Photography Tutorials and Articles

Expanding Dynamic Range

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Expanding Dynamic Range (sort of) in a digital camera

The digital camera is a wonderful tool for taking photos. But it has one big problem, Dynamic Range. In these articles you can find more information about Dynamic Range and Zone System. In this article I am going to show a very simple way to expand your camera’s  Dynamic Range (sort of) when shooting in JPG. This technique does not work if you shoot in Raw.

The best way to expand the Dynamic Range is shooting in Raw. If you are a JPG shooter this tip is for you.

There is a Built-in feature in camera for expanding Dynamic Range

Almost all cameras, makes, and models have some sort of built-in feature to expand the Dynamic Range. As always different manufacturers use different names for this same feature, just to make beginners even more confused! I am going to call this feature Dynamic Range Expansion.

Different names for Dynamic Range Expansion

dynamic range
Different manufacturers use different names for dynamic range expansion.

How Does Dynamic Range Expansion work?

First of all this feature only works when you shoot in jpg. Everything happens behind the scene, which means your camera applies the settings and saves the image as a single file. So you won’t notice any change in camera operation.

Generally speaking, the camera uses two different ISO sensitivities for highlights and shadows to maintain the details in them. It is a very complicated process and as photographers we don’t need to deal with the complexity of the process.

Dynamic range not activated

In this photo the dynamic range expansion was off. Notice the blown out area.
In this photo the dynamic range expansion was off. Notice the blown out area.

Dynamic range activated

dynamic range
Notice the differences in highlight and shadow after activating the dynamic range expansion.

How to set Dynamic Range Expansion?

Usually by default this setting is off. Find what it is called in your camera’s make and navigate your camera’s menu and activate it. After turning on the Dynamic Range Expansion, set it to Normal or Standard. Some cameras have Auto setting, I strongly suggest NOT to use the Auto as it may cause grainy/noisy photos.

In some cameras, such as Nikon DSLRs, you can apply Dynamic Range Expansions even after taking the photos by going to the Retouching Menu of your camera.

In Digital Camera Photography – Bootcamp Program we cover more hidden features of digital cameras which assist you be a better photographer. Check our upcoming Bootcamp program and read the testimonies.

That is all for now. Stay tuned for more tips and tutorials. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and as always we love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any questions or have a suggestion for future topics in photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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