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HDR, this image is made up of 3 images, shot with only a 1 stop difference at night. It is a composite HDR. Sometimes the images will start to break with the tone mapping and noise registered in the image. So what if you don't want to tone map your image? Well, the Exposure Stacking is what you should be doing.
Taken in Largo Senado in Macau. This method is sometimes known as HDR, but the right term is Exposure Stacking. This is not new of course as pro photogs have been using this method to shoot comercial stuff for some years. In high contrast scenes, photogs will bracket a shot and have those three images made into one in Photoshop. This technique is color correct and not tone mapped—a very important criteria when shooting commercial grade photography as the color of the product has to be shown. I have known for some time that this method is employed by fashion photogs but is rarely talked about.
Shooting is extremely difficult at night. Tone mapped HDRs are nice to look at but do not look real—a reason why many pro photogs avoid it. To capture a natural looking HDR without tone mapping, you are essentially capturing less frames without having to worry about it looking less natural.
Bracketing (3 frames) and composite them together uses less color wizardry, it doesn't look like a Trey Ratcliff style HDR with those highly contrasting colors, which is a good thing. You get more detail and more natural lighting. This sort of stacking of the images one on top of another improves dynamic range and lets you bring out natural lighting without having to deal with image noise in low light conditions.
Exposure Stacking versus Faux HDR
Faux HDR are single frame HDR which uses color and exposure algorithm to determine detail. You can find this on smartphones and compacts cameras and it is making its way to DSLRs. This type of shooting is relatively easy as you don't need a three frame composite. Instead, with just one frame, you get some really psychedelic colors—like a camera which has just dropped acid.
There is no right or wrong way in HDR photography. Some purist think that 6 frames with a one stop spacing between them is the way to go, others think that a 3 frame two stop spacing between shots is the best. I leave that up to you.
Faux HDR on the other hand can be overdone if you're not careful.
For me, I have another way of doing this with Adobe Lightroom. My Faux HDR is a preset, and once used, you can bring out the detail. I have three different presets.
Not all the presets will work as I tweak them as I go along. That's because of the lighting conditions. Some low light conditions require more exposure latitude to bring out the detail, others do not.
This is probably one reason why I don't think I should share the presets as yet as it just doesn't quite have the one size fits all approach.
Exposure Stacking on the other hand still uses HDR type techniques to capture a scene but with less frames. The difference is only 1 stop apart, which is akin to blending three bracketed frames into one image. For this you still need to use a tripod in very low light conditions but you can of course handhold such shots is some high contrast scenes in daylight.