DYNAMIC RANGE: Why it Matters & How it Affects Photos (VIDEO)

Dynamic Range is an important concept that most photographers claim to understand. But ask for an explanation of exactly how it works, and you may receive a blank stare. The quick tutorial below from the popular Booray Explains series covers everything to know about how Dynamic Range affects your photos.

This concept is particularly important when shooting high contrast outdoor scenes with a wide range of tones from bright highlights to deep shadows. That’s because, in basic terms, Dynamic Range refers to a camera’s ability to capture everything from pure black to the brightest whites.

Some cameras offer significantly more Dynamic Range than others, which is why this variable should be one of the specs you review closely before buying a new model. And regardless of the camera you use, Dynamic Range affects both the settings you choose and how you edit your work,

Instructor Booray Perry is very popular among Shutterbug readers for his ability to make seemingly complicated issues easy to understand. He also infuses his lessons with some funny stuff—making them fun to watch.

To put things in perspective, Perry says “the human eye has 21-24 stops of Dynamic Range, while a high-end camera may only have 15.” These numbers make it easy to understand why what you see through the viewfinder may look dramatically different than the image you shot. 

Perry describes Dynamic Range like this: “It’s the number of different shades of brightness that your eye or a camera’s sensor can detect,” and he includes a simple graphic illustrating this point. Even more interesting is Perry’s answer to this rhetorical question: “If the human eye can detect 24 levels of brightness, but your camera can only detect and display 15, what happens to the missing levels?”

Now that he has your attention, Perry moves on to practical matters. He describes why Dynamic Range really matters, and how to deal with difficult lighting with whatever camera you have.

There’s are many more quick explainers on Perry’s YouTube channel, along with the occasional joke, so pay a visit and subscribe if you haven’t already done so.

You may also want to watch the tutorial we posted from Perry last month, explaining the concept of bokeh and how to use it for attention-grabbing photos.