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Basic HDR Photography

I cannot say that I am an expert in HDR or even photography, but I can say that i truly enjoy most type of photography. As many, I wish I had more time to practice it. However I digress, this post is about basic HDR.

Firstly, if you are really serious about HDR there is a wonderful tutorial on Stuck in Customs by Trey Ratcliff, or his amazing book A World in HDR which acts as a inspirational, tutorial and coffee table book. This post covers my basic understanding in a short summary.

1. Shooting an HDR photograph:

  • HDR photography is not that different from standard photography, however you will need a tripod or something to rest your camera on as you will be taking multiple shoots of the same thing.
  • Set your camera
    • Newby way: Set your camera to Aperture Priority, Continuous Mode and bracketed by 2 stops. Nikon cameras will do up to 7 photos in some models where as Canon cameras will only take 3.
    • Advanced way: Once you have your scene meter the highest light and the darkest shadow, from here you will take a photograph every 1 stop from the one to the other. This would be done in manual mode whilst locking the aperture and ISO and only using the shutter speed. So if the scene as a range between 1/125 and 1/2 of a second the resultant would be 7 photographs each taken at 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2  of a second.
      F-Stop equivalence in shutter speed. Values shown in seconds.

      8

      4

      2

      1

      1/2

      1/4

      1/8

      1/15

      1/30

      1/60

      1/125

      1/250

      1/500

      1/1000

      You can use this scale as a reference, I do.

  • Shoot RAW
  • Make sure that your auto focus is OFF.
  • Make sure that the tripod does not move or vibrate.
  • Take your time!!!

That concludes the easy part.

2. Compiling the HDR

  • You will need either Photomatix Pro or HDR EFEX Pro both have a trial. There are more HDR software out there, these two are the highest rated. HDR EFEX Pro will also require Adobe Photoshop CS4 or above,  Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 or above or Apple Apperture 2 or above all of which are also available for trial.
  • Do not colour correct unless you do it on the whole set.
  • Do not crop or alter the photos at this time. 
  • Do convert them to JPG at maximum resolution.
  • Import the set into your favourite HDR program and adjust as required.
  • DO experiment, I personally like it when the final output is natural.
  • At this point you can crop and adjust the photograph.
  • Once the HDR process is complete you may want to get back the colours, I use a plugin called Topaz Lab Adjust mostly using the Spicify or Photo Pop presets.

That’s how I do it and here is some examples:

Pascal Parent

Pascal's day job is as a technologist but you can mostly find him behind a camera after hours. As a passionate photographer he regularly shares his experiences with the world. From how-to to reviews you will find it all in his regularly updated blog and other places.

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