Today I want to recommend a book from „focal press“; it's „Practical HDR“ from David Nightingale.
HDR-Photography – High Dynamic Range – is a possibility to capture scenes with a high dynamic range, that meens, with very bright and dark parts in one picture. The classic example is a picture of a bright window in a dark wall. When you take your camera you will got a right exposed wall and an overexposend window or a right exposed window and an underexposed wall. The best solution would be to take the right exposed parts of every picture and stitch them together, so you will get a right exposed picture overall. That's the goal of HDR-Photography.
First of all Nightingale explains the basics, in example why your camera captures such difficult scenes in another way than your eyes and tell you how to read a histogram. Very interesting are their effects on photography.
The second part will guide you through cameras, with which it is possible to create HDR-Images and the gear you would need. You will be amazed, that the most cameras are adequate for HDR-Photography. If you want to create a serious HDR-Image mostly only a tripod is inevitable.
Then it's time to get practical. Sure, you could use the HDR-Mode of your camera, if you want it easy and your camera have one, but will you be satisfied with the result? It's better to shoot a bracketed exposure sequence and then merging the pictures together. To create the typical HDR-style you need to edit the picture – this design-step calls tone-mapping.
But if you are going to merge the pictures and want to edit them afterwards, you need a software. Nightingale introduce the reader to some programs, like Photoshop CS5, Oloneo PhotoEngine or HDR Efex Pro. All these programs you have to buy and they will cost you 100 Euro and up (a tip from me: try Oloneo HDREngine, it costs about the half of the other programs and do its job although pretty well). He explains only those steps you really need to create a HDR-Image and not the whole bunch of possibilities those programs give you into your hands..
If you are in using only opensource software – and there are possibilities on the market for HDR-Photography – this book don't have to much information for you. Nightingale explains explicit with the mentioned programs how to merge and edit the pictures. It's difficult to transfer the hints from Photoshop CS 5 to Gimp because of the different levers you have to use. I wouldn't recommend this book to Gimp or Luminance users (an opensource program to create HDR-Images).
The last part tells you something about creating a pseudo-HDR-image from one raw-file and its problems, especially the noise in those pictures.
That's it... now you have to be able to create your own HDR-Images.
What else should I have to tell you? Right: the book is peppered with HDR-Images. And a very good part of this book is, that Nightingale explains, how he reached the results or you could read in a small table at the side of the most pictures, which calibration the photographer used. So you have a whole bunch of tips for your first steps in HDR-Photography.
If I could give this book five stars, I would give it only 4 because Nightingale ignored opensource programs for HDR-Photography. This would be an enrichment in the hopefully coming next edition.