Reducing Dynamic Range and What it Does for You

A murb'ed feed, posted about 9 years ago filed in , , , & .

In new advertisements for cameras, the latest and greatest from Nikon and Canon, a lot reference to the high dynamic range of the camera and how great it is because of this. I’m not saying that a high dynamic range is a bad thing, in fact it is amazing the new capability that new cameras have, however I am suggesting that reducing the dynamic range can give an entirely different feel to an image, usually for the better.

For many years I have wondered how the simple compact cameras of my friends could produce a very meaningful and interesting image whereas images from my expensive high-end SLR looked dull. The difference was the dynamic range. In the cheaper cameras, the dynamic range is low, resulting in dark shadows and blown out highlights.The more expensive cameras use larger sensors, being able to capture a larger range of contrast from dark to light.

In the images below, the only difference is that the dynamic range was reduced using Photoshop. Is it just me or is the second image a huge improvement on the first?

Well, by now, I’m hoping that you believe me and are edging to try reducing the dynamic range of your own images. The process of reducing the dynamic range is very simple, all you need is Photoshop.

To adjust the range, we will be using one of Photoshop’s most powerful tools, ‘Curves’. Open your image and navigate to Image>Adjustments>Curves. With the curve , create a ‘S’, increasing highlights and darkening the shadows. Of course, like any tutorial the exact adjustments will vary so use your intuition to make it look right.

You may be thinking this could be done with a simple contrast adjustment, however using curves opens up a new world of possibility to how the image can turn out. There is a reason Curves is regarded as one of the most powerful tools ever.

Let me know how it turns out.

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