LDR (Low Dynamic Range) Image Format – Things You Should Know About

What should be the major differences between smartphone and digital camera? Digital camera provides more parameters that you can get a high quality image, including LDR, HDR, Lens, ISO, aperture and more. These parameters decide the quality of the photos taken by the camera. In order to be a professional photographer, you have to learn more about Low Dynamic Range Image format and master the skills.

Low Dynamic Range should be might be terminology and difficult to understand. When you take photos with digital cameras, you should pay special attention to the parameter and learn more about how to take a beautiful picture with LDR cameras.


Part 1: What is LDR (Low Dynamic Range Image Format)

Before introduce LDR or Low Dynamic Range, you have to understand the parameters latitude and dynamic range. Dynamic range is to descript a digital camera’s range from the darkest shadow to the brightest. For example, the digital camera that could resolve 14 stops is able to capture a scene with a 14-stop brightness range and show the information from stop 0 to stop 14.

So the dynamic range decides both the highlights handling and shadows of a digital camera. The other parameter related is latitude. The latitude is to measure the flexibility of a digital camera to expose without significantly compromising the photo. The latitude is usually less than the dynamic range of a camera.

Theoretically, the bigger the dynamic range of a camera, the bigger the latitude. However, sometimes the latitude might decrease, even though the dynamic range is bigger. The mechanism is too complicated and professional to discuss here. Let’s concentrate on the concept of dynamic range. Actually the dynamic range of human eyes, which is approximately 100,000:1, is much larger than cameras, so you usually feel that the images taken by the camera is less perfected than the real world in your eye.

Dynamic Range Chart

Learn more about Low Dynamic Range

LDR is the abbreviation of low dynamic range, which is 255:1 and lower; on the other hand HDR is the abbreviation of high dynamic range. As the pictures above indicated, the biggest picture is the real world in our eye; the three pictures beneath are the results of different exposure time. The advantage of HDR cameras could produce a more natural image through combine these results. In a word, the bigger the dynamic range, the higher the latitude, the more capable a camera is of detecting a color in all ranges of its brightness.

LD Image

Part 2: How to take a beautiful picture with LDR

LDR camera is more affordable than HDR one, that does not mean you cannot utilize LDR camera to capture beautiful photos. The article introduces some examples to capture a perfect photo with a LDR camera.

Expose the highlights

imgExpose the highlights

If you are taking a photo in high contrast situation, exposing the highlights of the subject to blow out is the best choice for LDR cameras. The users could squeeze a little bit of dynamic range from the sensors to compensate the disadvantage of low dynamic range.

Expose the Highlight



The method above could emphasize the subject in the picture. If you need to capture both the subject and the background in details with LDR camera, you may face a challenge. The defect of LDR camera is to show the details in shadows, so if there are enough light to bright the shadows, this problem will disappear. You might ask what the source of light is. The answer is the Sun. You can use it with a simple reflector to capture a perfect image.



The silhouette is absolutely a fantastic way to show the subject in a big and beautiful scene. And it is not necessary to make a silhouette photo in Photoshop. You can use the LDR camera to achieve a better effect. This time you should expose the highlights and let the subject fall into silhouette instead of exposing the highlights to blow out in the high contrast situation.

Remember that you are utilizing all dynamic range to shoot the highlights and making the shadows clip to black.


ND gels

imgND gels

In addition to the reflectors, the neutral density gel (ND gel) is another best friend of LDR camera users. And the reflectors are useless in cloudy day or inside of buildings. At this time you could try to decrease the highlights through ND gels. Attach ND gels on windows or strong light source to control the shadows and exposure, and then you can take the entire scene.

If you take photos outside and the sun is too bright to capture the details, you can try to attach ND filter in front of the lens as well.

ND gels


Based on the introduction above, you might understand that dynamic range is an important parameter for digital cameras. Therefore when you buy a new camera, you have to read the description carefully. The dynamic range of your camera will affect the quality of the photos directly. Not all the digital cameras has the HDR mode, you can use LDR cameras to take beautiful pictures without problem. All you have to do is use some simple accessories, like reflectors and ND gels, and some knacks. Of course, you can explore the potentials of your LDR camera through more skills.