Advanced Tutorial 10
High Dynamic Range, Multiple Exposure and Time Lapse – techniques once the preserve of professional photographic studios, or latterly specialist software, but now presented as functions on your modern digital camera. And the great news is they are essentially straightforward to use – and a lot of fun!
Advanced Shooting Modes
In this tutorial, we look at three advanced shooting modes available on some cameras including Panasonic’s LUMIX G6, GH4, GH3, GX7 and GM1: HDR, Multiple Exposure and Time Lapse.
These techniques – which produce breathtaking results – are considered ‘advanced’ not because of difficulty, but simply because it takes patience to get the best from them. So don’t be put off! Experiment, take your time – it will be worth it.
To achieve success with these techniques, you will need to fix/support your camera firmly – so although lightweight tripods are handy, when keeping a camera locked in position for several hours, heavier is better! A remote shutter release might be useful, too. We will consider suitable subject matter as we look at each technique in detail…
HDR – High Dynamic Range
HDR photography is a technique for combining several exposures of the same scene into one image. The purpose is to show greater detail by using differing exposures to contribute to a final image with a greater ‘Dynamic Range’ than is possible normally. You will remember that, with a single exposure, sometimes it is only possible to capture either shadow or highlight details – particularly in a scene with a high contrast range; HDR aims to tackle that issue.
With the camera in HDR mode, it takes three differently adjusted exposures in sequence when you press the shutter. It actually fires three times, but processes these images into one.
These examples below illustrate: two stops underexposed, correct exposure, then two stops overexposed – and, when elements of all three are combined by the camera, the more satisfying HDR image will result (see right).
HDR – setting up your camera
Not all subject matter is suitable for the HDR treatment, because results vary depending on differing elements within a scene. Also, HDR cannot be enabled when shooting in Raw, or in video mode.
Where it has long been used is for landscapes, albeit originally with post-production software creating the effect. With the LUMIX G6, you can work in any of the creative modes – P, A, S, M – although aperture priority (A) is often chosen.
Select HDR from the menu. Next, clicking on the ‘SET’ button allows you to select the variation in exposure – one, two, or three EV difference between captures. Each EV (Exposure Value) level effectively equates to one stop of exposure, so you can tailor the range of brightness between shots. Alternately, you can let the camera choose automatically – based on its own metering of the scene.
Finally, the ‘Auto Align’ option allows the camera to correct for small movements if it is handheld. When working with a tripod, select Auto Align – off, then you are ready to go.
A technique going back to photography’s infancy, Multiple Exposure combines several varying shots into one, allowing for interesting, dynamic results.
For this to work well, it is best to employ a distraction-free background and well-illuminated subject, free to move (or be moved) into different positions within the frame, as in this single-subject, final multiple exposure example right.
A sequence of shots (shown below) resulted in this finished image – firstly the model posed to the left, then the right and lastly facing the camera.
You will notice that the first and second exposures are not as strongly represented as the final shot.
This is achieved by the camera’s advanced processing of the images to yield the soft, ethereal texture that suits this type of work.
Multiple Exposure – setting up your camera
ME is not available in ‘iA’ mode, but you can select ‘Multi Exp.’ while in any of the creative modes (PASM) from the record menu.
As well as the ‘Start’ option you can also set ‘Auto Gain’ – ensuring exposure levels for the individual images are adjusted so the final image is shown clearly with the others ‘ghosted into the background’, as shown in our ME example above.
With Auto Gain ‘OFF’, exposures are rendered at the correct level, resulting in a more solid composite image – experiment to find the most pleasing result.
Using the ‘Start’ command you can shoot up to four exposures, enabling ‘Overlay’ will allow you to see a preview build-up as you take the pre-set number of shots. The images are shot as RAW files, but cannot be viewed until the camera has processed the entire sequence into one final image.
Previously a difficult, laborious process (using film), Time Lapse is increasingly popular with enthusiastic digital photographers. In its simplest form, it comprises a number of stills taken from a fixed position, replayed as a movie. The passage of time between shots allows for elements of the scene to change.
Select subjects for dynamic interest, varying light levels and movement within the frame, which all contribute to an interesting Time Lapse movie. Landscape and wildlife photographers use this technique to accelerate nature; introducing movement to the camera platform can add even greater interest.
Below is an example of a sequence shot over 10mins for playback in 15secs.
Time Lapse – setting up your camera
Most exposure modes permit Time Lapse, including fully automatic – confirm with your manual for models other than LUMIX.
Before you can start, some basic settings are required in the ‘Time Lapse Shot’ menu.
Firstly, decide on the interval between images – from 1sec to 99mins 59secs! The more rapidly your subject will change, the shorter the gap required. For slow subjects – such as a flower bud opening – a longer gap would be appropriate. As always, experience and experimentation are key.
Next, set the number of shots you wish to take over the entire sequence, from one to 9,999. Here you need to consider how long you wish the recording to last, again fast moving subject matter may not need as long to provide an interesting result.
Also, be mindful of battery life – very long sequences will require a power supply to an unattended camera.
Lastly, activate ‘Start’ and the camera will be set in stand-by – ready for you to press the shutter button to trigger the sequence – or you can pre-program a future start time.
Once started your camera will record still images at your desired intervals. On completion they will be view able as a ‘Picture Group’ – and can also be combined into a movie file, as will be explained next.
Time Lapse – creating the video
The captured images can now be converted into a movie sequence by your camera – determine the format in the ‘Playback Setup’ menu.
Record quality and frame rate will be governed by the maximum file size suitable for your purpose: high-resolution, fast-frame-rate movies are smoother and better for larger screens, but require more storage and are not suited to emailing / social network sharing etc.
For added creativity, a ‘Sequence’ option allows your video to be created in ‘Reverse’ – running backwards to how it was shot!
Time Lapse – Points to remember
- How many shots/how long will it take to show the effect you want?
- How fast does the subject change – what interval will work best?
- The shorter the interval – the smoother the transitions.
- How much storage memory is available?
- Is your camera really steady – securely mounted on a tripod is best?
- If you are leaving the camera unattended – is it safe and secure and weather protected?
- Will the battery last long enough – consider an alternative power source for long shoots?
The LUMIX Advantage
As mentioned at the top of this tutorial, many LUMIX G models include advanced creative modes such as these, bringing quality photographic techniques within the reach of everyone – and you no longer need to spend hours learning sophisticated software processing methods.
Hopefully, this has whetted your appetite to go out and try these for yourself.
Start with High Dynamic Range – try photographing a range of subjects in both high- and low-contrast lighting situations using the HDR mode.
Experiment with the differing levels of exposure adjustment. Notice which seem to be most pleasing to you – HDR is a subjective technique and you may prefer more or less intense effects with different subjects. Then try the other techniques! The only limit is your own creativity.
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