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Seven Top Tips For Better HDR Photographs

Ship Graveyard

To celebrate the release of Niks HDR Efex Pro, and Version 4 of Photomatix, I thought I'd revisit some High Dydnamic Range Photography Basics.

1) Use a tripod. Obvious I know, but I can't count the number of HDR's that I've spoilt because I tried to go hand-held and moved slightly. That leads to ghosting and other problems that can be a right nightmare to remove in post-processing. Using a tripod will also slow you down, allowing you to spend more time to study the scene in front of you and choose an appropriate composition.

2) Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. We want to be maximising our depth of field - most HDR software doesn't deal with focus blur very well, and we also don't want the camera changing the Aperture to change the exposure, because that will effect the deptrh of field and spoil our HDR. Try a smaller aperture, f8 or f16 and focus about a third of the way into the scene to get everything sharp. Oh, and keep your ISO low to reduce noise.

3) Use auto-bracketing. Most cameras have the ability to help you take HDR's by taking three (or more) shots in a row for you. All you have to do is read your manual to see how to set it up. It's a good idea to try and cover the maximum dynamic range these automatic settings will allow - normally at least 3 photographs, plus and minus 2 e.v. (Exposure Value). By taking the shots automatically they'll be captured faster, meaning that there will be less chance for moving objects to spoil the HDR.

4) Use remote / shutter delay and mirror lock-up. These are all to do with minimising the chance of camera-shake blur. If you haven't got a remote, use the shutter-delay timer, and if you've got a dSLR delve into the menus and turn on the mirror lock-up facility.

5) Learn to do it in manual mode! On bright, sunny days, the auto-bracketed 3 exposures you normally take just won't be enough to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. In these cases you're going to have to shoot in Manual Mode. Remember to keep your aperture the same and vary your shutter speed to change the exposure. It can be a good idea before you start your set to take a picture of your hand, then again at the end, so it's obvious which sets of photographs go together when you come to look for them in post-processing.

6) Cover that view-finder! If you're shooting longer exposures, light entering the camera via the view-finder can fool the metering system in your camera, spoiling the photograph, so cover it with the little rubber thing on your strap (if it's still there) or with a very steady thumb.

7) Tone-Mapping Is Only The Beginning! Once you've captured your bracketed shots and loaded them into your favourite HDR software and processed them, that's the start of your HDR work-flow, not the end. All HDR's can do with some adjusting in post. It could be converting to black and white, playing with the contrast, levels or curves and masking in areas to cover up ghosting or excessive noise. That tone-mapped image is just your foundation to work on.

 Thanks, Rob.

Further Reading:

Photomatix, the industry standard for greating HDR Photographs.

Nik Softwares HDR Efex Pro.

Trey Ratcliffs HDR Guide.

What Do You Think?

What are your tips and tricks for getting the most out of HDR's? Perhaps you're more of an exposure-blending type, with no need for tone-mapping, or are you an alien-skies believer? Please add your thought below!


Reader Comments (1)

Great post.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGabe

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