HDR | Color vs B&W

Posted on May 2, 2009


I’ve been dabbling in HDR over the last couple of years. Since it requires multiple exposures, a tripod and a scene worthy of bringing out the high dynamic range of colors and tones. It’s not something I do a lot of. Lately, when I do get out and shoot with HDR in mind,  I’ve been converting the final HDR into a black and white (or monochrome) version, which I quite like. Some photographers prefer to get the vibrant colors (sometimes extreme) in a well produced HDR image, but I tend to prefer the drama that is created alone with the intense tones, details, textures light and shadows in black and white.

I generally use only 3 exposures (I set them at -2 EV, 0 EV, 2 EV) since the auto-bracket setting of my Canon EOS 5D only allows 3 auto successive exposures. I’ve tried doing six with more variance in exposure stops but find that the camera gets moved ever so slightly, and just enough to ruin the composition when I fiddle with the menu buttons to re-set the auto-bracket… I probably just need a better tripod to solve that problem!

Compare the two black & white photos below- HDR & non-HDR (single exposure, neutral 0EV), for the monochrome setting I applied a green filter on both:

HDR (3 exposures), then B&W
Neutral exposure (0 EV), then B&W

And compare the color HDR & non-HDR (single exposure, neutral 0EV):

HDR (3 exposures)
Neutral exposure (0 EV)
Neutral exposure (0 EV)

At first glance you may not see a lot of difference in the two b&w versions, but the main differences are in the blending of the water – it has become much smoother, and the tone of the trees in the background is different. And of course these are relatively small images on a computer screen. If you were to compare large prints the differences in details would be more discernable.