Lesson 18: When the Light is Out of Control

We’ve talked about outdoor lighting for landscape scenes in the past couple of lessons.  I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the Pro HDR app about now.  We downloaded this wonderful little app a few lessons back lesson 9, which also includes detailed instructions on how to use the app (in case you missed that one).

Today, let’s talk about the times when you end up at a great overlook with a fabulous view and it’s about high noon.  It’s a bright and sunny day with a bright sky and deep shadows on the landscape.  When you look at your iPhone screen to take the shot, you can barely see because of the bright sun.

These are the best times to whip out Pro HDR (although there are other good times, too).  If you’ve left it in automatic mode, you just tap the screen or push the up volume and the app will do all the work to take two photos with two different exposures and then combine them into one photo.

But, once you’ve got the combined photo, you can also use the app to do some additional adjustments to make the image look better lit.   After the app has taken 2 photos and combined them, the screen looks like this:

Notice the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Warmth, and Tint sliders.  By moving these sliders, I can make the lighting look more like the lighting I want and less like the high-noon lighting I don’t really like.  In this case, I just moved the brightness up a bit and pulled the contrast down to get a very realistic looking photo.  Here are the two exposures Pro HDR used to create a combined image side-by-side:

And here are the adjusted sliders and the photo I ended up with:

By the way, I was able to use the app to take the photos, get the combined exposure, and make the adjustments in less than one minute.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort with the Pro HDR app.

I can also do some more extreme adjustments.  In the next example, I took these photos at 8:55AM, when the light was “better.”  Here is the unadjusted photo Pro HDR created next to the unadjusted photo taken at 12:18PM:

Notice the slight difference in the amount of yellow in the earlier photo.  I decided to take the golden aspect to an extreme by adjusting the warmth and tint until I got something that looks almost like early fall:

Your Assignment:  Use Pro HDR to take a photo of a scene that has both very bright areas (like a sunny sky) and dark areas (like trees) at a time of day when the lighting is not optimal.  Now play with the sliders to see what effect each has on your photo.  If you get something you like, click the save button.  Then, try playing with the sliders some more and saving again.  You can create many different versions of the photo this way.  See if you can find a combination of adjustments that makes the lighting more comparable to “golden hour” lighting–or at least less harsh lighting.  Can you soften the effects of overhead sunlight?

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