In photography, dynamic range is how your camera see’s the world. Believe it or not, it’s not nearly as well as your eyes do!
Technically speaking it is the ratio between maximum and minimum values of light intensity…too complicated? With simple words, dynamic range is the ability of the sensor to capture a certain amount of bright and dark values. We dream of sensors with a range of light from completely white through all the shades of gray all the way to completely black.
However, in the real world, the sensor can only capture a certain portion of the whole range. By changing shutter speeds, apertures and iso you can choose how to make that range work for the shot you are capturing, but you cannot increase the amount of range.
Try taking a photo in your house in a dark room with a window. Either the window will be perfect and the interior too dark, or the window will be blown out with the room perfectly exposed. Now notice how your eyes can see both evenly. In extremely contrasty situations, you won’t be able to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene because it will be too wide for your camera’s sensor. This is when you will have to choose if you want to sacrifice details in the shadows or, or in the highlights. What’s most imporant, the outside view or the interior?
Highlights burn up if you expose for the darks, and shadows turn in to solid black color when you expose for the highlights. In most situations your camera has enough DR to capture the whole scene so this is nothing to get too hung up about. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Remember, your camera doesn’t see the way you do…