When I first became aware of HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging), it was presented as a tool for correcting photos that were taken under conditions that were far from optimal, especially those "once in a lifetime" opportunities. By combining multiple exposures of an image using a software application on your computer, a wider range of contrast and detail can be brought out than with a single shot. There is a variety of software applications designed to find the best areas of exposure in the various shots that are then combined into a noise-free, optimally exposed image. Today, the term HDRI is also used to refer to the surreal and vibrant special effects one can create using a series of exposures.
In his book, Practical HDRI, Jack Howard presents you with very in-depth explanations of the rather complex technology. He discusses the cameras and accessories used to generate Exposure Bracketing and Burst Mode in the first chapter. There are tips for training your sense of composing, framing, and exposing an image in chapter 2. Some of the most useful and popular lenses for use in HDR are the focus of the next chapter. And chapter 4 presents the more technical aspects of the process, such as file formats, metering, bracketing, and file management and organization.
Chapter 5 begins the discussion of the software tools you will need, or may just want, to use for organizing images and creating the HDR merge. The applications presented are Dynamic PhotoHDR4, FDRTools Advanced 2.3, Photomatrix Pro 3.2, Adobe Photoshop CS5/CS5 Extended, and HDR PhotoStudio 2. The screenshots and step-by-step instructions presented are given for all the previously mentioned software applications if the feature or process is available. How to use advanced techniques such as deghosting, batch processing, single file conversion, and advanced merge techniques, are explored for each of the applications.
Chapter 7 addresses working in 32-bit space using a variety of tools and techniques on HDR Images. Making selections, creating complex masks, working with exposure, saturation and white balance, light painting with brushes (dodge & burn), and using the Rubber Stamp tool for cleanup in the various programs rounds out the chapter. Chapter 8 introduces Tone Mapping 32-bit HDR images, which comes in two flavors. Globally uses the approach of applying conversion settings to all the data in the image. Locally analyzes the image and applies changes to targeted areas based on pixel values. Tone-mapping scales down the dynamic range of an image while retaining the HDR look. This technique is used to accommodate display media such as monitors and printers.
The final chapter addresses the issues of output-specific image optimization and fixing some post tone-mapping problems. After down-sampling a 32-bit high dynamic range image to 8 or 16 bits, there are three major issues that the author cautions you to pay attention to: color profiles, histogram spread, and gamut warnings. Each of these topics is explained and approaches for making sure that your image is processed for optimal display results are provided. The chapter continues with Digital Test Strips: how and why to use them, and a quite extensive amount of material on the virtues and methods of using Adobe Camera Raw 6 for tone-mapped images. There is a brief epilogue titled "Where Do We Go from Here?".
So there you have it. This is an incredibly well written and extensive discourse on the hot topic of high dynamic range imaging in just 225 pages. The example images and step-by-step images are impressive and beautifully reproduced by the publisher, rockynook. I've enjoyed just leafing through the pages as a source of entertainment and inspiration, as well as education. On the 1 to 5 scale, I give it a 5 *****!