How To HDR Photo Tutorial

Download the how to take HDR tutorial instantly online now!

It’s Ready! The How To Take HDR Photography Tutorial eBook is online!

After the last two years offering up as much support as I can through email and in person for friends and web visitors alike, my first ebook, “How To Take HDR Photography” is finished and available for purchase! It took me over a year to write and edit the book, which would have gone much faster if I had not been so busy at work! Now for a bit of marketing speak:

How To Take HDR Photos is a new eBook that simplifies the process of taking HDR pictures so that anyone can do it. You will learn everything you need to know from What Camera to Buy, to Advanced Editing Techniques. All you need is a digital camera and HDR software. With this simple guide you will be taking HDR photos in no time!

To celebrate, for the next week only you can get $10 off the purchase price of $30 by using the Discount code: FirstInLine. Get your copy of the How To Take HDR Photos eBook!

Solar Eclipse HDR Pictures

On August 1, 2008 a total solar eclipse occurred in the nothern hemisphere. Photographer Hartwig Luethenis is a true leader in the field of high dynamic range imaging. He used 28 exposures of the eclipse at different lighting intervals, resulting in an image that shows the full corona around the sun as well as the surface of the moon. Not only did he post his amazing photo on Nasa’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website, but he also wrote a tutorial about how it was made.

For another great tutorial on taking hdr pictures of an eclipse there is Catching the Light by Jerry Lodriguss.

3 Photo HDR vs Single Raw Photo

This example of an HDR photo compared to a regular picture. I generated the 32-bit HDR image and then tone-map it with Photomatix. Then I’ll add the original picture back in Photoshop using blending modes, cross processing actions, and sharpening to finish it off.

GIMPshop: FREE Program for Editing Photos

GIMPshop screenshot

*Update: Since I posted this I’ve spoken with a number of readers who have had problems installing GIMPshop. It is not as easy as most programs and requires an intermediate computer literacy to get working.*

GIMP is a freely distributed image editing application for Windows, OS X, and Linux. GIMP shop is a speacial version that closely resembles Adobe’s $649 Photoshop. You wont have access to some of the more advanced features of Photoshop but you will be able to do the most important tasks like:

  • Curves: adjust the tones in a picture with precise control
  • Levels: Fix under and over-exposed pictures and adjust the brightness
  • Sharpening: Digital cameras take “soft” pictures that need sharpening to look their best on screen
  • Layers: Mix and match effects on different layers and masking

Photoshop is amazing, but with the cost hovering around the price of an entry-level DSLR or new lens, the choice is an easy one. Get started and download GIMPshop for free. Learn how to install GIMPshop on Windows with this tutorial video.

HDR Realism: An Exercise in Restraint

Sunset Reflections

HDR photos rarely look “real”. Programs like Photomatix make it very easy to over-process your pictures to the point that they become abstract pieces of art. To create realistic HDR photos involves practice and skill. Ed Jesalva takes beautiful HDR photos with a focus on realism. He writes:

“I am an amateur photographer getting re-acquainted with photography in general, and digital in particular. I’ve really just been shooting landscapes this year but found a seminar at Brooks Institute to be particularly helpful in creating images like this one. HDR is a by-product of that. In my spare time, I’m a physician in Westlake Village, CA specializing in Psychiatry :)

Sunset at Point Mugu State Park, CA My approach to HDR is to be as realistic as possible but use the tool as it is intended. That is, to compress the dynamic range so that there are details in both the shadows and highlight areas without giving the scene a “flat” look. In general, what I’ve noticed is sliders that increase contrast, decrease realism. Sliders that reduce contrast, increase realism.

I use (Adobe Photoshop) CS2 and Layer Masks almost exclusively. The general idea that I try to accomplish here is to generate a 3 dimensional effect. This means that elements in your scene have to have 3 tones in order to look 3D, highlights, midtones, and shadows. Trying to isolate each element to have these 3 components is my “secret” to creating photorealistic pictures, whether they are HDR or not.”

Finding the balance between realistic and over-processed is no easy task. What are your techniques for creating realistic HDR photos?

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