How To Take HDR Photos – Video Tutorial

How To Take HDR Photos

In this quick video Michael from SnapMarket shows us how to easily take HDR photos with your SLR camera. Read below the video for more information on what HDR is and to read step-by-step instructions on how to take HDR photos.


What is HDR Photography?

HDR stands for ‘High Dynamic Range’. It is the result of processing one or more images at different exposures and blending them together. HDR photography is great when you may have a scenario where an object is backlit by the sun or by any other means of light and it creates a silhouette effect on the object you are trying to capture or unwanted light or shadows across your image. By taking 3 photos at different exposures (light, normal and dark) when combined, the final image will be a beautiful composition of the best parts from each exposure (object is nice and bright and areas that are too bright can be dimmed out). HDR photos always add a great depth to any image and as usual with photograpy, it is always about trial and error and seeing what works for you.


Can All Cameras Take HDR Photos?

Most if not all DSLR (Digital) cameras can take HDR photos, the feature you require to take HDR photos is ‘Exposure Bracketing’ This is known on some cameras as ‘AEB’ or ‘Exposure Comp’. Even some point and shoot (compact) cameras have this feature. The same effect can also be achieved using your shutter speed (slow shutter speed – bright image, fast shutter speed – darker image). It is not recommended that you create these exposures using your aperture setting as this can change the depth of field and look of you photo.


How To Take HDR Photos?

In Michael’s tutorial he is using a Canon EOS 60D, the process should be similar on most SLRs or at least Canon SLR’s. If you would like to find out how to take HDR photos on your camera, simply consult your manufacturers manual or do a Google search for your camera.

1. Turn on your camera.
2. Set your camera to ‘Aperture Priority’ mode, this is usually marked as ‘Av’ on your cameras control dial/setting. We use aperture priority mode so that the aperture is locked in and does not change across your multiple exposures. The camera will adjust the shutter speed accordingly to create the different exposures. If your aperture setting changes across your exposures this could result in a different depth of field across each exposure and the final outcome will not work as desired.

3. Set your camera up on a tripod. This is very important, as we will be taking 3 photos and any camera movement could ruin the final outcome. You can successfully take these 3 exposures without a tripod but you must hold the camera extremely still and make sure your light is good enough so that your shutter speed is fast enough to take the shots before you move.

4. Set your ISO at 100 – HDR photos can cause quite a lot of noise (bad artifacts on your photo) so shooting at ISO 100 is very important. This is why it is highly recommended to use a tripod for HDR photography when possible because at ISO 100 you will notice slower shutter speeds resulting in longer taking shots. Shooting at ISO 100 will ensure you get a good quality shot across all 3 exposures.

5. You can set your aperture at whatever you like, take a few test shots to see which aperture setting gives you the best results. Just make sure this setting does not change once you are ready to take your 3 exposures (This is why we select Aperture Priority mode). For our video tutorial we shot our images with an aperture of F 4.0.

6. Set your camera for a 2 second delay timer. You can do this by pressing ‘DRIVE’ on the top of your camera and using the wheel just behind the shutter button you can cycle through your options. Select the option that looks like a torch with a beam coming from it and a timer with the number 2. A 2 second delay is a great idea as it gives time for any camera/tripod shake to settle down before taking the shots.

7. Now you must access your cameras ‘Exposure Bracketing’ / ‘AEB’ / ‘Exposure Comp.’ setting. To do this on the Canon EOS 60D press the ‘MENU’ button which is located near the top right of your preview screen. Once you are in the menu, you will want to scroll across to the second menu. At the top of the list you should see’ Exp.comp. /AEB’. Press your ‘SET’ or ‘OK’ button on this setting. Once you are in your Exposure Settings, use the wheel at the top of your camera behind the shutter button and turn this to your right. Turn this until the left marker lines up with -2, the middle marker is on 0 and the right marker is on +2. Then press ‘SET/OK’.

7. Once all of the above options have been set correctly you can go ahead and press your shutter button. Provided all the options are set correctly, you should hear a beep with a 2 second delay followed by the camera taking 3 photos.

8. Look through the 3 photos you just took and make sure you have a dark image, a normal image and a bright image. If this has been done correctly we can now move on to the computer to merge our images.


Merging Our Images Using HDR Software

For this tutorial we will be using Photomatix HDR software. There is a free trial version of this available but it leaves a watermark on your finished image. There is many other software options for merging HDR photos, even Photoshop has this feature. In Michael’s opinion, Photomatix HDR seems to provide the best results and it’s easy to use.

1. Open ‘Photomatix HDR’ on your computer.

2. Click ‘Load Bracketed Photos’.

3. Select your 3 differently exposed images and open them in Photomatix.

4. You will then be greeted with some pre-processing options. Tick ‘Align Source Images’, If you like you can also click ‘Remove Ghosts’, this is helpful if there was any movement in your photo (tree’s blowing, etc.). You can also tick the ‘remove noise’ option also. Play around with these pre-processing options to see what gets the best results in your circumstance. Once you have set these options then you can click ‘OK’.

5. The software will now merge your exposures and you will be at a screen where you can adjust all of the elements of your 3 exposures. Down the right side of your screen there are presets you can use or on the left side you can make all of the necessary changes you like.

6. Once you are happy with the result, click ‘Process’.

7. Once processed you will be at a screen where you can make some finishing touches, if you are happy with the image you can leave these as they are, otherwise play with these settings to get the best results.

8. Once you are happy with the result, click ‘File’ on the top toolbar and then ‘Save Image’.

9. The file should save in the same directory as the 3 photos you used to make your HDR photo. It is best to move these images from your memory card before you start as processing and saving time will be quicker when working from your hard drive.

10. That’s It!


Hopefully this tutorial helped you to take HDR photos, please let us know what you thought of this tutorial in the comments below or on our YouTube video.

Thanks for watching/reading! Please stay tuned for future tutorials and more.


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