When One RAW is Enough: Learning to Work With Your DSLR's Dynamic Range
One of the above photos is an HDR composite of three RAW files and the other is just one RAW. Can you tell which is which?
HDR is a useful tool when the scene calls for it. Here are a few shots I wouldn't have been able to pull off with just one RAW:
The shots at the very top of the post, however, are not of a high-contrast scene requiring HDR. I don't like to use HDR when the scene doesn't call for it. First of all, HDR images, even when done with a tripod, are susceptible to fringing and ghosting (which can sometimes be removed by masking back in one of the RAW files). Why waste time trying to get rid of those problems when you don't have to? Second of all, having all those extra RAW files takes up a ton of extra space on your hard drive. Being an amateur photographer on a budget, I can't justify buying tons of extra hard drives. Shooting RAW most of the time is already takes up plenty hard drive space.
Just in case you were wondering if there is a difference in the two images at the top, let's have a look. First, here are what the 3 RAW files looked like untouched (I used the EV 0 for the image which was not HDR):
The image on the right is supposed to say EV: +2...oops!
The image on the right looks the most correctly exposed for the scene, but unfortunately, the highlights are blown out in the sky. At first, I thought the image on the left was a little underexposed (which it is), but I was able to salvage the shadows with minimal noise in Adobe Camera Raw. Just so you can see what the darkest part of the image looks like up close, here is a comparison:
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think HDR is always a better choice when you can do it, or do you think sometimes one RAW is all it takes?