How To HDR Photo Tutorial

Download the how to take HDR tutorial instantly online now!

Canon 40D Details Revealed

A few days ago accidentally posted the updated specs for the new Canon 40D. The new camera has a much faster rapid shot that should improve the Automated Exposure Bracketing (AEB) setting for taking HDR pictures much quicker. Read the full details on Engadget.

Sunset HDR Photos

Taking HDR photos of the sunset is a natural choice for many people starting out taking HDR pictures. There is more dynamic range shooting into the sun than in any other situation. Shooting directly into the sun without using HDR techniques will result in an overexposed background or underexposed foreground. Luckily you have a few options to deal with such a situation.

EV compensation

Modern digital cameras have EV compensation which allows you to brighten or darken a photo. After you have enabled Bracketed Multiple Exposures, set the EV compensation higher then neutral. What this does is lower the dynamic range between the darkest and brightest areas in the photo.

5 (or more) bracketed exposures manually

This method will produce the best results. Using your trusty tripod, manually adjust the EV compensation up in equal increments. This will produce a higher dynamic range but requires a bit more practice manually changing the exposure values.

Turn around

Sometimes when you’re aiming at the sun, what your missing is the beautiful orange glow behind you. The hour before the sun sets has a magical effect on the ambient light in a picture. You wont notice any of this great light if you’re pointing straight into the sun.

What is your favorite sunset HDR photo technique?

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.

Do Your Homework

Rainbow Falls

The way that I learned how to Take HDR photography, the same as many of you, was on Check out the photos tagged with HDR on flickr and get an idea from the many great photographers.

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?

This website is a Feint design