360 South Africa
Virtual Tour Photography
of South Africa.
What is HDR
We at 360sa employ a cutting edge technology known as HDR to ensure our full screen virtual tours offer maximum visual impact. What exactly is HDR, and how does it work?
"HDR is used to increase the tonality of image to more accurately represent what the human eye can see, beyond the limitations of the digital camera. By combining multiple images, HDR creates an exposure composite which has more information in the shadows, and bright areas of an image, than any single digital image could capture." -- John Gore
The Human Eye
The human eye is an amazing device, that no camera has yet been able to replicate. With specific regard to its ability to view a range of brightness levels simultaneously, the eye is unmatched. For example, when standing inside a dark room, one can look out through a window at the garden outside, and at the same time still be able to view what is inside (both very bright outside, and very dark inside, at the same time!). A camera, however, is not able to match this high dynamic range of the human eye. The camera must expose for either the inside or the outside, but cannot expose for both simultaneously. This is known in the world of digital photography as the dynamic range of the camera. Some cameras are better than others at handling dynamic range, and there are various techniques employed by both cameras and photographers to overcome this. One such technique, the best (and most complex) method, is known as HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging).
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range
HDR put simply is the process of merging multiple photos, taken at various exposures, into a single file. This can then be compressed for viewing on a digital screen. Here is a brief example of how 3 images of various exposures are combined (merged) into a singe HDR image. Notice how the very bright sky just before sunset is visible at the same time as the shadows behind the hedge.
HDR enables us to display the best exposure for the entire 360 degree field of view, allowing the viewer to enjoy the brightest (sun) and darkest (shadow) areas of the 360 degree photo at the same time!
Who uses HDR?
The techniques used to achieve this vary, and are technical to say the least. Many professional photographers are only now starting to learn the power of HDR, and applying it to their work flow. (HDR is relatively new and photographers often prefer to work without it to save on processing time (depending on the application), or because they do not have the understanding of this technique yet). Getting great results from HDR takes a lot of time and experience.
We believe solid HDR experience and skill is necessary for best results!
For panoramic photography, and specifically for full screen HDR Virtual Tours, the high dynamic range (HDR) technique is extremely effective. Without HDR, an indoor 360 degree image would have blown out windows (overly white) for example. Some outdoor 360 degree images taken in direct sunlight would have a flat white sky (blown out), and the shadows under trees and on objects would be very dark.
Although this may be acceptable for some other photographers, we strive for the BEST final product for our clients, and are proud of the final product we deliver to our clients, and do not accept such standard of work. (Note: Almost all of our 360 degree virtual tours employ HDR, even if this is not noticeable to the user. This is because we use the HDR technique to make our images look as realistic as possible, so you can "feel like you are really there".)
HDR techniques combined with full screen Virtual Tours produce a powerful, immersible result!
Here is the 360 degree virtual tour of the above photo of the Union Buildings at Sunset.