I've been playing around with some different techniques of editing photos. Recently a friend introduced me to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing. A basic explanation of HDR is that it's a technique used to bring out the wide range of intensity levels between shadows and highlights in your photograph, coming closer to what you might see with the naked eye. HDR essentially makes a composite of a photograph taken with a range of exposures (normal exposure, over exposure, under exposure). The result is a photo that better represents the light AND dark areas, whereas a single exposure of your photo might have areas that are blown out or too dark to see the details.
I tried my first HDR experiment using Photoshop CS3 but found their HDR function cumbersome and unable to produce the results I had hoped for. So I moved onto a program I've never used before, called Photomatix. It was much easier to produce results that came closer to my expectations and was way more intuitive.
original photos adjusted manually for f/4, f/5.6, f/13
final HDR image processed through Photomatix
Admittedly, my final photo is hardly one I'd put out as a great example of what HDR can do but it is my first try. I think part of the problem is that I chose to shoot a subject in lighting conditions that were already pretty decent. If it weren't for my experimenting, there'd be no reason to use HDR for a photo like this since the lighting was even. Another issue is that I didn't use the exposure bracketing function on my camera. I adjusted each exposure manually between taking pictures, which obviously caused some difference in the alignment and also the depth of field.
This weekend I'll be out again to get shots for more experiments in HDR. If I can nail this technique I think it'll be immensely useful for the pictures in my shop.
If you'd like to give HDR a try, there are some great tutorials.
for Photomatix and Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Bridge
for Photomatix only
for Adobe Photoshop CS3
for Adobe Lightroom
Oh, and feel free to leave me any pointers on how to make a successful HDR image!