

Pretty dull, right?  They’re all the same subject, taken at 3 different exposures using the Auto Exposure Bracketing feature on the camera. (It’s kind of like the auto-Goldilocks of exposure: too much, too little, just right.)

I used the program Photomatix Pro from HDRSoft to do the heavy lifting. I just needed to tell it which originals to use and what kind of output I was looking for – the presets included things like Natural, Painterly, and Grunge. I used Painterly for the sample at the top. Here’s what the output looked like in Natural:

… still much more interesting than the originals, and more  authentic-looking than the Painterly version, but not nearly as dramatic.

Now that I know how to cheat, I’ll have to fight the impulse to do so.

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