HDR How To: Introduction

HDR photography is, in most cases as the name suggests, used to capture scene with High Dynamic Range. This means that some parts of the scene are very bright, and some parts are very dark. Normal shot can only capture limited range of brightness. If you aim to the average brightness, the bright part will appear close to white, and the dark one to black. For example, the gorgeous blue sky in your eyes will appear blaring white in the photographs. With HDR photography, you can display the whole range of brightness in their most vibrant color and detail.

Thames River (Ontario) in HDR

Thames River (Ontario) in HDR

HDR photography sure looks impressive, but to make one might be easier than you think. You can read the full story and intricacy of various kind of HDR photography techniques else where, but if you wanna know how to make one right now, and have it in your photo album by tomorrow, I can show you how! It’s not that difficult, you just need to know the steps:

1. Take 3 photos of the same scene with different brightness (exposure value)

2. Combine the 3 using HDR software to create the final HDR-style image

The three photos: 

Thames River (Ontario) - How to take HDR photos

Right: Under exposure (-1.0 EV). Middle: Normal exposure. Right: Over exposure (+1.0 EV)

The first is the “normal exposure”  shot (middle picture), the average brightness. Kinda similar to those photos you’ve been taking with auto mode.

You will take an “over-exposed” photo (right picture). You exposed your camera to the scene longer than the normal. The result is, more light is going to enter your camera. The picture look brighter than normal. The bright parts will look extra blaring, but then, you get much better detail from the darker objects (like under shadow) that in “normal exposure” photo look dark.

You will also have an “under-exposed” photo (left picture). As you can guess, you exposed your camera briefer than the normal. Not much light going to come in, and the picture will look darker than normal. But then you get the opportunity to capture details of the bright objects like the gorgeous blue sky.

Once you have all 3 photos ready, you can combine and optimize the 3 photos using an HDR software. As for me, I’m using HDR tool inside the Photoshop CS5. With CS5, I created the HDR image you see on the top of this page.

That’s it! Are you ready to go?

You’ll need:

  • Camera with bracketing mode
  • Photoshop CS5 or other HDR software
  • Optional:
    • Tripod/gorillapod will make the photo taking easier, but don’t worry if you don’t, steady hand is enough.
    • Your camera’s instruction manual booklet – just in case you are not familiar with your camera yet.

OK, enough said, let’s go to the business! Click on the following links to start the tutorial!

1. Take 3 photos of the same scene with different brightness (exposure value)

2. Combine the 3 using HDR software to create the final HDR-style image

Also check out my HDR galleries here!

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