What does HDR mean in photography?

Learn more about high dynamic range (HDR) photography and the effects it can create for your photos.

If you enjoy capturing landscape or architectural photos, the right HDR settings can capture detailed, high-contrast photos that result in dramatic and inspiring photography. But simultaneously capturing both highlights and shadows within a single image can be challenging without an understanding of HDR and the right camera settings. Let’s dive into what HDR means and how it can affect your photos.

What is HDR?

In photography, HDR stands for high dynamic range. Dynamic range is simply the range of the lightest tones to the darkest tones within a photo. Put another way — it’s a measure of the light intensities from the highlights to the shadows.

For example, let’s take the human eye — it’s capable of a wide dynamic range, which is why we can see details in shadows as well as details in highlights at the same time. So, if the sun is setting in a valley, our eyes can see where the sun is highlighting the peaks of the valley, but our eyes can also equally appreciate the darker shadows that are cast.

However, it can be more challenging to capture the same image on camera that our eyes sees. Cameras have a shorter dynamic range, meaning they catch fewer details than our eyes.

How does HDR affect my photos?

The higher dynamic range your camera has, the closer the photo will compare to what an eye can see. This means that you’ll be able to capture more details in the shadows that might otherwise appear pure black, and you’ll be able to see details in the highlights that might otherwise be washed out with white.

Discover great photo tips as you explore HDR and other types of photography. Experience what more you can do with Adobe Lightroom to edit and perfect your HDR photography.