Why is dynamic range important?
The greater the dynamic range, the fuller the image and deeper the detail. That’s why a strong dynamic range is essential to any photographer or filmmaker. In scenes with significant contrast between light and dark colours, dynamic range is an important consideration.
Digital cameras are constantly improving and extending their dynamic range – from the minimum to maximum tones they can reproduce. However, digital technology used in photography and video cannot yet perceive the same dynamic range as the human eye.
Explore the dynamic range of your camera.
Finding the right balance between light and dark can help you produce better-quality images - so test your camera’s limits. You should consider both the dynamic range of your camera and your subject. When you’re photographing a subject on a bright and sunny day, it can increase the dynamic range beyond that of your camera, leading to poor exposure. Try to capture highlights and shadow detail in various lighting conditions.
View the dynamic range of your photography with the histogram.
Use the luminosity histogram, which you can view on your camera’s LCD, to explore its range. This graphs the pixels you’re capturing at each intensity level - starting with the deepest black on the left, through to the brightest white on the right. The chart’s width represents the dynamic range of your camera’s sensor.
When the histogram fits inside the display area, it means the subject is within its dynamic range. However, if the graph has spikes on the left or right and a valley in the middle, the image exceeds the dynamic range of your camera. Adjust the exposure to fit the histogram inside the display (and the image within your camera’s dynamic range).
Depending on your equipment, you may need to make an editorial sacrifice – it’s generally best to lose any dynamic range in the shadows as it’s often harder to see detail there anyway.
How is dynamic range measured in photography?
Dynamic range for cameras is measured in f-stops. These are the different settings that specify the aperture of the lens. Using a camera with a lens that has a larger maximum aperture lets in more light – essentially increasing the whitest whites at the top end of your camera’s dynamic range.
The aperture scale goes from f/1.4 (incredibly wide aperture that lets in a lot of light) all the way to f/32 (small aperture, letting in little light). Check the f-stop of your camera - a simple way to boost its dynamic range could be to use a more powerful lens.