Many of times you will be somewhere when you just can’t seem to get the perfect photo. The scene is beautiful and you are trying every combination of settings available to you but just cant seem to capture what is before your eyes. You need to create an HDR photograph if this is the case.
What is HDR? Well HDR is a photography term short for High Dynamic Range and it is the technique used for achieving a greater dynamic range of a photograph by enhancing the lightest and darkest areas of the image. This is accomplished by capturing multiple photos of the same subject taken at different exposure values, usually referred to as exposure bracketing.
To create an HDR photograph I recommend using a digital SLR camera as they have many more options and features that most point and shoot cameras don’t contain. Although any camera that allows manual over or under exposure of a photo can be used to create HDR images. You will need to take at least 3 photos of the same scene but at different shutter speeds thus giving you a dark, medium and bright selection of images. This is best done utilizing a tripod as you will want the photos to be taken from the exact same position will very minimal movement. You would then take these images and apply them to a photo editing program and overlay the images. This will enhance the shadows and highlights of all the photographs into one final photo achieving what only the naked eye would be able to see of the original scene. Of course this is only one step in the process to create an HDR photograph. The fun really starts when you begin applying different toning adjustments such as edge glow, saturation, detail and gamma just to name a few that will really make an image pop when done correctly with the right software.
An HDR image usually requires a minimum of three photos, however if you take more photos like five or even nine different images all at different exposure values then this will give you even more flexibility and dynamics when editing these together. You can also create an HDR photograph with just one photo, although not as great as you like but you do have the option. It is called HDR toning and will allow you to apply most of the same features as a multiple exposure HDR image however your results will be limited due to the little information contained in just one image file. A good photo editing program is a must if you wish to create an HDR photograph.
One of the most important steps you will want to do to create an HDR photograph is to take your photos in “raw” format as opposed to jpeg. A raw image format is an unprocessed file of an image that contains all the information needed to create the image without lossy compression. A jpeg is a processed image that has been compressed and should not be used when multiple editing steps will be required as you will lose image quality each time an adjustment is made. One of the drawbacks that comes along with shooting in raw format is that a raw file is typically 2-6 times larger than a jpeg so make sure you have a decent size memory card to hold the amount of images you require.
As you can see there are many steps involved to create an HDR photograph, but with the right photo editing program and a little experimenting, you can achieve the photo results you’ve always wanted.