Dynamic Range

I usually try to stay away from seriously technical stuff, because to be honest most of it is above my pay grade!!


I feel so relieved having to ‘come right out’ and admit it. However, I feel like I should still contribute my two cents worth. This is because questions about exposure keep coming up in my online classes with the BPSOP, and recently in my Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct all over our (round) planet. I’m going to try and make this as simple to understand as I tell all my fellow photographers.

In photography, the “Dynamic Range” is the relationship between the darkest and lightest areas in a photo, generally going from pure black to pure white; pure black is pretty much impossible to achieve since there’s always a little detail in those areas.

There’s ‘High Dynamic Range’ which is achieved on a bright sunny day where there are areas in the sun and areas in the shade. ‘Low Dynamic Range is when it’s an overcast day or there’s little to no difference in your composition’s highlights, middle tones, and the shadows.

When photographers submit images, the one thing that they don’t pay attention to is the differences between the brightest part of the composition and the areas that are in shadows. If they’re shooting out in the light, then any centers of interest in the shadow are too dark. Conversely, if they’re shooting in the shaded areas the brightest area are blown out and all detail is lost…not good unless you’re consciously trying to do that.

Btw, when photographers are always listening to what the meter in their camera tells them, they really don’t have control…but I digress!!

Our eyes are simply amazing. As good as some of the current digital cameras are as far as the range between the bright areas and the areas in shadow their sensors can see, they’re no match for the human eye.

Cameras have a narrower dynamic range than the human eye, and get somewhere from 5 to 15 stops depending on what article you’re reading. This means that on a bright sunny day you often have to choose whether you “blow out your highlights”, or you make the shadows lacking of any detail. The human eye can perceive about 20 to 24 stops of dynamic range in ideal circumstances; depending on who you’re listening to.

Btw, it’s always better to shoot in RAW at a low ISO so you can take advantage of all the embedded data, and open the shadows enough to see a lot more detail.

One of, if not the most important aspects of Dynamic Range is that photographers never think about it; admittedly because it’s hard to control. Often, there’s just no way to have a range of tones in your images. It’s vital to have an understanding of your camera and it’s meter. I can tell you from years of shooting and teaching that the meter in your camera is going to be wrong most of the time. This is why I really push students to shoot on manual so they do have at least a little control.

Case in point: I had a student that was shooting in the barn on her ranch, trying to take a portrait of her favorite horse. The barn doors were opened so she could also show several horses in a corral just outside.

It was a bright sunny day when the sun was almost overhead, and inside the barn was considerably darker. The range of exposure between the outside and inside was too great to get the entire photo exposed properly.

The inherent problem is that our eyes can see all the color and detail in the barn and when looking outside, they will automatically adjust. The camera can’t do that, it’s either one or the other.

In other words, you can get a beautiful well exposed portrait of your horse and the outside will be void of any detail, or you can expose for the outside, and you’ll lose everything in the inside.

So here comes the dilemma, or at least as far as I’m concerned.

There is a way to come out with a well exposed photo, and that is combining two or three photos into one or as they call it…HDR

I say to each his own, but to me that’s computer art and not photography. I’ve been shooting for fifty years, and in that time I have never had to blend more than one photo….and my pictures have been coming out pretty good.

Look for alternatives…ways to solve the problem in the camera. I have found that by thinking before shooting I’ve come home with photos I can share with others.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

The Use of Gestalt in Photography

The Best Way to Capture and Create Balanced Exposures

With the high quality of Digital SLR and mirror-less cameras these days, you have all the tools at your fingertips to create beautiful balanced exposures. The secret to creating well exposed images is knowing how much light you have captured in your image, and that you can discern from watching your histogram carefully when you are shooting.

From the example below, you can see that the image itself appears to be very dark with no information in the shadows. However, it you look at the histogram, you will see that there is information in the darks (on the left side of the histogram there is space between the”spike” and the left “wall”). That means there is an opportunity to bring up the darks and create a compelling image.


This is an example of a balanced histogram. Notice there are no spikes on either the left wall or the right wall of the graph. If there was a spike flat on the left wall, it would mean that there was no information in the dark areas or shadows in the image. If there is no information, you are not able to bring up the darkest areas in post processing. It looks like this image is too dark, but the histogram is telling us something different.

If your histogram is balanced, you will have much more opportunity to create beautiful imagery rather than fight with an over exposed or under exposed area in post processing.

The secret to creating great images in Lightroom is, number one, getting it right in camera. (or as close as possible). I prefer to see a solid histogram that shows that there is information in both the highlights and the shadows of the image. That will make your post processing job a whole lot easier.

Here’s another example of the first image we looked at after image editing was applied in Lightroom. Quite a difference!


