Author: Jack Howard
Publisher: Rocky Nook
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
I find that photography books that are the first to introduce concepts are more likely to garner good reviews than books that just repeat what I already know. This is by way of explaining why “Practical HDRI”, a perfectly respectable introduction to high dynamic range (HDR) photography, has not impressed me as much as earlier HDR books. (HDR is a method of combining several pictures in a computer to extend the range of light of a photographed scene.)
Howard starts by describing the equipment necessary for HDR photography, proceeds to describe basic composition rules and the nature of lenses, and then how to best capture a scene for HDR processing. Next, he turns to generating the HDR image from the captured photos and then tone mapping the images. He completes his discussions by reviewing post processing of the images, with an emphasis on using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
There are several different software tools for HDR processing and the author describes the use of Adobe Photoshop CS3, Photomatrix Pro 3, FDR Tools Advanced 2.2, and Dynamic Photo 3. In each case he explains what the various sliders do in creating an HDR image.
Howard writes simply and clearly. However to make sense of his software descriptions, one will have to download the particular software (they are all available in demo versions) and create one’s own range of images to process. I found that only by following along at the computer can one make sense of the directions. Howard’s instruction is not a tutorial since there is no common image to process or understand. I found that his explanation of what actually happens when tone mapping an image to be the clearest in any of the HDR books that I’ve read.
I wish that Howard had been more organized in indicating when one or another piece of software would be have been appropriate for a particular image, and had provided more detailed explanations of why he made choices amongst the various sliders and buttons each piece of software offers. Michael Freeman provided this type of information in “Mastering HDR Photography”, although Freeman certainly did not explore all the controls to the extent of Howard.
I was quite surprised to see the author’s recommendations for post processing in ACR, a plug-in I’d only considered appropriate for RAW images. Yet, because some of ACR’s tools seem more robust (or at least more convenient) then the basic Photoshop tools, I ultimately found this idea acceptable.
One of the characteristics of HDR imagery is the ability to manipulate an image to the point where it appears almost surrealistic, creating something beyond a simple reproduction of what the photographer saw at the scene. Many of Howard’s illustrations demonstrate this surrealism and, while the author suggests he will explain how to achieve this effect, his explanations are minimal.
HDR processing is likely to be the domain of the serious photographer rather than the snapshooter. Many of these photographers will have already experimented with the software covered by this book and will find nothing new. On the other hand, for the photographer still trying to get a handle on HDR, this book may help improve skills.