Playing Around with Lightroom HDR

I've never been a fan of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Basically it's combining multiple exposures in the computer to increase the dynamic range of an image. I have shied away from HDR because I have seen too many photos that end up looking like this.

But in the latest version of Lightroom there is a new photo merge feature that does HDR the right way. Instead of making an unrealistic image with crazy dynamics the Lightroom HDR uses multiple exposures to turn the five or six stops of dynamic range with digital photos into the eight to ten stops that film has.

With the photos below I set up the tripod and took five exposures of each photo. One at the "correct" exposure, and one each at two stops below, one stop below, one stop over, and two stops over. Then it's just a matter of importing them into Lightroom, selecting the set of exposures and selecting Photo Merge > HDR... Lightroom then gives you a preview so you can decide whether or not to keep the merged photo.

The merged photo is a fully-editable DNG file so you can make any adjustments you would make on any other raw image file. In the case of these two photos I just cropped them, increased the contrast a bit, and then edited them in Exposure. All I did in Exposure was to convert them to the Ilford Delta 100 black and white emulator. Then back to Lightroom to export them.

And there you go. Black and white digital photos with comparable dynamic range to film.