Balanced histogram allows you to bring up the shadows in an image.

The image above is the edited version of the first image in this article. Notice how the histogram has shifted over from the darkest areas of the graph and there are no “blown out” or underexposed areas. With some minor adjustments of bringing up the shadows, and bringing down the highlights, this image changed considerably and went from a “throw out” to a an interesting piece.

Here’s another histogram example:


Here’s an example of an underexposed histogram

The example of above is an underexposed histogram. Notice the “spike” on the left wall showing there is no information in the darkest areas of the image. It’s easy to see what the graph is telling you if you look at the dark rocks in the image. There is little or no chance of bringing up the shadows in this image, as it shows no information in the shadows.

This shows you the benefit of watching your histogram when you are shooting. If the image seems to dark or too light, and you watch your histogram, you will have a good idea of the potential of the picture when it comes to post processing down the line. It’s always important when you are composing a picture to think about what you might do with it in post processing. Then you are intentionally creating an image, not just a snap shot.

Digital photography is fully 50% image capture and 50% post processing. Learn how to make the best of your camera and the tools you have available to you!

Learn the tools to effective photo editing and work flow with my upcoming Lightroom Quick Start class.


BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo Expeditions.com.

Reach Holly by email at:  [email protected] and learn about Holly’s adventure’s at: HollyJansenPhotography.com

For a complete list of Holly’s current workshops go to:

Jansen Photo Expeditions – JansenPhotoExpeditions.com

Holly’s Portfolio: HollyJansenPhotography.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Jansenphotoexpeditions

Instagram – http://instagram.com/photographyexplorations

Holly Teaches:

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way.You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.






Lightroom Quickstart

Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.



The art of minimalism

Creating quiet images

In photography we strive to declutter our images. Anything that distracts from the intended subject must be pushed out of frame.

In Finding Beauty we take this to the max. Welcome to the art of minimalism!

You can apply minimalism to any genre of photography, and in Finding Beauty we apply it to lifestyle photos.



A quiet image defined

Our goal in Finding Beauty is to shoot images with these qualities:

1. Simplicity — Clean lines and shapes.

2. Breathing room — The subject is allowed a comfortable amount of negative space.

3. Free of clutter — All unnecessary elements are out of frame.




Busy and quiet are relative terms. (Busy compared to what? Quiet compared to what?)

How little can you have in your shot until it feels empty to you?


Quiet images are nested

Once you find a quiet angle — with breathing room — don’t move. Hold your position. Explore iterations within that single camera angle.

There is always another even more minimalist shot waiting.

How far you take it towards minimalism is up to you!


Finding Beauty

Authentic Photo Stories

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images

Photography Essentials

Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

** No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses **



Visit her website at brithammer.com

Best of Photographing Flora – our student’s work

Our February’s PHOTOGRAPHING FLORA course at BPSOP just finished and it was again a fantastic time spent with our students! We have to admit, that being in the company of photographers and flora enthusiasts is a wonderful combination!

We have enjoyed creative work of our students so much, that it would be a shame not to share their fantastic pictures with the rest of the world. As image speaks for the thousands words, we will let you enjoy their work and their feedback below.

We are opening next PHOTOGRAPHING FLORA course in April, please join us here and learn how to take creative shots of flora too.


We are looking forward to meeting you in class!

Patrik and Monika Banas


Jacqui Nye


Karen Partridge


Judith Roberson


Cathy Sundermann


Karen Partridge


David Candler


Jacqui Nye


Mary Jo Beck


Karen Partridge


Cathy Sundermann


David Candler


Judith Roberson


Mary Jo Beck


Just enjoyed another one of your critiques. Thank you for an excellent course. This was my first experience with BPSOP so I was curious to see how things went. I will definitely consider another course. As for flora photography, I have always been an outside in the garden or on hiking trails kind of flora shooter. Your class has stretched my creative approach to nature. I still love the “capture” of things growing – akin to flora portrait work I guess – but, you have inspired me to try new things which I will continue to do. Thank you very much.
Mary Jo Beck


Many thanks to Monika and Patrik for an excellent course. It has been most enjoyable and I have learned a lot. I hope some time you do a followup course.


Thanks Patrik and Monika, I too really enjoyed the class. I have taken other BPSOP classes, and admit that I was most nervous about taking this class. I learned a lot and it helped build up my confidence when taking flora pictures. Unfortunately, I’m thinking that, over the next few weeks, our house will no longer resemble a plant nursery like it has over the last four weeks 😉
Karl Gilmore



  • Excellent class materials and Monika is an outstanding instructor, one of the very best in the group. Her comments were very helpful. Monika, thanks so much for teaching this course. I love your teaching, you are doing an excellent job. Read More
    Skip Duemeland Creative Portrait
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