HDR or High dynamic range file formats include BEF, FITS, HDRi, JPEG XR, JPEG HDR, Logluv TIFF, OPEN EXR, RGBE and ScRGB. These specialized image formats are designed to allow for a single photograph or rendering to encode a greater variance or difference between the darkest and lightest tones therein. If you've ever seen an image that was shockingly rich in its ability to convey colors as if you were directly observing them in the summer sun, you may already be familiar with the fruits of High dynamic range photography. 

Although the most common method of producing these very striking images is to take multiple exposure photographs and then digitally merge them together into a High Dynamic Range image, it is technically possible to achieve the same affect using a film camera or any photographic device that allows for the manual over or underexposure of a given shot. 

High Dynamic Range File Format ImageCredit: Michael Seljos

The overall effect of a HDR exposed photo can be described as "surreal" or "stark" as you can see in this high dynamic range image that exaggerates the differences in lights and darks to give an impression of the first surge of sunset. 

This is an excellent style of photography for artists looking to capture the elemental power of the sun's own lighting and the overwhelming beauty and richness of the natural colors that late afternoon sunlight can draw out. 

HDR and Exposure Bracketing

A technique and technology closely related to high dynamic range file formats is known as "Exposure Bracketing". This is a feature that we are seeing increasingly included in many of today's advanced and high powered consumer digital cameras. 

Exposure bracketing refers to a camera functionality that takes several exposures in rapid succession when the photographer depresses the shutter button. For example, instead of getting one direct snapshot of a park bench, the photographer will ultimately end up with 3 or more. 

Exposure bracketing gives the photographer some more freedom in terms of capturing and choosing the ideal shot, especially when photographing an active or moving subject - which is particularly difficult for the naked human eye to capture definitively. 

HDR in Other Media 

High dynamic range rendering has been an exciting element of graphically advanced video and PC games for some years now. Half life 2 allows players to toggle High dynamic range rendering on and off to suit their own preference and system make-up. 

Nvidia, the manufacturers of one of the world's most popular and widely used graphical chipsets for computer gaming and advanced video editing, offers a simple explanation of HDRR in 3 points: bright objects can become very bright. Dark objects can become very dark. Details can still be seen in both simultaneously. 

By achieving a high dynamic range between the light and dark tones displayed in a rendered video or video or computer game, you can offer users and the audience an overall better quality viewing experience. Gamers will appreciate being able to better scout out lurking enemies and menacing forms in the dark recesses of poorly lit gaming environments. 

High dynamic range rendering neatly and elegantly solves a problem that many gamers have probably already experienced. In the absence of this advanced technology, game areas that are too dark become "clipped" or translated via code to total black, which looks unnatural and blocky. Likewise, areas that are deemed too white to be viewed within the given lighting spectrum of a scene are clipped to white, which looks equally unnatural and obscure. 

What's the Purpose of High Dynamic Range File Formats in Photography?

As opposed to traditional photographs, special images captured or doctored into high dynamic range file formats will generally appear as more realistic and true-to-life. In observing well done high dynamic range photographs, we can recognize a luminance that is similar or more faithful to the real world objects we would experience on a sunny day or during a powerful sunset. 

These special photographic formats find special application for photographers obsessessed with recording bright scenes with as much faithfulness to the real world as possible. HDR shots are also uniquely capable of conveying the shock of color and light that we sometimes experience when stepping outside from a dimly room or while walking amongst vibrant environs as the sun makes the day's final descent. 

High dynamic range file formats offer adventurous photographers a means of capturing and transcribing some of nature's most stunning scenes. Whether your aim is to develop and communicate an experience of a landscape in all its sunlight glory as clearly as possible, or to experiment achieving an otherwordly or surreal ambiance, check out high dynamic range file formats.