Quick Introduction to HDR Photography

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My newest obsession has become HDR photography. Over the past few weeks I’ve read up on it and while there are plenty of technical articles about it on the web, there aren’t too many written in straightforward easy-to-understand language. I thought I’d give a brief overview of what HDR is all about and follow it up with a post on how to actually take your very first HDR photo.

What is HDR photography?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a type of photography that allows you to capture a much greater range of light and detail in a single photo. An HDR photo usually contains a blending of light areas and dark areas that are much closer in appearance to what your normal eyes would see than with a traditional photograph.

HDR photos are created by combining 3 or more photos taken at different exposures. After the 3 photos are merged into a single HDR file, a feature called “tone mapping” allows you to combine the light and dark details in a single photo to produce an (often exaggerated) photo with a high range of detail and color. You usually need a tripod because each photo needs to be taken from the same perspective and angle.

Let’s look at an example of an HDR photo. Here are the 3 source images:

normal exposure



and the resulting processed (tone-mapped and cropped) HDR:

finished HDR


If you look at the details in the tree, you will see that their detail and exposure is preserved along with the color and detail you see in the final shot. So the result is a composite that’s much closer to what you would see with your own eyes because more of the “range” is seen in the photograph.

If you want to learn more about HDR photography or get more into the technical details, check out Memoirs On A Rainy Day – it’s one of the best articles I’ve found on the topic. There’s also an HDR photo group on Flickr with even more examples. You can always check out the most up-to-date reviews on HDR Software to find a program that works for you.

Next up… How to take your very first HDR photo.

7 Responses to Quick Introduction to HDR Photography

  1. Payam says:
    Thank you so much, it was a simple and nice introduction.
  2. mickyj says:
    Awesome. To the point and easy to understand
  3. Jan Ole Peek says:
    Going to try this tonight, thanks!
  4. Forest Luc says:
    Thanks for that article you’ve inspired me to give photography an additional go!
  5. Lee Majestic says:
    Those are some incredible photographs, wish mine were that good!
  6. Kevin says:
    Great explanation of HDR photography.
  7. Christin says:
    Thanks a lot! This really helped. Simple and easy to understand

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