This is a technical discussion on the use of HDR in our church photography. High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR) is a post-processing method of combining multiple exposures of a shot in order to provide a more balanced image and capture more of the contrast. We have examined in detail in a previous post but today we are examining a specific use of HDR – conversion to black and white.
We are beginning with a shot of the nave in the Collégiale Saint-Yrieix in the Limousin town of Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, photographed in the late afternoon with the sun was pouring in from the exterior windows on the south in the nave. I tried to conventionally develop the shots into a satisfactory black and white version but nothing seemed to work. The contrasts were too extreme and I could not find the proper balance. This would be a good candidate for HDR.
I selected four widely different exposures to create the HDR image in Photoshop with the intention of capturing all the details of each in the combined final exposure.
The result of the base HDR is the following, which is unsatisfactory as any kind of finished image but it looked as it would be very good for the conversion to black and white. All of the windows were properly exposed; we can even see the mullions in the large nave windows as well as the detail in the stained glass of the apse. The colors and contrast are not very good, but that won’t matter in the conversion.
In Lightroom I made the adjustments to the HDR master image. First I converted it to greyscale. The result is a clean neutral image that has little relationship to the feeling of the church at the time of photographing. The representation is simply flat and listless.
At this point, I a made a series of manual adjustments including increasing the contrast, lowering the highlights and punching the shadows a bit. This is mostly done by “feel” to get to the look that was originally in my mind when beginning the process.
The result is a satisfactory black and white image of a difficult original composition. Conventional developing techniques combined with Photoshop’s HDR processing got me the image I was seeking.