How to Take HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photos
In the first part we covered what an HRD photo is, now we’ll go into a basic tutorial about how to create your own HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo. Please keep in mind that I’m very much an amateur – I just started experimenting myself so this is more of a “how to get started” type of guide.
What you need:
- Camera (with ability to change exposure settings)
- Tripod (not required but highly recommended)
- Photomatix Pro ($99, but you can get it for $85 with Photomatix coupon code HOTSHOTPHOTO) or Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5 or another HDR software program
Most modern digital cameras have exposure settings so you should be able to do this even with a normal digital point and shoot camera. SLR cameras usually have a bracketing feature which makes it easier to change the exposure settings automatically. If you are using a point and shoot, you’ll need to find a way to keep the camera as steady as possible when changing settings. I’d recommend using the following settings:
- Lowest ISO setting (200)
- Aperture Priority Mode (usually a big [A] on the wheel)
- 3 exposure settings
- EV 0 for the first picture
- EV -2 for the second picture
- EV +2 for the third picture
Instructions for the Nikon D50 I personally use a Nikon D50 so these settings are achieved by rotating the top wheel to [A], pressing the “menu” button, going to camera settings (the wrench icon), making sure “CSM/Setup” menu is set to “Detailed”, then going to image settings (pencil icon), scrolling down to #12 “BKT Set” – and setting it to “AE & Flash” with “2.0 Step” setting. This puts the camera in a mode where the 3 consecutive shots will each have a different exposure setting. Once you have the camera set and on a tripod, take the 3 pictures, each with a different exposure setting. If you have a remote, I’d recommend using that, but if you don’t (like me) then try to not move the camera each time you take the photo. See my HDR tutorial video. High Dynamic Range Processing After the shoot, download the photos to your computer. Photoshop CS2 comes with a “merge to HDR” feature, but the tone mapping features are a bit more complicated to get a hang of. If you are feeling brave, check out the “Creating A 32-Bit HDR File In Photoshop CS2″ section of the High Dynamic Range lesson (about halfway down the page). If you don’t have Photoshop CS2+, and/or want an easier way to process the photo (and have $99) I’d recommend buying a copy of Photomatix Pro. Once you have the program installed you can fire it up and follow the directions. The tutorial at the start of the program (which can also be found online) is pretty good at stepping you through the process. Note: HDR Soft also has a Photoshop plugin, but I highly recommend using the standalone Photomatix Pro to generate the photo. You can download a free trial of the program to test it out but it will create watermarks on the photo until you buy a license. I looked around at other options for processing HDR photos but didn’t really find anything I liked besides Photomatix and Photoshop CS2. Modern HDR photography is a fairly new field so I expect this process will be made easier in the future. Please feel free to offer any suggestions, feedback, or your own experiences. Happy shooting!